Manna da had the most melodious voice
Raj Kapoor had an ear for music, he was one of the first filmmakers in Bombay to recognize Manna Dey’s versatile singing. You see, Manna Dey sang few soulful songs for the actor. It so happened that one of the most romantic songs from film Chori Chori ‘yeh raat bhigi bhigi’ was recorded in Manna’s voice because of two people: Raj Kapoor himself who plays the lead role in the movie and Shankar of the Shakar-Jaikishan duo. When the producer of the film arrived at RK Studios straight from the airport for the song recording, he demanded “where is Mukesh?” The Tamil producer Avichi V Meiyappan (AVM), had flown from Madras for the song recording and he insisted on Mukesh’s voice for the song as he felt that only Mukesh’s voice suited Raj Kapoor on screen. When AVM was told that for this song Manna Dey was going lend voice Meiyappan shook his head vigorously, saying loudly, ‘I want Mukesh.’ It took nearly an hour for Shanker and Raj to convince him that Manna Dey would do justice to the song. And, Manna Dey sang this song, which went on create history. It seems, after the recording of this duet, Meiyappan hugged Manna Dey and complimented him.
Manna Da never fit into the stereotypes: he sang for almost all heroes of the golden era. He was always ready to innovate; when you hear a song like ‘tu pyar ka sagar hai’ from film Seema, which is slow and has a sadder tone, you will be taken by surprise to hear a peppier song like ‘aao twist Karen’ from film Bhoot Bangla. The film industry gave him sporadic opportunities to show case his range. He was known for his classical rendition. I feel the music directors dint tap into his intellect as singer, he remained an under-valued genius. Classically he was so strong that he could sing in songs which even singers like Rafi dint venture for. Manna Dey was truly a gem.
I list here below some of the great duet number of Manna Dey, hope you enjoy listening to them.
Yeh raat bheegi bheegi: Film: Chori-Chori (1956). This song has created a record of its own, sung by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar. Music director: Shankar-Jaikishan
Saanjh dhali dil ki lagi thak chali pukarke: film: Kala Bazar (1960) it’s a beautiful duet Manna da sang with Asha Bhosale. Music Director: S.D.Burman
Na jaane kaahn tum the, na jaane kahan hum the: Film: Zindagi aur khwab (1961) song is sung by Manna Dey and Suman Kalyanpur. Music Director: Duttaram Wadkar
Mein tere pyaar mein kya, kya na bana dilbar: Film: Ziddi (1964) Singer: Manna Dey and Geeta Dutt. Music Director: S.D.Burman
Dil ki girah khol do, chup na baitho: Film: Raat aur din (1967) It’s a famous duet sung by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar. Music Director: Shakar-Jaikishan
Beacause Manna da was a classically trained singer, he could twist his voice on higher and lower notations easily. On reflection, I feel that his voice could create an impact for any mood of the song. He could impart various emotions through his songs. Dey’s versatility was his strength. He was able to capture the essence of a folk tune or any other composition. He sang for many top Bollywood heroes of his time, but he never remained a constant voice for any actor in particular, unlike many of his contemporaries. He was a meticulous singer, he would often prepare extensively before rendering a song. The singer has given credit to Shankar-Jaikishan for understanding his depth as a singer. Some of his great solo numbers are:
Aye meri zohra zabin: Film Waqt (1965), Music Director: Ravi
Laga Chunari mein daag: Film: Dil hi to Hai (1963), Music Director: Roshan
Tere naina talaash kare jise: Film: Talash (1969) Music Director: S.D.Burman
Na mangoo sona chandi: Film Bobby (1973) Manna Dey and Shailendra Singh Music Director: Laxmikant Pyarelal
Hasne ki chaah ne kitna muze rulaya hai: Film: Avishkar(1974) Music Director: Kanu Roy