Press Trust of India
Bangalore, 24 October: Legendary playback singer Manna Dey, who cast his musical spell for over five decades with all-time hits like ‘ay mere pyara watan’, ‘laaga chunri me daag’ and ‘poocho na kaise’, died at a hospital here today at the age of 94 after prolonged illness.
Dey, who was in and out of Narayana Hrudayalaya hospital in the last five months for respiratory and renal problems, died of cardiac arrest at 3:50 a.m, hospital spokesman Vasuki said.
His daughter Shumita Deb and his son-in-law Jnanranjan Deb were by his bedside when the end came, his family said. His wife Sulochana died in January last year. His second daughter lives in the USA.
The condition of Dey deteriorated since yesterday afternoon. He had been discharged twice for a brief period in the last five months, Mr Vasuki said.
Along with Rafi, Mukesh, and Kishore Kumar, Dey was the last member of the famous quartet of singers who dominated the Hindi music industry from 1950s to 1970s.
Born in Kolkata in 1919, Dey went on to sing over 3,500 songs in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada and Assamese films before quitting movies in the ’90s. His last song was ‘Hamari hi mutthi mein’ for 1991 film ‘Prahaar’.
Dey, who had made Bangalore his home for the past few years, started his career in playback singing with the film ‘Tamanna’ in 1943. The musical score was set by his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey and he had to sing a duet with Suraiya. The song ‘sur na saje kiya gaon mein’ was an instant hit.
In 1950, ‘Mashal’ was the second film where Dey got the opportunity to sing a solo Upar gagan vishal, a melody created by Sachin Dev Burman.
In 1952, Dey sang both for a Bengali and a Marathi film of the same name and storyline, Amar Bhupali, and established himself as a booming Bengali playback singer that in years to come took him to greater heights.
His popular tracks include Poocho Na Kaise Maine (Meri Surat Teri Aankhen), Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen (Waqt), Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli(Anand), Yeh Dosti (Sholay) and Ek Chatur Naar (Padosan) and Laga Chunari Mein Daag (Dil Hi Toh Hai) and’Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi’ (Chori Chori).
Dey was much in demand for complicated raag-based songs and was once even pitted against his idol Bhimsen Joshi in 1956 movie ‘Basant Bahar’ for ‘Ketki, gulab, juhi’ song, something that he initially refused.
While his mastery over classical numbers somewhat pigeonholed him, the uniqueness of his voice made it impossible for any singer to replicate him.
Winner of the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award in 2007, Dey was residing in Bangalore after spending more than fifty years in Mumbai.
He had cast a spell on generations of listeners with his romantic ballads, intricate raga-based songs, qawwalis and fast-paced modern numbers, lending his voice to a number of Hindi and Bengali film stars.
A meticulous singer, Dey would often prepare extensively before rendering a song.
“I am especially indebted to Shankerji, for had it not been for his patronage, I would certainly not have attained the heights of success I enjoyed in my career. Here was one man who knew how to bring out the best in me. In fact, he was the first music director who dared to experiment with my voice by making me sing romantic numbers,” Dey recalled in his autobiography ‘Memories Come Alive’.
The duo also helped Dey realise his dream of singing for lead actors in movies. His famous song during this period include ‘Tere bina aag yeh chandni’ from ‘Aawara’, ‘Dil ka haal sune dilwala’, ‘Pyaar hua ikraar hua’ from ‘Shri 420’, ‘Aaja sanam’ and ‘Yeh raat bheegi bheegi’ from ‘Chori Chori’ and ‘Hey bhai zara dekh ke chalo’ from ‘Mera Naam Joker’.
Dey gave hits like ‘Kasme vaade pyar wafa ~ ‘ and ‘Yaari hai imaan’ for veteran actor Pran in ‘Upkaar’ (1967) and ‘Zanjeer’ (1973), thus contributing immensely to Pran’s transition from negative roles to character parts in cinema.
Dey recorded many popular duets with Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar. He gave some of his biggest hits with composers S D Burman, R D Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan, Anil Biswas, Roshan and Salil Chowdhury, Madan Mohan and NC Ramachandra.
Dey’s lilting voice enthralled the audience throughout the world and awards flowed naturally to him, including titles like the National singer, Padmasree, and Padmabhusan.He has also lent his voice for ‘Madhushala’ composed by late Harivansh Rai Bachchan.
Dey received his education in Kolkata’s famed Scottish Church College and Vidyasagar College. He found his calling in school itself where he would sing to entertain his friends, but soon he took it up seriously under the tutelage of his uncle.
Dey accompanied his uncle in 1942 on a visit to Mumbai. There he first worked as an assistant to his uncle and then under Sachin Dev Burman, who recognised his talent.
Born to Purna Chandra and Mahamaya Dey on 1 May, 1919, as Prabodh Chandra Dey in Kolkata, Dey was inspired by his youngest paternal uncle Krishna Chandra Dey, a known singer and actor of New Theatres company.
Manna, a name given to him by KC Dey, was initially planning to become a barrister but under his uncle’s influence, he decided to opt for a career in music. He took his first singing lessons from his uncle, Ustad Dabir Khan, Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan.
He referred to Sulochana Kumarana, who hailed from Kerala, as his inspiration. “She was everything in my life ~ the one I always consulted about my profession not to speak about my personal life as well.”
His autobiography ‘Jiboner Jalsaghorey’ was published in 2005 and was later translated into English (Memories Come Alive), in Hindi (Yaden Jee Uthi) and in Marathi.
He had turned a recluse in the last years of his life.