Manna Dey

Manna Dey is undoubtedly one of the best singers that India has. This versatile singer has sung numerous songs and shared the limelight with some legends like Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mehmood, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, etc. His father's name was Purna Chandra Dey and his mother was Mahamaya Dey. Since childhood, Manna De showed a penchant towards music and was encouraged and inspired by his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey, who was a renowned music teacher. The life history of Manna Day is indeed inspiring and as versatile as his singing career. Check out this short biography of Manna De.

Manna Dey was a very versatile singer and there was no playback singer who could imitate Manna Dey's versatility. He could very easily sing the great hits of legends like Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh but no one could sing the songs Manna Dey sang in his unique technical style. The great Mohammed Rafi once commented that though people listen to his songs, he himself hears only Manna Dey's songs. This was perhaps one of the best accolades a singer could receive from another talented singer. Manna Dey is undoubtedly the best trained singer of the industry.

Manna Dey teamed up with great singers like Bhimsen Joshi and belted out a legendary song known as "Ketaki Gulab Juhi". With Kishore Kumar he sang a completely different genre of songs like "Yeh Dosti" (Sholay) and "Ek Chatur Naar" (Padosan). Both these songs were immensely liked and appreciated by one and all. Manna Dey infused the melody of classical music in the frame of pop music. In the Bengali film industry, he worked with noted musicians like the legendary Hemant Kumar. He established himself in mainstream Bengali music after his legendary duet song with Lata Mangeshkar known as "Ke Prothom Kachhe Esechi". He is counted among the legends of playback singers. It is his versatility that made him a hit with classical as well as mainstream Hindi music.

This talented singer has sung thousands of songs in many different languages and has given stage performances throughout the world. A true entertainer, he never fails to mesmerize his audience and people who attend his concerts only crave for more. He has received awards like National Singer of India, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan from the Government of India. After having spent more than 50 years in Bombay, he now lives in Bangalore and at the age of 86, still travels all over the world and gives stage performances. Manna Dey is a living legend and continues to inspire budding talents and musicians.

Manna Dey was a flawless singer who could sing any type of song. From Qawwalis (Yeh Ishq Ishq hai) to romantic duets (Pyar hua iqraar hua), fast numbers (Aaoo twist karen, Jhoomta mausam mast mahina) to patriotic songs (Aye mere pyare watan) or prayer numbers (Tu pyar ka saagar hai) -- he was the versatile genius. His mastery over semi-classical geets was something, which even the multi-faceted voice of Rafi could not match.Being the versatile genius he was, he won the Filmfare award for his toe-tapping number "Aae bhai zara dekh ke chalo" from "Mera Naam Joker". The song happens to be one of the most intricate compositions of Shankar-Jaikishen and it was the genius of Manna Dey that made it sound so simple and fluent.

It was almost half a century ago, when Prabodhchandra Dey, now famous as Manna Dey fresh from Vidyasagar college in Calcutta, was in two minds about whether to make music and singing his career or take up a job for a living. His Father Purnachandra Dey, a chartered accountant, wanted his son, a Bachelor of Arts, to be a Barrister. Prabodh, like countless young students of Calcutta, was under the mesmeric spell of his uncle K.C.Dey, who was a well-known actor-singer and popular star of New Theatres. The uncle took his nephew as his disciple. Manna Dey was later taught by Ustad Aman Ali Khan, and thus the young singer gained proficiency in the classical music, a foundation on which he built his reputation. This learning equipped him to present any form of Indian music, classical, light and even Western pop with finesse.

Manna Dey grew up to the soft strains of Baul songs, Rabindra-sangeet, and khayal. K.C. Dey put his nephew through the paces acquainting him with the subtleties of tappa, thumri, bhajan and qawwali. With the disintegration of the New Theaters in 1940, K.C. Dey left for Bombay in search of fresh pastures. Manna joined his uncle and started off in Bombay as the assistant to music director H.P. Das.

Though Manna Dey had been initiated into the world of music at the tender age of 11 by his uncle and guru K.C. Dey by recording a Suraiyya and Manna Dey duet for the film Tammanna, years of struggle followed, at times compelling the talented singer to wonder if his choice of career was the right one. He even thought of coming back to Calcutta and take up his law. However, "Upar Gagan Vishal", the marching song from "Mashaal", turned into a super-hit and made him stay in the music line. Soon, a string of hits followed which established his career on a firm footing.

From the very beginning, Manna Dey has been a perfectionist. He is the only artiste who makes notations before recording a song,so that he can sing and record a song just after one rehearsal. Anil Biswas rightly observed that though Manna Dey could sing everything that Rafi, Talat and Mukesh sang they could not sing what Manna Dey sang.

During his five decades in the film industry, Manna Dey always marshalled all his recourses to render his songs to the highest standards he was capable of achieving to the demands of the moment. However, with the dominance of violence and vulgarity, he found the atmosphere stifling. He thought it better to call it a day. He worked off and on only when the opportunity challenged him. Hit numbers such as  Poochho na kaise maine rain beetayee ,  Laga chunari mein daag ,  Aye meri zohra jabeen ,  Na to karavaan ki talaash hai  and  Chunri sambhaal gori  (the last with Lata) and the absolutely mad  Ek chatur naar  from Padosan to name a few, spin a tale of Indian life. Though his career graph never soared to dizzy heights, Manna Dey doubtless stands apart because of his deep voice and a wide repertoire: from qawwali to light, romantic duets to classical numbers.  All that I have attained in music is because of my uncle's training,  says Manna Dey with a sense of modesty.The last film he sang for was Nana Patekar s Prahar.

In Bimal Roy s Do Bigha Zameen, he sang Dharti kahe pukar key for Balraj Sahni who looked emaciated in the film. His another hit number Chali Radhey Rani was filmed on a beggar in Parneeta. Unfortunately, that became Manna Dey s image. Music Directors always summoned him to sing for character actors or for older stars which is the reason that most of his numbers lacked youthful exuberance. He rarely lent his voice to any hero of great stature except occasionally, for Raj Kapoor. While Talat Mahmood and Mukesh went on to become the voices of Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor respectively Manna Dey was banished to complement the acrobatics of Mehmood in songs like Ek chatur nar kar ke singaar; Aao twist karen; Hato Jaono jhoti banao batian; Pyar ki aag mein tan badan jal gaya; Khali dabba khali botal etc. He turned such crass numbers into class numbers. Once he admitted that he was forced to accept such stuff just to keep his body and soul together.

The singer s had a special affection for R.D.Burman and Shankar -Jaikishan.Manna Dey sang a song  Aao twist kare  for Mehmood's  Bhoot Bangla  which was a lift from  Come let us twist . Before recording the Hindi number, R.D.Burman sang the original English song 4ae in such great style that Manna Dey, the recordist and the musicians were breathless. With Shankar  Jaikishan too Manna Dey shared a special bond of affection and friendship. He cherishes his long meetings with them in their music room where he would sing for them for hours. The singer won his Filmfare award for  Ae bhai zara dekh ke chalo , the toe-tapping number, from Raj Kapoor's Mera Naam Joker.

Awards And Honors:
Award                             Movie
Filmfare Awards-1971        Mera Naam Joker - for song 'Ey Bhai Zara Dekh Ke Chalo'

Best Of Manna Dey:
Song                                                Movie
Soch ke ye gagan jhoome            Jyoti
Tum jo aao to pyaar aa jaaye      Saakhi
Tum bin jeewan kaise beeta         Anita
Na to caarvaan ki talash hai          Barsaat Ki Raat
Oh nadiya chale chale re dhaara  Safar


The fame of Manna Dey has over flown to every part of the globe, more specifically wherever there is an Indian diasporic community. In fact, it may be said that his is not merely a name that is deified everywhere, rather it creates a ripple of mixed feeling of love and worship whenever cited. People venerate him not only for his musical bearing but because he epitomizes in his work a wonderful combination of melody and poetry. His stance in Indian music vindicates the axiom – that art outlives the artist.

Manna Dey currently lives in Bangalore in the township of Kalyannagar. After spending more than fifty years in Bombay, he moved on to Bangalore. He still maintains a Calcutta address. At the age of 88, he travels widely all over the world and performs a lot of stage programmes.

A short list of awards and honors received by him from time to time is given chronologically.


* 1970 National Award as Playback singer For the Bengali  film 
* 1971 National Award as Playback singer For the Hindi Film   
Mera Naam Joker
* 1971 Padmasree Award Govt. of India
* 1985 Lata Mangeskar Award Awarded by Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
* 1988 Michale Sahittyo Puraskar Awarded by Renaissance Sanskritik Parishad, Dacca
* 1990 Shyamal Mitra Award Mithun Fans Association
* 1991 Sangeet Swarnachurr Award Awarded by Shree Khetra Kala Prakashika, Puri
* 1993 P.C.Chandra Award P.C.Chandra Group & others
* 1999 Kamala Devi Roy Award Kamala Devi Group
* 2001 Anandalok Lifetime Award Anandabazar Group
* 2002 Special Jury Swaralaya Yesudas Award for outstanding 
performance in music
* 2003 Alauddin Khan Award Govt. of West Bengal
* 2004 National Award as Playback singer Govt. of Kerala
* 2004 D. Lit Honour Rabindra Bharati University
* 2005 Life Time Achievement award Govt. of Maharastra
* 2005 D.Lit Honour Burdwan University
* 2005 Padma Bhushan Award Govt. of India


    * Tamanna (1942)
    * Ramrajya (1943)
    * Vikramaditya (1945)
    * Valmiki (1946)
    * Geetgobina (1947)
    * Hum Bhi Insaan Hai (1948)
    * Mashaal (1950)
    * Awaara (1951)
    * Do Bigha Zamin (1953)
    * Pareneeta (1953)
    * Boot Polish (1954)
    * Shree 420 (1955)
    * Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (1955)
    * Devdas (1955)
    * Basant Bahar (1956)
    * Chori Chori (1956)
    * Mother India (1957)
    * Madhumati (1958)
    * Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)
    * Kala Bazaar (1960)
    * Kabuliwala (1961)
    * Bandini (1963)
    * Dil Hi To Hai(1963)
    * Meri Surat Teri Aankhen(1963)
    * Taj Mahal (1963)
    * Haqeeqat (1964)
    * Bhoot Bangla(1965)
    * Waqt(1965)
    * Love in Tokyo (1966)
    * Upkaar (1967)
    * Raat Aur Din (1967)
    * Padosan (1968)
    * Mera Naam Joker (1970)
    * Bobby (1973)
    * Zanjeer (1973)
    * Sholay (1975)
    * Amar Akbar Anthony(1977)
    * Laawaris (1981)
    * Prahaar (1990)
    * Anand[1970] Music by Salil Chowdhury


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Qawwali'('Yeh Ishq Ishq hai, Aye mere zohra-jabeen, yari hai iman mera) Romantic duet (Pyar hua iqraar hua, aja sanam madhur,dil ki gira khol do, ye raat bhigi bhigi, soch ke yei gagan jhume,murmur ke na dekh, o chand muskuraya, belia belia, chand gayo pai bichua,sham dhale jamuna kinare,yei raat chalte, zindegi hai khel,aan milo san,allah jane mai hu kaun,) Classical (Poochho na kaise, Sur na saje, laga chunri me dag, phul gendwa na maro,lapak jhapak tu, nache mayura, ketaki gulab juhi, bhay bhanjana bandana, mohammed shah rangile, tum ban jiban, bhor aie gaya andhia, are hato kahe ko jhume)

* Emotional (Zindagi kaisi yeh paheli haaye,kasme wade, mitua piya tune kya kiya, hartaraf ab, dur hai kinara, nadia chale re dhara, muskura mudla,)

* Fast numbers (Aao twist karen,kisne chilman se mara e bhai jara dekhe chalo, Jhoomta mausam mast mahina, jindegi hey khelkoi pass koi fail,dunia rangabirangi, eke chaturnar,chunri samal gori)

* Patriotic songs (Aye mere pyare watan, jane walesipahi se pucho, hoke majbur, hindustan ki kasam)

* Prayer numbers (Tu pyar ka saagar hai, mere sab kuch mere geet, tu hai mera premdebta, he raam, bhaja re man ram sukhdai, pap ki samandar, bhai bhanjana)

* Filmfare Award winning: Aae bhai zara dekh ke chalo (Mera naam joker: Raj Kapoor)

Non film--hindi

    * madhushala
    * shwan ke rimjhim
    * meri bhi ek mumtaz thi
    * o rang rejwa
    * shyam ho jamm ho
    * hyara hu mai
    * kuch eisi bhi paal hota hai