Legendary Bollywood Playback Singer Manna Dey No More

Legendary Bollywood playback singer Prabodh Chandra Dey (1st May 1919 − 24th October 2013), known by his stage name Manna Dey, passed away in the early hours of Thursday in Bangalore. The veteran artiste had been suffering from old age related problems for a long time and today he breathed his last today at the ripe age of 94. Manna Dey had been a part of the classic trinity of legendary male playback singers of India—Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh and Manna Dey. Kishore Kumar and later Mahendra Kapoor were also around in that classical era. While Mahendra Kapoor more or less settled down as the best 'Rafi Voice’, riding on the first superstar of Bollywood wave, Rajesh Khanna, Kishore Kumar's popularity exploded and he became the No.1 playback singer from, to be exact, 1969 when movie Aradhana that launched Rajesh Khanna was released all over. Rafi died in 1980, Mukesh in 1976, Kishore Kumar in 1987 and Mahendra Kapoor in 2008. Of these five all-time greats Manna Dey becomes the last to leave us for his heavenly abode entertaining us for more than six decades. He stopped Hindi playback singing from the nineties due to what he termed as low standards of melody creation. However, he continued to sing for stage and other Indian language films. His few Assamese film songs are still popular numbers with the music lovers of Assam.

We grew up listening to Manna Dey numbers like the way with Rafi or Mukesh. But we always considered him to be a different singer, because he hardly sang for the dancing heroes. His songs were lilting melodies often with a strong classical base and his songs were crucial in most movies like Upkar--more prominently. He did sing fun songs and we still love them, but he was never a typical playback singer for us. In fact, music directors of Bollywood wanted him for their most difficult compositions knowing fully well that Manna Dey had the voice, the range, classical training and all. However, usually they preferred Rafi or Mukesh or Kishore or Talat Mahmood leaving Manna Dey as the most underutilized legendary singer of Bollywood. Such instances are hard to find in this film industry even now. What is important, his songs remain with as just 'his songs' and not in order of association with either the heroes or the movies as is the case usually. We often remember songs for the specific hit movies or the specific popular heroes the songs were sung for. We love Manna Dey songs as just Manna Dey songs. On this sad day this is our heart-felt tribute for the great artiste.He was a very simple and down-to-earth person as I had several opportunities of meeting him in Mumbai recording studios.

With more than 4000 songs to his credit his contribution to Indian music brought several awards and recognitions his way: Padma Bhushan in 2005, Dada Saheb Phalke Award in 2007 and Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

As I try to list out some most remembered Manna Dey songs the movies do fill in. Poocho na kaisay maine raen bitayee… from movie MERI SOORAT TERI AANKHEN (1962), tu pyaar ka sagar hai.. from movie SEEMA (1955), Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli…from movie ANAND (1971). And, his music flows on…