The legend “Manna Dey” who was his own voice


Manna Dey remained an under-valued genius and his voice was never associated with any hero

Irony was the constant refrain of Manna Dey’s life. A world happy to sway to jingles could not always appreciate the steeped-in-classicism kalaam of Manna Da. Not blessed with the rare yodelling skills of Kishore Kumar or the soaked-in-romance style of Mohammed Rafi, there were a few things Manna Dey could do which his contemporaries could not aspire to. He could whip up a Laaga chunari mein daag , or Aayo kahan se Ghanshyam with such ease that he made a mockery of all predictions of the songs being difficult or challenging.

Music directors Shankar-Jaikishen — indeed Mohammed Rafi too — felt he was the best choice when it came to songs with classical leanings.

Manna Da though wanted to break the stereotype, ready at a moment’s notice to improvise, to innovate. He could dish out Aao twist karein too, but the Hindi film world gave him only occasional opportunities to show his range, always keen on tapping into his classical reservoir. In some ways, he remained an under-valued genius, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award notwithstanding. His voice was never associated with any hero, his name never doing the rounds of any music director’s camp for all songs of a movie; he charted his own path.

A man most humble who did his own grocery purchases, he, however, was not happy about being the voice of Mahmood in Padosan . The song, Ek chatur naar , a kind of a singing contest in which he shared the baton with Kishore Kumar, was filmed on Sunil Dutt and Mahmood with Manna Da’s voice being used for the comedian. It left him unimpressed and he had to be persuaded to allow the song to be used in the film. Yet the same Manna Da once refused to sing with Pandit Bhimsen Joshi out of reverence for Panditji. The song in question, Ketki gulab juhi , had Bhimsen’s character losing to Manna Da’s character in the film Basant Bahar .

So Manna Da lost to Kishore Kumar in Padosan and defeated Bhimsen Joshi a decade before that! Ketki gulab juhi , however, was the not the biggest hit from Basant Bahar . That honour went to Sur na saje kya gaoon main , where again only Manna Da could have done justice to all the ebbs and crests of music. Sur na … was picturised on Bharat Bhushan, a fine case of Manna Da singing for the hero, otherwise though his voice continued to be used for non-heroes.

Another memorable case being Yaari hai imaan mera in Zanjeer, which was lip-synced by Pran, not the hero Amitabh Bachchan.

The ironies did not leave Manna Da there. Mukesh was generally regarded as the voice of RK Films. Yet Manna Da gave some of his best songs for Raj Kapoor in films such as Chori Chori , Shree 420 and evenBobby . In Chori Chori, he gave us such super-hits as Aaja sanam madhur chandni mein hum and Ye raat bheegi bheegi, while Rafi had to make do with the now-forgotten All line clear .

Born in 1919, he started as a music assistant in 1942. The following year he got his first whiff of public appreciation with songs of Ramrajya . It was, however, not until Upar gagan vishal in Mashaal (1950) that he began to be taken seriously as a solo singer. By the time he left youth, he was an accomplished performer, a diligent artiste who toiled endlessly yet never compromised on his music.

In a delicious irony of life, Manna Da, who was never taken to be the voice of any romantic hero of the era — the likes of Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna used Kishore Kumar and Rafi’s voices — managed to give us two ultimate romantic songs for people young, and those young at heart. His Pyar hua iqrar hua hai pyar se phir kyun darta hai dil from Shree 420 (1955) was used in an advertisement campaign to promote contraceptives some 40 years after it became a chartbuster.

If this song was an ode to love young and fearless, his number in Waqt was all about love that has withstood the test of tide and time. Ae meri Zohra Jabeen under the baton of music director Ravi was a mischievous blend of seasoned love with innocent pranks with both Balraj Sahni and Achala Sachdev doing a wonderful job on the screen.

Little appreciated, but Manna Da was a constant factor in the films of V. Shantaram; his songs of Do Ankhen Barah Haath and Navrang have scarcely been forgotten.

His voice, which could encapsulate almost all shades of life, was used for patriotic as well as devotional songs. The irony could not have been greater — at one time Manna Da was ready to quit the country when an article by Rupayan Bhattacharya in a Kolkata daily compelled him to change his mind. And in the industry cinegoers hardly thought beyond Rafi or Mahendra Kapoor when it came to patriotic songs. Yet Manna Da gave us Ae mere pyare watan in Kabuliwala .

Similarly, he lent his voice to the ever-soothing Tu pyar ka sagar hai , a song from Seema which the faithful play in praise of the Almighty. His voice had the haunting quality of a companion left behind. It could also have a tinge of a friend extolling you to march on. The two examples being provided by songs of Safar and Shor , where he sang Nadiya chale chale re dhara and Jeevan chalne ka naam — the latter being one of the few songs he sang with Mahendra Kapoor. Interestingly, he sang more than 50 songs with Rafi and 100 songs each with Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle.

Memorable as his songs were in Hindi cinema, Manna Da also sang in many Indian languages — notably Bengali, Assamese, Gujrati and Malayalam. His non-film albums, too, made a mark in the market, Yeh Awaara Raatein being truly remarkable. In live shows too, he was peerless. Always holding the audience captive with his mastery over the medium.

For many years, he confined himself to his residence in Bangalore, venturing out but rarely. Old age did not allow him to grace Kolkata on the opening day of IPL-VI, which was a disappointment for all, notably for Manna Da, too, as he was a keen student of the game. He had deep interest in soccer as well; he was among a handful of cinema artistes whose interests went beyond movies. His departure leaves a vacuum nobody will dare attempt to fill. But as Manna Da himself sang Chalat musafir , it is time for the second innings of the journey called life. History might appreciate him better.

 

 

Advertisements

Tags:

About local2globe

Faculty of soft skills, personality development and Humanities.
NBA.com | Hang Time Blog

The official news blog of NBA.com with commentary and analysis from NBA.com's staff of writers.

Grist

A nonprofit news org for people who want a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck.

TechCrunch

Startup and Technology News

The Meat & Potatoes of Life

By Lisa Smith Molinari

Attila Ovari

Loving Life and Inspiring Others

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

Fueled by Chocolate

A Canadian view of This, That, Then and Now

On The Heath

where would-be writer works with words

FranceSays

Observations of life in France. By an adopted Française.

Cunning Hired Knaves

a jelly-like mass of liquid corruption

End Kwote

After it's all said and done, life's just a bunch of kwotes

onesmallpot

food and other morsels...

typical guy, atypical situation

a solid soul trapped inside a broken body

Cenaclul ROMANTICII (Migdale Marius)

Prolog: Poate că Iubirea nu face Pământul să se învârtă... Dar face ca scurta noastră călătorie prin viaţă să merite!

Life Is Like That

In between times, seeking the extraordinary in the ordinary

C.B. Wentworth

Just following my muse . . .

TeMe

creativity, news, reblogging, fun...:-)

Lyrical Anarchy

Poetic Justice!

skyytv

I write about TV and movies. Also sometimes other stuff too.

wretchedshekels

finding new homes for old goodies

Memoirs of a Dragon

Dragon Thoughts and Quantum Musings

Book Hunger

Good Books and Inspirational Writing

Discovering Different

Like a Fortune Cookie... Without Calories

SANDRA PAVLOFF CONNER

The Happy Wordcrafter

The Boston Harbor Picayune

The Boston Artists' Life on a Dime -An Online Newspaper

Suzy Blue

Suzy Blue Blog

watercolourarts

watercolour, drawings, art and paintings

Unconfirmed Bachelorette

Proudly living alone with cats

Good Time Stories

Inspiring and Heartwarming Stories

kitwest61

Fiction & invention are the fabric of life

The Punchy Lands!

Embrace Your PUNCHY Nature

CBS Las Vegas

News/Talk 840 AM KXNT

The Scene Stealer

Taking shots at life

The accidental Blog..

Thoughts... Whatever, whenever!

carmen

Sharing and expressing... through words.

baddoodle

life without erasers

BonsEye

The way I see it...

Mustard Seed Budget

FINANCES FOR YOUR MINISTRY

writeonthebeach

Notes from the coast

Art Quench Magazine

Quench Your Creative Thirst

Guitarist India

Kapil Srivastava - One of the Best Guitar Players & Top Authors

Word Wabbit

Wrestless Word Wrestler

ironwoodwind

Just another WordPress.com site

%d bloggers like this: