Article Hindi

Death anniversary special: 5 joyous celebrations of Manna Dey's musical voice


While he was known for his touch of classical intonation, the singer could also resonate joy through his voice.

Shriram Iyengar

The name Manna Dey evokes a certain respect and awe for any listener of Hindi film music. Born Prabodh Chandra Dey, the singer went on to bring to Hindi film music a touch of the classical Hindustani with his soulful timbre. Yet, within Dey was a reservoir of joy that is often underrated.

Perhaps, that is why some of his best duets were with Kishore Kumar, another prankster filled with a joie de vivre that is yet to be found in the current stock of singers. Dey's success came during the peaks of some of the greatest singers in Hindi cinema, which included Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar and himself.

Throughout his career, the legendary singer chose songs that depict a range of emotions from the intensely philosophical, romantic to the tragic. However, his most enchanting numbers are the ones with joy.

In these, the singer comes across as a free ranging soul, unafraid, charming, with sparkling wit. From 'Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh' in Shree 420 (1955) to the eternal promise of friendship in 'Yeh Dosti' in Sholay (1975), the singer captures a sense of happiness, contentment that is pleasing.

The Dadasaheb Phalke award winner passed away on 24 October 2013, leaving Hindi playback singing poorer.

On his fifth death anniversary, we take a look at 10 joyous moments that he rendered immortal through his voice.

1. 'Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh' — Shree 420 (1955)

Raj Kapoor's iconic 1950s classic would be a little pale without this beautiful composition by Shankar-Jaikishan. As Nadira sashays down meaningfully towards Raj Kapoor, the music starts playing like a seductive siren's song luring the young man to a world of glamour. Soon, the hero starts swinging to this tune, and we hear Dey's voice ring out.

The song remains an iconic memory of Raj Kapoor's film, and was a rare ocassion when the showman turned to a singer other than Mukesh as his voice. Yet, the song is made even more iconic by the smoky, seductive presence of Nadira. Perhaps, only Manna Dey's classy flamboyance would have suited her.

2. 'Ae Meri Zohrajabeen' — Waqt (1965)

While the 1950s had some moments of brilliance for Manna Dey, it was in the 1960s that he really came into his own. This wonderful number from BR Chopra's multi-starrer blockbuster, Waqt (1965) was an ode to evergreen love that never fades.

While Ravi's rhythmic composition is difficult to ignore, the song's magic lies in the voice of Manna Dey. From the moment his dulcet tones hum out the introduction, you know the result is enjoyable. Even the usually sombre Balraj Sahni looked like he had fun acting out this song. That's what joy and love feels like.

3. 'Aao Twist Karein' — Bhoot Bungla (1965)

If you thought Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi were the only ones who could throw caution to the wind and rock it, you were born too late to hear this track. The first and early credit for RD Burman as a composer was in India's first horror comedy film, Bhoot Bungla (1965).

The song, an inspired version of Chubby Checker's 1961 hit, 'Let's Twist Again', was sung by Manna Dey. And he is fabulous! The singer even throws in a falsetto, perhaps to remind the film's second composer - Kishore Kumar - of his own skills.

Over the years, the song has become an iconic moment for Mehmood, who went on to deliver a cameo in another iconic Dey song.

4. 'Ek Chatur Naar' — Padosan (1968)

The next time the duo of Mehmood and Manna Dey teamed up was for this legendary comedy directed by Jyoti Swaroop. The film also featured Dey's friend and rival, Kishore Kumar. One scene in the film pits Kumar as the playback singer for Sunil Dutt's Bhola, while Dey voices Mehmood's character. The battle made for a song that will remain immortal as a comedy classic.

The music for the film was composed by RD Burman and has that touch of eccentricity without losing its classical roots. Despite the comic nature of the song, the composition itself is beautifully layered. Take Dey's parts in the beginning, which are in tune with the classical style. While Kishore Kumar lets it rip in his own unique style. This combination was too good to fail.

5. 'Yaari Hai Imaan Mera' — Zanjeer (1973)

Friendship remains a key theme in some of Manna Dey's happiest songs. This one, from Amitabh Bachchan's breakout film, had the singer crooning for the red haired Pathan, played by Pran.

While Dey had sung for a Pathan before, in Kabuliwala (1961), this one was far more joyous and a literal celebration. In Prakash Mehra's angry burning drama, this song was a bright spot to cheer for.