In a career spanning over five decades, Prabodh Chandra Dey popularly known as Manna Dey, sang over 3,500 songs in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada and Assamese films before quitting movies in the 90s with his last song Hamari Hi Mutthi Mein from Prahaar. Dey passed away yesterday in Bangalore at the age of 94. Honoured with the Padmashree (1971) Padmabhushan (2005) and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award (2007), Dey is credited with pioneering a new genre by infusing Indian classical music in a pop framework. Though his hit numbers are innumerable, here are his ten most famous songs...
Aye Mere Pyare Watan
Name one Indian who has not cried on hearing Manna Dey’s plaintive passionate but mellow and bridled rendition of this timeless Prem Dhawan lyrics. This paean to patriotism finely tuned by Salil Chowdhary brought out the best in Manna Dey. No matter how many times we hear it, it rips our heart open.
Pucho Na Kaise Maine Raiin Bitayee
(Meri Surat Teri Aankhen, 1963)
If you ask me to single out one signature-tune by Manna Dey, it would have to be this exquisitely pain-layered classical number composed by SD Burman. And Manna da’s vocals, what can we say? They are the stuff goosegumps were made for. Vintage Manna from heaven!
Laga Chunri Mein Daag Chhupaun Kaise
(Dil Hi Toh Hai,1963)
This being a Raj Kapoor film the male vocals were naturally dominated by Mukesh. But hear this. For this classical dance number Raj Kapoor and music composer Roshan insisted on Manna da’s vocals. In a film saturated with hit songs, this one became the stand-out number, hummed and echoed to this ‘Dey’.
Kasme Wade Pyar Wafaa
Manna da’s astoundingly well-trained vocals were seen to be too ‘classical’ for the leading men. Hence almost always his classics were filmed on character actors like Balraj Sahni, Mehmood and Pran. This one changed Pran’s image. The philosophical thrust of the lyrics, the cynical skeptical approach to life in the lyrics (written by Indeevar) couldn’t have been better put forward by any singer.
Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen
No two compositions can be more dissimilar than Aye Mere Pyare Watan and Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen both filmed on the great Balraj Sahni. If one was pensive and pained the other is playful and festive. A song celebrating the uninterrupted romance of a long-lasting marriage this one ranks among Manna da’s most popular numbers. Ravi composed. Manna da took care of the rest.
Aao Twist Karein
R D Burman’s first bonafide ode to Western Rock was given a zippy twist by Dey. Can you believe the classical singer singing this yipee-doodle-doo-di-dooh gana about ditty dancing? Salute, Manna da.
Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli
There is a small history to this immortal Salim Chowdhary composition. It was meant to be part of the background during the opening credit-titles of Anand. But when the film’s leading man Rajesh Khanna heard the song he insisted in lip-syncing it.
Ae Bhai Zara Dekh Ke Chalo
(Mera Naam Joker, 1969)
Again Raj Kapoor, and hence Mukesh. But for this coffeebreak of a blithe song it was Manna da all the way. He won a popular award for his effervescent singing.
Yaari Hai Imaan Mera
The film’s leading man Amitabh Bachchan had no songs. Pran zeroed in on a zing thing through Manna da’s vivacious vocals about friendship out-lasting life. Fantastic fervour and vigour in the vocals of this Kalyanji-Anandji chartbuster.
Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin Todenge
Yaari for Big B turned into dosti in this RD Burman track where Manna da matched Kishore Kumar’s joie de vivre note for note.