Today is the first death anniversary of that phenomenal, versatile, and fairly underrated singer, Manna Dey.
Despite being born in the times of Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore and getting slotted as someone who is good for classical songs only, it is to his credit and brilliance that he managed to sing (some very popular songs) till the mid 1980s. Yes, he was a classical singer par excellence and has belted several perfect classical numbers in his vast repertoire – take for example – Laga Chunari Mein Daag Chhupaon Kaise (Dil Hi to Hai) 0r one of my personal favourites, Kaun Aaya Mere Man Ke Dware (Dekh Kabira Roya) or the amazing Carnatic styled songs from Padosan for Mehmood. He also has the western numbers that music directors like R.D. Burman or Shankar Jaikishen or Laxmikant Pyarelal – for example – Aao Twist Karein filmed on Mehmood in Bhoot Bangla or the duet with Asha Bhosle from Aulad picturised on Aruna Irani and Mehmood, Jodi Hamari Jamega Kaise Jaani to just name a few. He also had some very romantic numbers to his credit – Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi (Chori Chori) or Pyar Hua Ikraar Hua (Shri 420). Again, his philosophical numbers are hummed and popular to this day – Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli (Anand) or or Kasme Waade Pyaar Wafa (Upkar).
Manna Dey’s range and versatility is mind boggling and he was truly one of the greatest singers HFM has ever seen.
This post was intended to be about just one or two of his songs that are personal favourites. But as I sat down to write I am stumped. There are way too many songs that I like very much and am unable to make up my mind!
So here goes – a list of my personal favourite Manna Dey numbers (in no order).
1) Poocho Na Kaise Maine Yeh Raat Bitayi (Meri Soorat Teri Aankhein, 1963, MD- S.D.Burman): This 1963 movie was based on a Bengali novel and had Ashok Kumar play the role of an “ugly” musician. I remember cringing through the movie when I watched it first in my younger days. It had to do with a child being abandoned because he was “ugly”. Since sadly in our society, dark skinned means ugly, it is not surprising that Ashok Kumar’s face has been painted black. Anyway, I digress. A movie about a musician also meant that there had to be some classical pieces and some wonderful music. Burmanda doesnt disappoint. There is this classic Rafi masterpiece Naache Man Mora Magan that has a dark Ashok Kumar singing in the background and a very beautiful Asha Parekh dancing on the stage as the handsome Pradeep Kumar watches enthralled. And then there is the heavenly Lata-Rafi duet Tere Bin Soone Nayan Hamare. However the song of the movie is Manna Dey’s masterpiece – Poocho Na Kaise Maine Raat Bitayi.
In the story, after Ashok Kumar is abandoned as a baby by his rich Hindu father for being ugly, he is brought up by a kind Muslim man who encourages his talent and makes him a musician. The context of this song is that the adoptive father is on his death bed and listens to Ashok Kumar sing this melody and promptly proceeds to die after the song is over. The lyrics evocatively describe this heart-wrenching night – the moment that is as long as an age. Manna Dey’s rendition is flawless – both in terms of his technique and in getting the pathos right.
There is a part one to the song sung by Manna Dey, Sudha Malhotra and S.D.Batish when the young boy is learning music from his teacher. I love both the versions and to me, like many others, this is the song of the movie.
2) Sanjh Dhali Dil Ki Lagi (Kala Bazaar, 1960, S.D.Burman) : From a classical song to a very halka-fulka number from the 1960 movie Kala Bazaar. Kala Bazaar is a musical masterpiece. I cant think of one song from this movie that is not a musical gem – be it the dreamy Rafi solo Khoya Khoya Chand, or that rather “smooth” timeless Rafi classic, Apni Toh Har aah Ek toofan Hai or the very happy Asha gem, Sach Hue Sapne Tere to just name a few. (The songs of this fantastic Dev Anand – Waheeda – Vijay Anand movie deserve a separate, long post…and I love all of them.) Dev looks very charming and Waheeda is beautiful and it had a story… Sanjh Dhali Dil Ki Lagi is one of the two romantic duets in this movie. Asha Bhosle sings this with Manna Dey and the situation is that Waheeda is being wooed by Dev Anand. Waheeda is betrothed to Vijay Anand who is studying in London and hence is not interested. If I remember right, Dev Anand has followed Waheeda and her family to Ooty (very stalker like, I admit!) But…. Dev Anand looks charming and despite her protestations, Waheeda Rehman doesn’t mind the attentions. The singing is top notch – the voice modulations perfect and the song is simply memorable!
3) Aye Kaash Chalte Milke Yeh Teen Rahi Dil Ke…Chand Aur Main Aur Tu (Manzil, 1960, S.D.Burman): Another Asha Bhosle – Manna Dey romantic duet composed by S.D. Burman and picturised on Dev Anand (who is paired opposite Nutan.) Dev Anand and Nutan play childhood friends in Simla who are in love with each other. The hitch here is that Dev Anand wants to go to Bombay and become a musician – something that is looked down upon by his rich Punjabi dad (played by Om Prakash). After a particularly stormy argument, Dev leaves home and takes off to Bombay where he gets busy with work and doesn’t exactly keep in touch with his lady love. Nutan waits for Dev despite being wooed by some shady looking army guy. But for the story to proceed and drama to be created, misunderstandings have to take place – She thinks he is in love with someone else and gets engaged to army chap. Dev Anand gets heartbroken and angry. Much drama later, everything gets resolved. The movie has some wonderful songs like Hum Dum Se Gaye (a delightful Manna Dey solo) and Yaad Aa Gayi Woh Nashili Nigahein (the haunting Hemant da track in three parts) and the perky Rafi-Asha duet Dil Toh Hai Deewana Na and the amazing Rafi-Geeta duet Chupke Se Mile .
If I remember right, Dev Anand is upset after a tiff with his dad and Nutan goes up to cheer him up. This sweet melodious dreamy duet follows – the singing is spot on. How sweet Asha and Manna Dey sound – capturing the mood of love, solitude and quiet on a full moon night!
4) O Meri Maina, Tu Maan Le Mera Kehna (Pyaar Kiye Jaa, 1966, MD- Laxmikant Pyarelal): From a dreamy romantic Chand wala duet to a crazy dance number! Pyar Kiye Jaa, made in 1966, was a remake of a Tamil film, Kadhalikka Nerram Illai. I have watched both the versions and I confess, this crazy, absolutely farcical movie is a favourite and great fun to watch! It stars the mad Kishore Kumar, Mehmood, Om Prakash and oh yes, the hunky Shashi Kapoor. The heroines include Kalpana (of Professor fame) and Rajashree (the South Indian actress and not V. Shantaram’s daughter) and there is the very very cute Mumtaz who plays Mehmood’s love interest! Since she is the best among the women, I have wondered why she didn’t get to play Shashi’s love interest. The music by Laxmikant -Pyarelal is superb and boasts of some wonderful songs.
Mehmood plays a wannabe film-maker who has his own production house (called Wah-Wah productions, if I remember right) and Mumtaz is the gaon ki chhori whom he is grooming to be an actress and plans to cast in his debut venture! Yes the movie never gets made and they fall in love. This song is a rehearsal of a song for the movie. Sung by Manna Dey and Usha Mangeshkar, it has a very Western beat and Mumtaz looks very very cute….
Who can say that a classical music expert like Manna Dey has sung this very Jazzy number?
5) Chalat Musafir Moh Liya Re (Teesri Kasam, 1966, MD: Shankar-Jaikishen): Teesri Kasam was lyricist’s Shailendra’s foray into film-making. It starred Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman and was directed by Basu Bhattacharya. Unfortunately it bombed and Shailendra died rather soon of heartbreak. This folk number had to find a place in this list. Simply love the energy with which Manna Dey sings this song. Amazing!
6) Dil Ka Haal Sune Dilwala (Shree 420, 1955, MD: Shankar Jaikishen): I am not a Raj Kapoor fan. In fact he irritates me and I didn’t quite like this movie when I was younger because of him. Also Mukesh is not one of my favourite singers too… However, this is a song I have liked back then as well – I guess its because of Manna Dey’s singing!
7) Na Jaane Kahan Tum Thhe (Zindagi Aur Khwab, MD: Dattaram) : One of the best romantic duets sung by Manna Dey. His co-singer is Suman Kalyanpur. This song is picturised on Rajendra Kumar and a beautiful, serene Meena Kumari. I haven’t seen the movie but this song is simply beautiful..Listen to it without the visuals – there is a mesmerising, dreamy quality to it.
8) Tu Pyar Ka Saagar Hai (1954, Seema, MD: Shankar-Jaikishan): This has to be one of the best -known numbers of Manna Dey. This is from the 1954 Amiya classic Seema about a troublesome juvenile delinquent (played by a very pretty Nutan) and her reformation. This song is a devotional number and is picturised on Balraj Sahni (the man who heads the reform house.) God is being hailed as an ocean of love and how mankind subsists on his grace and benediction. Manna Dey’s rendition of this bhajan is masterful!
9) Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli (Anand, 1970, MD: Salil Choudhary): Salilda gave Manna Dey some of his best numbers. This philosophical gem from Anand is one such. What lyrics, what music, what singing,… Memorable.
10) Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke (1953, Do Bigha Zameen, MD: Salil Choudhary): This haunting number from Do Bigha Zameen sums up all there is to human life. “Apni Kahani Chhod Ja Kuch Toh Nishaani Chhod Ja, Mausam Beeta Jaye”. The lyrics speak of the temporality of human existence and the need to do something before time runs out. Shailendra is at his best and so is the simple tune by Salil Choudhary. Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar have sung this exceedingly well and this remains a classic 61 years after it was composed.
Time has passed – Manna Dey is no more; He passed away in Bangalore on 24th October 2013, but his voice and songs live on….
PS: Due to lack of time I have had to restrict this list to just ten songs. But no way is this complete. There are so many favourites that did not feature here…. Maybe I shall list them in another post soon…