Remembering composer K.C. Dey

A quick primer on the legendary music composer, who was also S.D. Burman's mentor and guide

Sonal Pandya

Krishna Chandra Dey, fondly called Keshto Babu, was known throughout the film industry as K.C. Dey. Born in 1893, the multi-talented artist lost his eyesight at 13 because of illness, but that never deterred him becoming one of the early leaders of Indian film music. Dey received his musical training from Ustaad Dabbeer Khan and worked on stage in theatres around Kolkata before joining New Theatres in 1940.

Apart from composing film music, Dey acted in New Theatres' reputed works such as Chandidas (1932), Puran Bhagat (1933) and Devdas (1935) as an actor and a singer if the need arose. Till today, songs like 'Jao Jao Aye Mere Sadhu' from Puran Bhagat (1933) with minimal orchestration and 'Baba man ki ankhen khol' from Dhoop Chaaon (1935) are remembered as part of Dey's artistic repertoire. He moved to Mumbai in 1942 but returned back to Kolkata in 1946 as he wasn't satisfied with his level of singing and compositions.

Later on as he transitioned to teaching, Dey was legendary Sachin Dev Burman's guru, guiding the young man towards clarity in his singing. Under his training, Burman learnt to discard extra affectations and take his voice to another level. Dey also had great influence on his nephew, Probodh Chandra Dey, who looked up to both his uncle and his talented protégée, Burman. He too would go on to have a formidable music career as the singer/composer Manna Dey.

K.C. Dey passed away on 28 November, 1962 leaving behind nearly 600 songs sung in various languages from Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali and Urdu alongside a legacy as a master of classical music.