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 sent to Scottish Church Collegiate School and later on to the Scottish Church College to complete his schooling and pre-university education. He completed his graduation from Vidyasagar College. Manna De always showed an inclination towards sports and excelled in sport events like boxing and wrestling. Manna Dey was a delightful person to be with and his contemporaries swear that he was one of the most sociable people in the studio, playing pranks and joking around with everybody. It is a rare trait in musicians.
Manna De showed his singing talent in early days of school when he used to beat tables and sing to entertain his classmates. He then started to receive proper training in music from his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey and also from Ustad Dabir Khan. Manna De stood first for three consecutive years in three different groups of inter-college singing competitions. After studies, Manna De worked as an assistant music director under his uncle and then under S.D. Burman in the year 1942. After assisting many music directors, he eventually started to work independently. Manna Dey never stopped taking regular training in classical music from renowned singers and his teachers namely, Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan.
Manna Dey’s career as a playback singer started with the movie Tamanna in the year 1943. His uncle, Krishna Chandra Dey composed the musical score and he paired up with the well-known Suraiya to sing this wonderful duet. The entire nation loved this song and Manna Dey became a household name. In the year 1950, he got his second film named “Mashaal” in which he sang a solo track named “Upar Gagan Vishal”, which was another hit. S.D. Burman composed the music for this track. In the year 1952, he lent his voice for the film “Amar Bhupali”, which was being produced in two languages simultaneously. He sang in both Bengali and Marathi and established himself as the top notch Bengali playback singer.
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.