Manna Dey, the singing legend could hum a tune in many languages

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Oct 24, 2013 20:41 IST

Legendary singer Manna Dey died at Narayana Hrudayalaya in Bangalore on Thursday. He was 94.

Dey was admitted to hospital due to chest infection on Saturday. He is survived by his daughters Suroma and Sumita. Dey’s wife Sulochana Kumaran had passed away last year.

With Dey’s passing, Indian film music lost the last of its singers of the golden era, of which Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar were the others.  

The recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award and the National Award twice, Dey sang more than 3,500 songs during a career that spanned more than four decades. The singer — who lent his voice to timeless hits such as ‘Pyaar Hua Ikraar Hua’ (Shree 420, 1955), ‘Ae Mere Zohra Jabeen’ (Waqt, 1965) and ‘Ek Chathur Naar’ (Padosan, 1968) and ‘Yeh Dosti Hum Nahi Todenge’ (Sholay, 1975) — began his career in the Hindi film industry with ‘Jago Aayee Usha, Panchi Boley Jago’ (Tamanna, 1943).

He also assisted music composer Sachin Dev Burman for sometime and during this time sang ‘Upar Gagan Vishal’ for the film Mashal (1950). By 1952, he had established his name as one of the top playback singers.

Apart from Hindi and mother tongue Bengali, Dey has sung in 14 Indian languages, including Punjabi, Malayalam, Gujarati, Bhojpuri and Chhattisgarhi.

Originally, Dey trained under his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey and later under Ustad Dalbir Khan. While singing for films, he continued his Hindustani classical training under Aman Ali Khan and then under Ustad Rahman Khan.
Dey’s hallmark was his versatility; he was as adept at rendering complex classical-based numbers, qawalis, ghazals and bhajans as he was at singing buoyant romantic songs, soft pathos-laden ones and light, fun numbers.

Rafi had once told magazine reporters: “You say you love to listen to my songs. But I listen to Manna Dey’s songs.”

Dey recorded his last song for the film, Umar in 2006.

Born as Probodh Chandra Dey in Kolkata in 1919, he came to be affectionately known as Manna Dey when he ventured into playback singing. His parents were Purna Chandra Dey and Mahamaya Dey.

Dey studied at Scottish Church Collegiate School and then Scottish Church College. He did his post graduation from Vidyasagar College.


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