Sydney remembers Manna Dey, the great!


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Manna Dey a loving father with wife Sulochana Kumaran and daughters  Shuroma and Sumita

By Neena Badhwar

Manna Dey performed in Sydney around half a dozen concerts and won us all as we became his ardent fans and devotees of his music. I remember once he came and the concert organiser had put up Manna Da and his wife in YMCA Sydney hostel. As I went to Oxford street and went up the lifts to go knocking on the room a bit hesitatingly, his wife opened the door still in her night gown as she  mentioned that Mannaji is away gone looking for some food. I sat there in the room quietly waiting and wondering whether I had gate crashed as there was no sign of the organiser. Anyhow Mrs Dey went and freshened up herself when Mann Da walked in with a bag of groceries ”“ supposedly a loaf of bread, cheese, tomatoes and some grapes. It took him time to settle and me to relax as he just went in the next room where he prepared tea and made a cheese and tomato sandwich, washed the green grapes as I am sure he was pretty hungry because it was past eleven. I was dismayed at the lack of attention on part of the organiser being given to this great singer when he came out and offered me humbly the sandwich. I then mentioned all the nice songs especially remembering his renderings which had been made famous by Raj Kapoor when Mannaji had sung ”˜dil ka haal kahe dilwala’ ”˜Ramaiya vastavaiya’ and soon seeing my keen interest he named many of his songs list which became limitless as we went through over 50 songs as I jotted them down in my notebook. One better than the next as I exclaimed ”˜Oh yes that one’. The internet era had not set in yet and this great singer was there in person in front of me shy yet his repertoire of songs was a proof  how much he had contributed to Indian cinema as we have lived and listened to his memorable songs such as ”˜Ai meri zohra zabeen’ and many more. A saying in the film industry went that all the difficult songs of classical intricacy when refused by the wellknown singers of the era such as Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh fell in the lap of Manna Dey.  From the three Maestros of golden era Manna, Mukesh and Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey was one whose versatility knew no bounds. Manna Dey sang classical, light songs, bhajans, qawaalies  as late Kavi Pradeep once described him as ”˜the emperor of harmony’.

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Manna Dey with Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh and Talat Mehmood

While Mukesh is the one who dominated as singer in Raj Kapoor movies yet Manna Dey walked away with a memorable  number ”“ ”˜Ai bhai zara dekh ke chalo’ ”“ a song that fetched him his only Filmfare Award. The effortlessly melodious ”˜Zindagi kaisi hai paheli haaye’ made Rajesh Khanna famous yet it was Manna Dey who rendered the immortal song.   The Master Manna Dey is in the background yet the singer of the passionate number ”˜tu chhupi hai kahan’ in the movie ”˜Navrang’ is just a class that no one can surpasse.  Manna Dey had this extreme classical capability that at times he could render and handle four ragas in one song.

Alas this great singer is no more as he passed away at the age of 95 in India in October 2013 though he had long left the film industry when on the day I met him he said that the quality of music that Bollywood was churning out was just not suited to his sensitivities as he remembered the great era and his compatriots, the songs they sang and formed a strong trio who not just ruled the music  scene in India during those days, I could sense that he sorely missed his colleagues with whom he had developed a loving relationship and bond. Manna Dey was rather disappointed with the way the music was going in the current times and said that the film industry ”˜ mein kucch nahi rah gaya hai hum jaise singers ke liye’. He was happy holding concerts abroad  because that is where he found his followers who were devoted to him and his music, he said.

Avijit Sarkar, Sydney’s own great singer and musician, has decided to pay a tribute to Manna Dey as he remembers him and the memorable numbers he imparted to the Hindi films. The concert by Avijit Sarkar is being held at Redgum function Centre in Wentworthville on February 22.

Some of the top favorites that Manna Dey mentioned on that day I met him. You may have your own favorites out of the 3,500 songs he sang in his long career perhaps you can ask Avijit to sing on 22nd February:

  1. Laga Chunri mein daag (Dil hi to hai, 1963)
  2. Ae Mere Pyaare Watan (Kabuliwala, 1961)
  3. Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli Haai (Anand, 1970)
  4. Ek Chatur Naar (Padosan, 1968)
  5. Poochho Na Kaise Maine Rain Bitai (Meri Surat Teri Ankhen, 1963)
  6. Ai Meri zohrazabeen (Waqt, 1965)
  7.  Tu chhupi hai kahan (Navrang 1958)
  8. Dil Ka haal Sune Dilwala (Shri 420 – 1955)
  9. Tu Pyar Ka Saagar Hai (Seema 1955)
  10. Aao Twist Karen (Bhoot Bangla 1965)
  11. Kaun aaya mere man ke dware (Dekh Kabira roya 1957)
  12. Yeh raat bheegi bheegi (Chori Chori  1956)
  13. Ek Chatur Naar karke shringar (Padosan )
  14. Pyar hua iqrar hua ( Shri 420 – 1955)
  15. Yeh dosti hum nahi todenge (Sholay 1975)

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