Happy Birthday Manna Dey: A Legendry Singer Born on International Labour Day

Padmabhusan Manna Dey was born on 1 May 1919 in present Kolkata the day which coincides with International Labour Day. By reading Manna Dey’s life, I have understood for reaching the zenith there is no shortcut to hard labour.

In India, from time to time many great singers were born and among the famous classical singers, a few great personalities are: Tansen, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Dr. Balamuralikrishna, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, M S Subbulakshmi, Pandit Jasraj, and many others. On the date of 1 May 1919 naturally one name crops up as Padmabhusan Manna Dey. He is a legendary figure in Indian music. And that is why he received many awards inter alia of which are: Padmabhusan Award, Padma Shri Award, Bongo Bibhusan Award,  given by the Government of West Bengal; Lifetime Achievement Award by Filmfare; Hony D.Lit Award from Jadavpur University; Dadasaheb Phalke Award; First Akkshaya Mohanty Award by the  Government of Odisha; National Film Award, Best Male Playback Singer for the Hindi film \”Mere Huzoor”.  His original name was Probodh Chandra Dey, and he was born on 1 May 1919 in present Kolkata.  He received his early education, in a small pre-primary school popularly known as Indu Babur Pathshala. Later on, he went to Scottish Church Collegiate School to complete both his schooling and intermediate studies. He completed his graduation from Vidyasagar College. From the very childhood, Manna Dey had a special liking for sports viz., wrestling, and boxing. Anyway, it is pertinent to mention that during his intermediate study at Scottish Church College, Manna Dey’s singing talent came to the limelight. He learned singing mainly from his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey and from Ustad Dabir Khan. It is heartening to mention that Manna Dey stood first for three consecutive years in three different categories of inter-collegiate singing competitions. In 1942, Manna Dey accompanied his renowned uncle Krishna Chandra Dey on a visit to Mumbai. There he met another legendary figure Sachin Dev Burman and Manna Dey started working as an assistant music director. Later on, he also assisted other famous music composers for some time and then decided to work independently. While working as a music director for different successful Hindi films Manna Dey was keen to learn  Hindustani Classical music, which he could do from two classical stalwarts, Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan.

In 1943, Manna Dey started his career in playback singing with the film Tamanna. The musical score was set by his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey and he had to sing a duet with Suraiya. The song was an instant hit. The people across the country loved the song. In 1950, Mashal was the second film where Manna Dey got the opportunity to sing a solo ‘Upar gagan vishal’, and this time the melody was created by Sachin Dev Burman. In 1952, Manna Dey sang both for a Bengali and a Marathi film of the same name and storyline – Amar Bhupali and established himself as a booming playback singer. Thus, he reached in zenith in the music world.  It is found from the different reports, publications that Manna Dey has recorded more than 3500 songs over the course of his career in many Indian languages.

On 18 December 1953, Manna Dey married Sulochana Kumaran from Kerala. They were blessed with two daughters. The versatile genius singer passed away on 24 October in Bengaluru, at the age of 94 years where he settled permanently. Because of his versatile and melodious singing, he will be in the heart of millions of generations after generations of Indians.  

(Some inputs about Padmabhusan Manna Dey have been collected from the website http://www.mannadey.in/index2.html)

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