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11 June 2013

The Legends: Manna Dey

01.05.1919 - 24.10.2013
This post has been on the back burner for many months. Every time I listen to a Manna Dey song, I tell myself I need to write a post on one of my favourite singers. For some reason or the other, I put it off for later. But today, the first news on my feed was that Manna Dey was critically ill. Perhaps now is the time to write about a singer whose versatility was a byword in the industry, even though, in my opinion, he was never given his complete due as a singer.

Born Prabodh Chandra Dey on 1 May 1919, he made his name as one of the stalwarts of the playback industry as Manna Dey. Classically trained, his earliest gurus were his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey (KC Dey) and Ustad Dabir Khan. His foray into the Hindi film industry was under the aegis of his uncle KC Dey; he worked as an assistant music director, assisting his uncle first, and then SD Burman. It was his uncle who gave him his first break as singer in 1943; the 24-year-old Manna Dey's first recorded song was a duet Jaago aayi Usha with singer-actress Suraiyya, for the film Tamanna. Between 1943 and 1950, Manna Dey continued singing, and working as an assistant music director for other composers, eventually setting up independently. 

However, it was Upar gagan vishal for Nitin Bose's Mashaal, courtesy SD Burman, that was to propel him into the big league. When asked about this long journey towards success in an interview, Mannada had this to say: The other singers who were in the running were better than me, definitely. Oh yes, they were better singers than me. Even at the height of my career I would say Mohammad Rafi was a better singer than me. He was such a great singer and I used to listen to him, awestruck. His rendering of certain things – I could never do it.

His respect for his contemporaries was rooted in his own sense of self. Yet, there was sometimes a whiff of sadness when he recollects that most of his early songs were picturised on old men or beggars. He soon became the voice of the character actors. As a young man, he too wanted to taste success as a popular singer. Frustrated, he even thought of leaving Bombay. 

Well-versed in classical music - Manna Dey had been keeping up with his lessons in Hindustani classical music at the same time, learning from Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan - he became synonymous with classical songs, which was both a blessing and a curse. With its usual propensity to typecast someone, the Hindi film industry relegated him to singing classical numbers. Of course he sang them well, probably better than any one of his contemporaries at the time. Yet, it unfairly limited the singer who could sing love ballads with the best of them.   

As his songs prove, there was more to Mannada than just being a good classical singer. He had made a name for himself in the Bengali film industry, and it is our good fortune that he chose to continue to sing for Hindi films. What a voice he had, warm and deep and mellow, so full of emotion that one felt as well as heard his songs! (A long-time reader, Samir, is wont to pair singers' voices with good liquor; in the same vein, I picture Manna Dey's voice as a goblet of warm Cognac.)

I find it difficult to choose just a handful of my favourite songs from this gentle singer's long and varied career, especially when my 'favourite Manna Dey songs' vary with my mood. Here then, are a few of my present favourites; these songs, in no particular order, will always find a place in my list of favourite songs of all time.

Meri Soorat Teri Aankhein (1983) 
Music: SD Burman 
Lyrics: Shailendra
Based on Raag Ahir Bhairav, Poocho na kaise ye rain bitayi  is one of Manna Dey's classical numbers that has remained a firm favourite over the years. SD based this composition on Aruno-kaanti ke go jogi bhikaari, a Bengali composition in Raag Bhairavi by Kazi Nazrul Islam. I love the emotion in Manna Dey's voice, its anguish bound and tightly controlled as he sings for a character who knows what rejection is. (One of my readers, Mr N Venkatraman points out that this is not correct, and that SD Burman in one of his interviews in Vividh Bharati attributed the composition to a traditional bandish in Raag Ahir Bhairav by Ustaad Mushtaq Hussein Khan.)

Kabuliwala (1961)
Music: Salil Choudhary 
Lyrics: Prem Dhawan
My list of 'favourite' songs changes with the seasons, with my moods, from day to day, from time to time, and so I rarely say that a particular song is my favourite Hindi film song. Yet, this one song is always there in the background, it's soft melody, and evocative lyrics calling to something deep within me. On the face of it, not a 'patriotic' song, is it? Yet, every line reflects a man's love for his land and his longing for the country of his birth. Salilda's music, just barely there, and his use of the rubab sets the mood nicely. Mannada's mellifluous voice had such pathos it is difficult to hold tears back. This song will always be among my favourite numbers, both for its simple yet meaningful lyrics and the minimal instrumentation which allowed Mannada's voice to soar with an immigrant's yearning for the motherland.
Hum jahan paide huye  
Us jagah hi nikle dam 
Tujh pe dil qurbaan

Maybe it is because I live so far from the land of my birth that this song tugs at my heartstrings. It will always be the most definitive patriotic song for me. Ever. 

Basant Bahar (1956)
Music: Shankar-Jaikishen 
Lyrics: Shailendra
For a change, Manna Dey is singing for the hero. Much like Baiju Bawra, Basant Bahar also told the tale of a singer (Bharat Bhushan) who has to face immense hurdles on his path to become court singer. Based on Hamsa Geete,  a Kannada novel by Ta-ra-su (Talaku Ramaswamy Subba Rao), the story was said to be the real-life story of 18th century Carnatic musician Bhairavi Subbiah. With a fantastic score by Shankar-Jaikishen, the music of Basant Bahar has definitely earned its place among the classics. Strangely enough, Manna Dey got to sing four of the nine songs, while Mohammed Rafi had to be content with just two.

Dil Hi To Hai 
Music: Roshan
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Manna Dey brought all his classical adas and harkats to use in this semi-classical number based on Raag Bhairav by Roshan. Mannada's classical training allowed him to give full rein to the nuances and flourishes in the long sargam that ends this piece. Picturised on Raj Kapoor (and Padmini Priyadarshini as the dancer), this song brought to the fore the actor-director's acting prowess, and underlined the fact that Mukesh may have been Raj Kapoor's soul but Manna Dey's voice could, and did, suit the showman admirably.

Shree 420 (1955) 
Music: Shankar-Jaikishan 
Lyrics: Shailendra  
From semi-classical to folk. Manna Dey sang this cynical, anti-establishment song with his usual panache, subtly reminding listeners (and hopefully, composers) that he was perfectly capable of breaking out of stereotypes. This is a cheerful song, the humour underlining the harsh truths in the lyrics. Shailendra's words poke gentle fun at society's double standards. Anyone can be picked up and taken to prison because he looks like a criminal; however, once they know he is the inspector's brother-in-law, they are as eager to release him as they were to arrest him in the first place. Once again, it is Manna Dey singing for Raj Kapoor; Mannada could not leverage the success of this film and the song to form a partnership with Raj Kapoor. Unfortunately for him, he had commitments in Bengal at the time that he could not give up to move to Bombay, and by the time he did, the momentum had passed.

Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Music: Shankar-Jaikishen 
Lyrics: Neeraj
It is interesting that this is the third Manna Dey-RK combination in the list. Goes to prove that it was not only Mukesh who could sing for Raj Kapoor! Another philosophical number, Ae bhai zara dekh ke chalo, appearing as two parts in two different sequences (the rehearsal and the show) went on to win the Filmfare Best Playback Singer (Male) award for Manna Dey, who imbued it with just the right sobriety and pathos. Mera Naam Joker may have been a commercial disaster, breaking Raj Kapoor's heart, but its songs were deservedly successful. This song also won Manna Dey his second National Award. 

Anand (1970)
Music: Salil Choudhary 
Lyrics: Yogesh
This was the single Manna Dey solo in the film. With Manna Dey's luck, this may also have remained a background song (Hrishida intended to use it during the credits) if Rajesh Khanna, who heard the number, had not persuaded his director to picturise it on him. The rest, as they say, is history. Yogesh's lyrics (he wrote two of the four songs in this film, the other being Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye sung by Mukesh), are as philosophical as Anand's (Rajesh Khanna in the titular role) attitude, which is as light as the balloons he lets soar into the sky. Juxtaposed with the distress that Dr Bhaskar (a.k.a Babu Moshai / Amitabh Bachchan) and Renu (Sumita Sanyal) are unable to hide, the song made more of an impact than otherwise. Salilda's music, ebbing and soaring, matched Manna Dey's rendition, happy-go-lucky, with a hint of sorrow. Beautiful.  

Dekh Kabira Roya (1957)
Music: Madan Mohan 
Lyrics: Rajinder Kishen
Sit back, relax and soak in the pure, inexplicable joy of falling in love. The film may have consisted of the second rung of actors, but the score was vintage Madan Mohan. Like Manna Dey, Madan Mohan did not get the recognition he deserved when he lived. Most of the films he composed for were box-office duds or did not see the light of day. Yet, his music retained a standard that he set for himself, and we are fortunate to be able to explore the variety of his output. Dekh Kabira Roya,  for instance, had (apart from this song), the beautiful Humse aaya na gaya, the poignant  Meri veena tum bin roye, and the ebullient Hum panchchi mastane, amongst others. Picturised on Anoop Kumar (who plays a classical musician), Manna Dey sang this number with characteristic ease. (Try singing this yourself and you will realise how complex the tune is, and how difficult it is to sing.)

Waqt (1965)
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
I first listed this in my post on qawwalis. Its playful affection, and the more-mature romance that it talks about make it one of my perpetual favourites. Manna Dey's voice, teasing and loving simultaneously, found its reflection in the mischief in Balraj Sahni's eyes - he made it quite evident that he wasn't thinking of mere companionship when he was oh-so-publicly courting his wife. In one sense, this was a breakthrough song - 'old' men and women are not supposed to be in love, and equally obviously, once they have children, they are not supposed to vocalise that love. The picturisation was perfect - an unabashed husband, an embarrassed wife, and the teasing of the assembled friends. 

Hindustan ki Kasam (1974)
Music: Madan Mohan 
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
For a change, Manna Dey was singing for the hero, Raj Kumar, in this film by Chetan Anand. Based on Operation Cactus Lily  in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, and dealt with the role of the IAF in the conflict. Chetan Anand reprised his Haqeeqat  team of Madan Mohan and Kaifi Azmi, and Manna Dey got to sing this quiet romantic ballad as also the title song of the film (with Mohammed Rafi).

Boot Polish (1953)
Music: Shankar-Jaikishen
Lyrics: Shailendra
As was usually the case, the classical and semi-classical numbers usually came to Manna Dey. As usual again, the song was picturised on a character actor - David. A light-hearted number that provided the much-needed comic relief in a poignant tale of two children who have fallen on bad times, and parodied the usual exhortations for rains, Manna Dey came up trumps. 

12. Maanasa maine varu
Chemmeen (1965)
Music: Salil Choudhary
Lyrics: Vayalar Rama Varma
Oh, I know this is not a Hindi film song, but I couldn't resist adding this to the list. Because when you list Manna Dey's best songs in all languages, I wager that you cannot ignore this classic. Coupled with the fact that his enunciation is almost perfect. The nit-pickety Malayalis who famously repudiated Lata Mangeshkar's atrocious diction in Kathali chen kathali (another Salil Choudhary composition) in Nellu (1974) (no complaints about her singing, however), had earlier embraced Mannada's rendition of the soulful love plaint in a landmark film. Perhaps the fact that Manna Dey's wife was a Malayali had something to do with his near-perfect diction while singing. 

I limited myself to Manna Dey's solos in this post because it was so difficult to do justice to the great singer's solos in just one post that it would have been well-nigh impossible to include the duets and strive to keep a balance. Hence, part 2 of this post will have my favourite Manna Dey duets. 

What are your favourite Manna Dey solos? 


  1. I am so glad to see that NOT all the songs from your Manna Dey post are the same as mine! (Honestly, when I began reading, I saw Poochho na kaise and Ae mere pyaare watan, and was beginning to think our inherent sister connection was revealing itself, but thankfully you veered off in a different direction before coming to Zindagi kaisi hai paheli. Lovely songs, Anu, and I'm so glad that you had Maanasa maine varu in your list too. That, as you know, was a recent discovery for me, and I did like it a lot.

    When it comes to versatility, here is one song that shows another side of Manna Dey. One is Aao twist karein, where he's really quite whacky:


    And a Bengali song, the playful Laal neel sobujer:


  2. Subodh Agrawal11 June 2013 at 10:37

    A very timely post Anu, and very well written. For once all but the last song were known to me, but your writing added to the enjoyment of listening to them again.

    One does feel sad about Manna Dey not getting his rightful due. The one actor who, in spite of being closely identified with Mukesh, gave him sufficient prominence was Raj Kapoor. (I have forgotten the camp to which you belong - pro or anti RK?) The high point of his career, in my opinion, is Chori Chori - with those duets: 'Aa ja sanam madhur chandni mein ham', 'Yeh raat bheegi bheegi' and 'Jahan main jaati hoon,' I guess a post on his duets would be very much in order.

    Another genre in which he excelled was chorus. I recall 'Dharti kahe pukar ke ... mausam beeta jaye' and 'Hariyala sawan dhol bajata aya.' The duet 'Chunari sambhal gori' also has the feel of a chorus.

    Let me close by linking one of his most famous private songs 'Nathli se toota moti re'. It was very popular during my college days: http://youtu.be/imK1TGTFfKY

    May he recover fully and score a century.

  3. I do hope he *is* recuperating. :(

  4. I should have known you would have had a Manna Dey post! :) And we had only four songs that were similar?

    I do love Aao Twist karein, just not one of my absolute favourites, but I agree with you that it shows off Manna Dey's versatility. I had not heard that lovely Bengali song before, thank you for the link. For some reason, the beginning reminded me of an old Hollywood number and I've been wracking my brains trying to think of the song. Guess I'll have to wait until my Encyclopaedia comes home.

    ps: I went there to look at your post - 6/10. I think our 'Sister, Sister' credentials are safe. [grin]

  5. Thank you for those kind words, Subodh. It was a bit of a shock to read that news, though I guess it's to be expected. The man is in his nineties after all. But he is our last link to the male singers of the golden era, and there is always a sense of sadness when the threads break.

    Yes, RK did give him many, many good songs. In fact, I was surprised when I began to list my favourites to see how many Manna Dey-lip-synced Raj Kapoor songs there were. For the record, I'm firmly *pro* RK. [grin] In a minority in the blogosphere, unfortunately, but no worries - I shall keep the flag flying. :)

    The second part of this post is in the process of being written. There is a nascent fear though. In Malayalam, we have a phrase 'aram pidikka' - which basically means that you bring forth that which you fear. I shudder that I write the post and it becomes a premature tribure to a great artiste.

    I'm listening to the song you linked. I have not heard much of his non-filmi songs, so this was a pleasant discovery. It's raining outside, his voice has so much depth of emotion, such passion... thank you for this. Perfect!

  6. Not Hollywood very much our Anglo-Indian brethren i.e. Harry Webb/Cliff Richard. I used to sing this version in school.


    And for the original of Aao Twist Karen...


  7. Manna Dey is my favorite singer.His variations in pitch and range is superb. All the songs in your list are my favourites! My another favorite song of Manna Dey is "Hansne ki chah ne kitna mujhe rulaya hain" from Aavishkar .


    Let's hope for his speedy recovery......

  8. I knew you would know! I heard this Cliff Richards' song ad nauseum during the summer I was 16. :) No wonder the song seemed so familiar.

    Oh,no! Not Aao twist karein as well? But I must confess to liking the copy more than I liked the original.

  9. That's such a lovely song. The film was rather decent, too. Have you watched it? It's part of Basu Bhattacharya's Amar-Mansi trilogy.

    Let's hope for his speedy recovery......
    Keeping fingers crossed. He is 94.

  10. Manna Dey, surely an underrated and under-utilised singer of the Hindi Film Industry.
    All the song sin your list are my favs too. Except for ae bhai... And was very glad to find the Boot Polish song there! Love it!
    He has many duets with Rafi, which are my fav.
    Besides the songs on your list I like

    tu pyar ka sagar hai from Seema

    chali radhe raani from Parineeta

    baye banjana from Basant Bahar

    particularly love kahe ko jhooti banao batiya from Manzil

    dharti kahe pukar ke from Do bigha zameen

    abhi to haath me jaam hai from Seeta Aur Geeta

    love very much: aayo kahan se ghanshyam from Buddhhaa Mil Gaya (it is not strictly a solo, but he sings the most part of the song)

    love this one too: kisne chilmans e mara from Baat Ek Raat Ki, I'd thought that this would be filmed on Mehmood, but it is Johnny Walker!

    Normally Burmandada would sing a song like this himself, but he gave it to his Manna
    piya tune kya kiye from Us Paar

    pyar ki aag me tan badan jal gaya is also nice.

    May God spare him pain and sufferings!

  11. And please don't run behind me with a stick or a rolling pin or anything, which would serve the purpose, if I've repeated a song from your list! ;-)

  12. Shalini Razdan11 June 2013 at 19:19

    I always thought it was a pity that Manna Dey didn't get more songs in the "modern" (i.e. post 1970) era. I thought his voice remained remarkably resilient for a long time. Here are some "newer" songs by Manna Dey that I like:

    Pyaas thi phir bhi taqaza na kiya - Aalingan

    Soch ke yeh gagan jhoome - Jyoti

    Sab kho diya sab pa liya - Maqqar

    Mausam aayega jayega pyar sasa muskayega - Shayyad

    And finally this one from the 60s, because it's too awesome not to post. :-)

  13. One of my favourite Manna-da songs... music by my favourite MD and a wonderful anti war song by Makhdoom Moinuddin. He apparently wrote the song during the second world war when he saw a bunch of Indian conscripts off to Burma to fight against the Japanese. It's a simple rhythm , a march, but lovely singing and a beautiful harmonic arrangement by Salilda


  14. I used to hear this song on Bhoole bisre geet , another one of those feel good marches. But it was a Manna Dey song with much lightness. Not a great tune but pleasant enough... I hate the shrieks by the guitar though.


    And this song in Hamsadhwani where I think both Manna da and Mehmood have done a lovely job. Mehmood's lip synching to a complicated sargam is excellent.


  15. Ashraf Lakhani11 June 2013 at 22:49

    Well timed and well deserved article on Manna Dey, he is truly a great but
    underrated singer
    Most of the songs are my favorite too. Have you deliberately skipped Kasme Wade Pyaar Wafa from Upkar? I would like to add one of my favorite song from Uspaar


  16. And you don't like Ae bhai zara dekhke chalo... because? *tapping foot imperatively*

    I love Tu pyar ka sagar hai and I'm so glad you posted it here. <>Chale radhe rani is a good song, though not one of my favourites. Basant Bahar had a really wonderful score; to be expected of course, since it is based on a classical singer. Dharti kahe pukar ke and Aayo kahan se ghanshyam are particular favourites that I regretfully dropped from the list for obvious reasons, so I'm more than glad to see them put in an appearance here. I had not heard the song from Us Paar before.

  17. Arre, nahin re... when did I do that? The last time you did that, all I did was look woefully at you for not reading my post. :( Ye jhoota ilzaam hai, your honour!

  18. He did maintain that voice quality for a long time, didn't he? I read somewhere that he thought that music had lost its soul, and he didn't want to continue singing. He kept going with stage shows, though, for a long time.

    Of the songs that you listed, I liked Sochke ye gagan jhoome, Sab kho diya, and Mausam aayega jaayega. I must confess to never having heard the first two before. Thanks for the links, Shalini.

    Ek ritu aaye, ek ritu jaaye is a fantastic raagmala. I came across a similar raagmala sung by the same duo in an earlier film, Humdard (1953), four raagas depicting four seasons (though the video clip doesn't have the final stanza/raaga depicting Bahaar. The music director was Anil Biswas.

  19. Funnily enough, I had forgotten about this song, and came across it earlier today when I was researching songs for another list. :) Thanks for linking it here.

  20. The first song was, erm, 'okay'. But yes, you did say,'not a great tune'. :) For a moment, when I saw the screenshot, I thought you had posted Ek chatur naar... and for some reason, while it is sung very, very well by both Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey, I hate that song. :) I liked listening to the song, and studiously avoided its video after one quick glimpse. I'd completely forgotten about this song, so it is nice to hear it again.

  21. Thank you, Ashraf. No, I didn't deliberately skip Kasme vaade pyar wafa. It was there on my list, but I dropped it for two reasons: a) I had so many songs that I liked that I had to regretfully drop, or the list would have been too long and b) I had used Kasme vaade pyar wafa in my post on cynical songs.

    Harvey just introduced me to that song from Us Paar. So many songs I haven't heard before. I'm looking forward to it. :)

  22. I was going to add "Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi" but that's a duet. Actually, now that I think about it, most of my favorite songs by Manna Dey are duets. Manna Dey had a good cynical voice too- it's hard to explain, but his voice was perfect for songs like "Eh Bhai Zaara Dekh Ke Chalo" or "Dil Ka Haal Sune Dil Wala," and I can't imagine anyone else singing those. "Qasme Waade Pyaar Wafa" is another very cynical, very haunting melody. Wait- he sung "Na to Caravan Ki Taalash Hai" too, which is my absolute favorite Qawaali!

  23. I too like Aao twist karein more than Come on let's twist again much more. :-)

  24. I believe he is. The newspaper carried an article that his condition is now 'stable'.

  25. Yes,I have watched it.I MO he will go past hundred (maybe wishful thinking by me!).Example-Zohra Sehgal..............

  26. When I was a kid I Tabassum interviewed him for her program on Bombay Doordarshan "Phool khile hain...". He sang this song I think then or it must have been on one of his live appearances..

    Nobody has posted this one.?? Or did I miss it.. Exceptional..famous for the tabla..And there is actually a tabla tarang and a sarod and a sitar the only thing missing seems to be the taar shehnai and some terrifying calisthenics..


    And this one ...interesting chorus wonder if it was Sebastian who composed the counterpoint


  27. Subodh Agrawal12 June 2013 at 07:44

    Aao sanwariya is one of my favourites too. A politically incorrect song from the politically incorrect movie Padosan.

  28. Don't worry; you can add it all into my second post on his duets. :) As it is, I'm having a tough time winnowing the list down to a manageable ten or even a dozen. Na toh kaarwan ki talaash hai is probably the benchmark for all qawwalis - absolutely fantastic.

  29. Yes, I read about it late last night. Keeping fingers crossed and wishing him good health.

  30. I wonder if he wants to live to be hundred. Zohra Sehgal is remarkable, isn't she? I find myself smiling everytime she appears on screen.

  31. I am not very familiar with Manna Dey's non-filmi songs - this one is absolutely beautiful. Reminds me of the gentle summer showers in Bangalore.

    I'd completely forgotten about Tere naina talash karen jise; I haven't heard it for ages. I'm kicking myself for forgetting Ab kahan jaaye hum when I was making the list (I remembered it after), but then, which song would I have dropped? I'm so glad you added them here. It's such a poignant song, and the first shot of Shammi Kapoor in a silhouette reminded me so much of his father.

  32. It is not the political incorrectness I mind so much as the over-the-top characterisations. Padosan was a film I hated the first time I saw it, and I never understood its cult status. Everyone - Bhola, the dance teacher... they were all caricatures.

  33. Anu,
    A very timely post. I wish he recovers and leads a healthy life up to 100.

    It is quite unusual for the technically most qualified singer to be so self-effacing and so modest. Or was it his frustration that he did not get his due? His heavy voice meant that in certain types of songs he had no equal; at the same time it confined him to a niche.

    i see Manna Dey in three distinct parts. A singer of classical songs without equal. But funny part is that barring some exceptions, these were picturised as funny songs. There is a clear dichotomy in these songs and their picturisation. Why should a profound song like Laga chunri main daag be shown in a comical manner? The other traditional Bhairvi thumris, such as Hato kate ko jhoothi banaao batiyan or Phulgendwa na maro meet the same fate. Sometimes on Mehmood, or Agha or Johnny Walker. But Manna Dey made the songs immortal.

    The other Manna Dey is 'Ae mere pyare watan - wala Manna Dey. In this genre I would add Mat ro mata laal here bahutere.

    The third Manna Dey beckons at high pitch - Jamuna kinare jahan bansuri bajave Jasoda ka ladka or Umad ghumad kar chhayi re ghata.

  34. Shalini Razdan12 June 2013 at 15:38

    That's so true about Manna's classical songs unfortunately getting the "comic" treatment in movies. Here's another example of a fabulous classical Manna song with OTT acting:

    Ja re beiman tujhe jaan liya - Private Secretary

  35. Thank you, AK.

    I think he was both - self-effacing and modest and frustrated at being stereotyped as the character artiste's 'voice'.

    Actually, what you say about the picturisation of his classical and semi-classical numbers is very true - barring songs from films based on singers such as Sangeet Samrat Tansen and Basant Bahar, for instance, most of his other songs, serious (upon first listening) were picturised as part of the comic side plot. I guess that is also because he sang for Mehmood, for instance, or Johnny Walker.

    Manna Dey at high pitch - other than the songs you mentioned, Ya allah, Ya allah, dil le gai from Ujalais the first song that comes to mind. He had incredible control over the higher octaves, didn't he?

  36. Shalini, I think that is because the comic side plots were OTT anyway! It is sad, though, isn't it? Such beautiful numbers positively wasted on screen. Some of the so-called 'acting' made me cringe. (Aao Saanwariya from Padosan for instance. I watched for perhaps a few seconds before I clicked back to this tab so I wouldn't have to watch it. The song itself is so beautiful.)

  37. true! she is :)

  38. There were some who said that Manna Dey was(unfortunately)
    marginalized, in spite of his par excellence singing skills and fairly
    unassuming professional personality. However, such has been presence on world
    of film music, that such margins could not be accommodated on A0 size pages of
    the annals of Film Industry.

    So, to pen an article on such a prolific legend is indeed an
    act of great courage, and pains. However, the way each song presented herein is
    approached; the post does more than full justice to the persona of Manna Dey.

    Let me put in my own (additional) contribution:

    Shanker (of SJ duo) was said to have a very
    special soft corner for Manna Dey. So do have I, for Manna Dey and some (more)
    of SJ songs.

    Muskura Laadle Muskura (Zindagi ) http://youtu.be/vGQN0xwx9V0
    can be taken as an apt manifestation of
    Shanker’s leanings towards Manaa Dey, in that the song is picked for at a time
    when Rajendra Kumar was a towering successful “jubilee’ hero, and Mohammad Rafi
    was THE established payback voice for his roles. Or Take Meri Bhains Ko Danda
    Kyoon Mara – Pagala Kahin Ka, http://youtu.be/gP4jHdxko4g , where
    Manaa Dey was used for Shammi Kapoor, many years after “Ujala (1959) Ab Kahan
    Jaaye Hum - http://youtu.be/jVRnSTM8pzM

    Dost Kahan Koi Tumsa – (Khmoshi – Hemant Kumar)
    http://youtu.be/49ml-bnREOU is one
    more variant to Mannaa Det’s own stamp on “comedy” situation songs

    Mat Ro Maata Laal Tere Bahutere (Bandini –
    S D Burman) http://youtu.be/DZxcGPsxHlQ, Jeevan Se Lambe Bandhu (Aashirwad – Vasant Desai)
    http://youtu.be/KbhwaNm09oY , Jaane Wale Sipahi Se Poochho – with Sabita Chatterjee and Chorus (Usne Kaha Tha – Salil Chaudhari) are also my favourites.

    And Nathani Se Toota Moti Re is on my Top list as well. Just for records,
    let me present one more – Ye Aawara Raaten (composed by V Balsara) http://youtu.be/Q1gbYpY5MlM

    And, l am not able to resist temptation of putting
    in a Gujarati Song. “Hu Tu Tu Tu Tu..
    Jaami Ramat Ni Rutu” http://youtu.be/2g3gCmfPDv4
    , apparently draws a parallel of the
    game of Kadaddi with the typical human life. But virtuosity of Manna Dey’s
    singing prowess, in a language normally not known, wherein he presents all the
    nuances of the player on the Kabaadi field, with faultless diction and throw of

  39. As everything about old songs - we are spoilt for choice including male singers. I can't really say who's my favourite. I love Manna De songs, especially his rendition of classical songs. He was so good at it.

    You have mentioned quite a few of the songs I love. 1,2,3,4,7,8,9,11 - love them all. Didn't know 11, and 12. I don't mind 5 and 6. I swear it has nothing to do with Raj Kapoor. I like him. Really I do.

    My most favourite Manna DE song (and one of my favourite songs ever) is a duet with Lata so doesn't qualify. mausam beeta jaye

    But here's a solo. I looove this. Forgive if it's already posted, even though I checked, but you know.


  40. Thank you, Ashokji.

    My problem with Manna Dey's 'comic' songs is not his rendition - it is flawless, as always. It is the picturisation. As AK and Shalini said below, the comic situations were always over the top.

    I really liked Hu tu tu... and I'll take your word for it that his diction was faultless. That is one thing I noticed about Manna Dey - he took pains to see that he pronounced the words correctly, and with as little accent as possible.

    Thank you for those links.

  41. This one from Teesri Kasam.


  42. Pacifist, that is why I said 'one of my favourite singers' (though if you pushed me, I think I would choose Mohammed Rafi as my all-time favourite male singer). As you so rightly point out, we were spoilt for choice where male singers were concerned.

    I swear it has nothing to do with Raj Kapoor. I like him. Really I do.

    [grin] You liked Laaga chunri mein daag, so I believe you. I had forgotten completely about Tere naina talaash mein, until SSW posted it yesterday. But it is such a beautiful song, it is nice to have an excuse to listen again. :)

  43. That's such a beautiful song. I had it on my list, but regretfully dropped it because it was getting too long. It's like SoY commented - there should be a separate list of 'Manna Dey and chorus' songs. He had so many of those.

  44. >You can keep Mausam beeta jaaye for part 2 of this post - his duets. I don't have it on my list. :)

    And you call that a list?


  45. {Laughing} What to do? There are so many, many songs I want to put in; either I drop songs I like to keep the list manageable, or I just list all his songs and be done with it. :) Besides, I'm being thoughtful(see my halo?); If I put all the songs in, then what will my readers contribute?

  46. Manna Dey is indeed a great singer. Interestingly he is the the only singer to have given playback for my father. My father never lip synched to a song but he had to tunefully render the Ramayan for a film in the Maithili language called Bhaiya, it also starred Padma Khanna and Vijaya Chowdhuri. Manna Dey did the rendering of the Ramayan.

  47. What an interesting tid-bit, Shilpi. I must confess I had never seen your father lip-sync to a song. Thank you for that information.

  48. It was your birthday?! And you never told any of us? When? You're supposed to proclaim it loud and clear, you know. :-)

    But, belated hi sahi. Happy birthday, Anu, and many blessings, much joy, good health and much love.

    And, to celebrate: a peppy little Manna Dey song that I really love. Not a solo, but still.


  49. Here's wishing him well. He's the last of the greats from the melodious decades (I tend to neglect Lata-Asha as their voices haven't aged so well)...

    I've always thought he was Hindi cinema's best singer, the one with the widest vocal range, not just in the octaves but also in singing styles. Its too bad he never got his due...

    I loved your list, Anu. Most of these songs would also make it to my Manna Dey list (yes, even the Raj Kapoor numbers!). I was so glad to see Har taraf ab yahi afsaane hain - its such a lovely song, but doesn't get aired often enough. And just to add to that mile long list, here are some other favorites:

    All his songs from Ujala, especially Suraj zara aa paas aa, 'coz its a fun song and not picturized on a side/comic character

    Hum dam se gaye humdum ke liye - Manna da singing for another beautiful leading man

    Jibone ki pabona - peppy and fun, and Soumitra does a twist (not!)

    Tumhen yaad rahe na rahe - a non-filmi song, penned by Tagore

    Apne liye jiye to kya jiye - Sanjeev Kumar readies for some swashbuckling action

    Tujhe suraj kahoon ya chanda - Balraj Sahni and Manna Dey, a jodi made in filmi heaven. ;D

  50. [Laughing] It's today, Madhu, so you are not late at all. It's still morning here in the Eastern hemisphere. Thank you so much for your wishes.

    One more for our list of coincidences - S and I were discussing this song just yesterday night, and talking about Manna Dey's vocal calisthenics in the song.:) Does it surprise you that it is one of my favourites too?

    By the way, take a look at the original; while I adore Mumtaz, this woman has her totally beat when it comes to moves. (Mumu is easier on the eyes, though [grin].) And Nagesh is definitely a better dancer than Mehmood.


  51. Yes Dustedoff , amazing singing by both Lata and Manna Dey and listen to the guitar in both versions Hindi and Tamil especially in the Tamil song Anu posted. The way it plays an alternate line behind the piano with exquisite timing is magnificent. Listen with a pair of headphones if you can, computer speakers are horrible.

  52. Another song of Manna Dey that I have really liked under Salilda's baton is this one from Apradhi Kaun.. The whole movie is available on youtube. This song starts at 1:43:30 and with the picturisation it is really great. "dwaar dil ka khul gaya, haathi nikal gaya.. dum reh gayi magar."


    If its too difficult to move to on youtube...


  53. I wrote a *long* reply to you and it just disappeared *POUF*! :(

    Anyway, it is so good to see you back. Even though I knew you were alive and well and still watching films (from your Google status).

    From your list, I absolutely love Suraj zara paas aa, Humdam se gaye and Tujhe sooraj kahoon ya chanda. Devsaab looks as debonair as only he can! And Tujhe sooraj kahoon is such a sweet song. You are right about the songs of Ujala - the other solo Ab kahan jaaye hum is such a counterpoint to the one you posted; as poignant as this is peppy.

    Soumitra moves very well. :) And good ol' Hairbhai looks so young, trim and handsome. What a pity that he allowed his love of food and drink to overcome his health! Both songs were new to me, as was the Rabindra Sangeet you posted. I'm not very familiar with Manna Dey's non-filmi songs.

  54. [Laughing] It's today, Madhu, so you are not late at all. It's still morning here in the Eastern hemisphere. Thank you so much for your wishes.

    One more for our list of coincidences - S and I were discussing this song just yesterday night, and talking about Manna Dey's vocal calisthenics in the song.:) Does it surprise you that it is one of my favourites too?

    By the way, take a look at the original; while I adore Mumtaz, this woman has her totally beat when it comes to moves. (Mumu is easier on the eyes, though [grin].) And Nagesh is definitely a better dancer than Mehmood.


  55. That was one song I had to see to like. I never did, until I watched the film, and it was a song that just melded into the scene, and was so situational. The screen shot above is from Hain payar ke do matwale - it's a shame that the video clip of Phir wohi dard hai phir wohi jigar is not available any more on YouTube.

  56. Didn't he sing "Na to carvaan ki talaash hain" with Mohd. Rafi? What a song... Love it.

  57. Yes, he did. Though there were other singers too - Asha Bhosle, Sudha Malhotra, SD Batish. It is a lovely song!

  58. Happy belated birthday, Anu! And I love Manna Dey's songs, but there is no time to read the whole post, look for any songs omitted by you and all the readers, find them on YT and ... you get the drift, because I am running to the Firestone place now to get my car checked out before my trip to DC to see my little gdaughter (and the rest of her family!). But I hope to have time during the day while I am there, to go through this and other posts leisurely and pen some comments! Happy birthday again!

  59. N venkataraman20 June 2013 at 12:13

    Thanks for a very well written post. Only today I could find time to go through the post. The delightful dozen songs posted by you would rank among my favourite Manna Dey’s songs. Who cares on whom the songs were picturised! Manna Dey is Manna Dey and his songs will be everlasting listener’s pleasure. Let us pray for his good health. Let him be in peace.

    It is perceived that the composition ‘Puucho na kaise’ is based on Nazrul Geeti ‘Aruna kanti ke go jogi bikhari’. However SD Burman in one of his interviews in
    Vividh Bharati attributed the composition to a traditional bandish in Raag Ahir
    Bhairav by Ustaad Mushtaq Hussein Khan. Although Kazi Nazrul Islam
    composed music to many of his poetries, music for several Nazrul Geet (s)
    were composed by others.

    I enjoyed the songs in the comments section too. There are several NFS of Manna Dey among my favourites. ‘Nathli se toota moti re’ is one among
    them. Ashok ji and Subodh ji have already mentioned it and posted the song.

    The voice of the singer of the Gujarati song “Hu Tu Tu Tu” is not that of Manna Dey. Ashokji , can you provide the link to the version sung by Manna Dey?

    Let me add one more of my favourite NFS song of Manna Dey.
    ‘Meri bhi ek mumtaz thi’ by Manna Dey, lyrics Madhukar Rajasthani, music Manna Dey

    Let me share these two immortal Bengali songs of Manna Dey

    ‘O Chand Samle Rakho Jochonake’ by Manna Dey, lyrics Pulak Bandopadhyay, music Prabash Dey

    ‘Kaharwa noy dadra bajao’ by Manna Dey, film ‘Sanyasi Raja’, lyrics Gouriprasanna Majumdar, music Nachiketa Ghosh, Tabla Radhakanta

    Let me take leave with this eternal NFS.

    ‘Chandrama Ki Chandini se bhi naram” by Manna Dey, lyrics R Awasthi, music Satish Bhutani

    Thank you once again Anuji. Looking forward to your next post on Manna Dey.

  60. A few that I recall when it comes to Manna Dey:

    1. Phir kahin Koi Phool Khila (Anubhav)


    2. Tum Bin Jeevan Kaisa Jeevan (Bawarchi)


    3. Husna Ki Chah Ne Kitna Mujhe Rulaya (Avishkaar)


    4. Jhanak Jhanak Tore baaje payaliya (Mere Huzoor)


    5. Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hai (Seema)


    6. Kasme Vaade Pyar Wafa Sab (Upkar)


  61. The nit-pickety Malayali always picks at his pronunciation of 'varu' in 'Maanasa Maine Varu'...that part has been made teased on several occasions. Incidentally, did you hear Yesudas' rendition of the Bengali version of the song when it was dubbed? Would have to admit that Manna Dey's version was so much more soulful...

  62. Basu Bhattacharya's Amar-Mansi trilogy is an interesting exploration of many of our marital lives and carries sufficient food for thought! Avishkaar especially.........

  63. So ironic that while Basu Bhattacharya had a sensitive side to him in his films that focused on strong women in search of an identity, he was also a man who subjected his wife to frequent verbal and physical abuse.

  64. I found them very depressing, truth be told. :) Other than Anubhav.

  65. Double standards run rampant. Gulzar is another offender - it's a matter of degrees, I guess.

  66. I know I am late, but the one song I wanted to add for the duets was sung by Subir Sen! I just love this post of yours with all the songs I love, but here's one on Dev Anand from the movie, Manzil:


    I have always loved songs 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and of course, the song from Chemmeen, but the songs in Mera Naam Joker depress me!

  67. And this one, also from the same movie:


    I saw this movie about fifty years back, and had forgotten all about these gems. This song, especially, has always been a favorite of mine, and I just discovered that it was also from Manzil, so here goes.

  68. Ha! I figured you were pining away for the little one, missing her more than ever. :)

    Yes, this one is lovely, and on such a dapper Dev, too. What's not to like? [grin] Thanks for the link, Lalitha.

  69. It happens to me most of the time. :( I make a list and then find that three of the songs are from the same film. Aargh!

    The variation in his voice is amazing, isn't it? The way he sings for Dev and the way he sings for Mehmood here - he sounds so rustic in this one, and it's not just the lyrics; it's the whole tone of voice.

  70. Nalini Ikkandath27 July 2013 at 05:47

    A great collection and yes, "Ae mere pyaare watan" is for me the ultimate patriotic song. A bit ironic that it's not about India at all.

  71. Oh, I know it is not about India, but the emotions expressed are so universal, aren't they? It is the way most of us feel about the lands of our birth, especially when, like me, we are away from it for so long.

  72. i just love reading your blog.get to know/learn so much and of course relieve my days growing up in a 90's kolkata. Thank you..keep it coming.

  73. Thanks for visiting, reading and commenting, Projjal. Your comment put a smile on my face.

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