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10 most popular Bengali film songs sung by Hemanta Mukherjee — Death anniversary special

Mukherjee won two National Awards for Best Male Playback Singer for his solo albums Nimantran (1971) and Lalan Fakir (1987). On his 29th death anniversary today, we remember 10 Bengali film songs he sang.

Roushni Sarkar

An extra ordinary composer, Hemanta Mukherjee, also known as Hemant Kumar, had a unique voice that could seamlessly infuse soul into tunes of melancholy, joy or romance. Mukherjee, credited for composing some of the best songs of Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh and Manna Dey, also won two National Awards in the category of Best Male Playback Singer for his solo albums Nimantran (1971) and Lalan Fakir (1987).

Mukherjee took training for Hindustani classical music from Phanibhusan Banerjee, a disciple of Ustad Faiyaz Khan, for a brief period and had Shailesh Duttagupta as his mentor in the early days of his career. However, he used to mostly emulate the style of Pankaj Mallick and was also called ‘Chhoto Pankaj’.

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He recorded his first song ‘Amar Ganete Ele Nabarupi Chirantani’ for All India Radio in 1935. Mukherjee was also extremely popular for his recital of Tagore’s songs.

On his 29th death anniversary today (he died on 26 September 1989), we revisit 10 of the most popular Bengali film songs sung by him in his illustrious career spanning over four decades.

1. 'Shono Bondhu Shono' — Shap Mochan (1955)

Mukherjee was often known as the playback voice of Uttam Kumar. Much like all the romantic songs, Mukherjee does full justice to this song of social concern from Sudhir Mukherjee's Shap Mochan. As Uttam Kumar's proagonist calls out to his fellows to understand the lifelessness of the city and the lack of compassion in people, Mukherjee infuses the character’s own pathos into it.

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2. 'Muchhe Jawa Dinguli' — Lookochuri (1958)  

The melancholic number from Lookochuri (1958) is about a sad past of heartbreak. The film, directed by Kamal Majumdar, stars Kishore Kumar, Mala Sinha, Anita Guha and Anup Kumar. Mukherjee’s voice brings alive the pain inherent in the lyrics, penned by Majumdar, that narrates how the wounds are still fresh and continue to smear the present with its colours. Though, a sad song, 'Muchhe Jawa Dinguli' is surprisingly played in most of the pandals during the Durga puja in Bengal.

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3. 'Surjo Dobar Pala' — Indrani (1958)

Composed by Nachiketa Ghosh, the romantic number from Niren Lahiri's Indrani features the most popular onscreen pair of Bengali cinema — Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. The couple here is waiting for the dusk to descend, so that they can explore their world full of dreams in solitude. 'Surjo Dobar Pala' is another beautiful testimonial of the tradition of romance initiated by Uttam and Sen in Bengali cinema.

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4. 'Neer Chhoto Khoti Nei' — Indrani (1958)

A beautiful composition on the need and desires of love, 'Neer Chhoto Khoti Nei' was jointly composed by Nachiketa Ghosh and Hemanta Mukherjee. Gauri Prasanna Majumder’s lyrics in the song perfectly describe the importance of openness of heart and imagination in love over any materialistic requirements. The song features the newly-wed couple played by Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen, who have just moved into their new nest.

5. 'Ei Raat Tomar Amar' — Deep Jweley Jai (1959) 

The romantic song with a haunting melody speaks of a passionate night that only belongs to the lovers. Another timeless creation and rendition by the artiste, this song is from Asit Sen's cult Bengali film Deep Jweley Jai, starring Suchitra Sen, Anil Chatterjee and Vasant Choudhari. In the song, Suchitra Sen's character immerses in the thought of her lover in the backdrop of a beautiful windy night. The lyrics are penned by Gauri Prasanna Majumder.

Mukherjee used the tune again for a Hindi song, 'Yeh Nayan Dare Dare', in 1964 for Biren Naag's Kohra, starring Waheeda Rehman and Biswajeet. 

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6. 'O Nodire Ekti Kotha' — Neel Akasher Neechey (1959) 

Addressed to a river, the song is from Mrinal Sen’s first film Neel Akasher Neechey (1959). Sung and composed by Hemanta Mukherjee, the song has a fleeting mood, reflecting the journey of a river. In the visuals, the song is sung by a boatman; while the protagonist (Kali Banerjee), a passenger, delves into the deep lyrics of the song, that also brings out the subtle philosophies of life.

7. 'Ei Poth Jodi Na Sesh Hoy' — Saptapadi (1961)

The song from Ajoy Kar's Bengali classic romance Saptapadi was sung by Hemanta Mukherjee and Sandhya Mukherjee. The iconic song features the superhit onscreen pair Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. They sing the song on a bike ride hoping the road would never come to an end.

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The song holds a special place in Bengali cinema and culture, not only for the lyrics by Gauri Prasanna Majumder and its composition and rendition by Hemanta Mukherjee, but also for portraying a couple romancing onscreen without any inhibitions, expressing their dreams of togetherness, coming out of traditional concepts.

8. 'Ei Meghla Dine Akla' —  Sesh Porjonto (1969)

This happy number, featuring Biswajeet Chatterjee, is from Suhir Mukherjee's Sesh Porjonto. The song describes how Chatterjee’s character can’t bear to stay confined in the house on a rainy, romantic day. He eagerly waits for his beloved’s invitation, while his mind wanders like the restless wind, wanting to come out from the darkness of the four walls. Hemanta Mukherjee’s rendition has not only made this song timeless, but the composition also remains a resort of solace for the lost wandering minds till date.

9. 'E Byatha Ki Je Byatha' — Dhanyi Meye (1971)

Composed by Nachiketa Ghosh and sung by Hemanta Mukherjee, the song comments on the wounded emotions of the protagonist (Jaya Bachchan) in Aravind Mukherjee's Dhanyi Meye. The song describes that it is not easy to heal emotional wounds and relates her state of mind to that of the love-struck Radha in Vrindavan. The song has a lot of layers, in terms of its melody and Hemanta Mukherjee reveals each and every emotion hidden in it.

10. 'Ogo Kajol Noyona Horini' — Mon Niye (1969)

This song is one of those collaborated on by two masters of Bengali film music, composer-singer Hemanta Mukherjee and lyricist Pulak Bandopadhyay. A sweet song from Salil Sen's Mon Niye, 'Ogo Kajol Noyona Horini', features Uttam Kumar and Supriya Devi. The song adores a doe-eyed beauty who is full of energy, hence, it is composed in fast rhythm. Mukherjee aptly infuses affectionate admiration in the song as Uttam Kumar enacts while he sings the song for a stage performance.