Excerpts from “Memories come alive” autobiography of Manna Dey


Chapter “Singing my way to success” Pages 176 – 178


Contributed by SANIL M babusanil@yahoo. com


“The other musical duos responsible for promoting my singing career were Shankar and Jaikishan. I am especially indebted to Shanker-ji, for had it not been for his patronage, I would certainly not have attained the heights of success I enjoyed in my career. Here was one man who knew how to bring out the best in me. No other music director, not even Sachin-da, for that matter, took the trouble to do that. Was it because, unlike Shanker-ji, they were unaware of my potential? Is it not a question I am qualified to answer. Sachin-da, for instance, had asked me to sing ‘Upar gagan vishal’ because he wanted to resurrect my uncle’s style of singing through me. Moreover, despite giving my best to his songs, and even after I had made my mark as a playback singer, Sachin –da did not ask me to sing on a regular basis for the films whose music he composed. Shanker-ji, however, was different. He had a clear conception of the range of my voice and began composing some of my popular numbers to exploit it fully. In fact, he was the first music director who dared to experiment with my voice by making me sing romantic numbers. Somehow, he sensed that my masculine style of rendering style of rendering love songs would appeal to the public. And he was not wide of the mark. I, for my part, was always happy to sing for Shanker-ji because of the sheer variety of his tunes. The compositions he especially reserved for me included everything that could be described as light music – as opposed to classical – compromising romantic numbers, wistful songs of farewell, comic songs and devotionals. The precedent set by Shanker-ji would be instrumental in furthering my career with other music directors who, inspired by his success, eagerly came forward with a wide range of compositions for me to sing. Today, I look back on that phase of my singing career as my golden period and if my fans call me a versatile singer, it is entirely due to Shanker-ji’s astute judgement of my capabilities and his initiative in bringing them to the fore.


This duo’s other important contribution to my career lay in their decision to use my voice for songs lip-synched by younger characters in films, a marked departure from the general trend of making me sing playback for older actors. Until then, I had, been accustomed to lending my voice for songs composed either for the character of Valmiki, the old sage of Ramayana, or the actor who played Hanuman and was required to jump around, swinging his long tail. In fact I often found the prospect of going to a theatre hall and watching such characters a trifle awkward, particularly when they lip-synched my voice. Besides, telling friends that I had, indeed sung for Valmiki or Hanuman was embarrassing enough. With Shankar and Jaikishen giving me a different kind of break, however, the situation changed completely. Now, I could proudly tell my friends that the leading character of such and such film would be lip-synching my song. These developments naturally gave my self-confidence a tremendous boost.


As far as I can remember, my very first song composed by Shanker and Jaikishen was for Awara, a film produced and directed by the legendary Raj Kapoor. The duet with Lata Mangeshkar, ‘Tere bina aag yeh chandni’, written by the famous lyricist Shailendra, would mark the beginning of my golden period in playback singing. Then followed, one smash hit after another; ‘Lapak jhapak tu aare badarwa’ in Boot Polish, ‘Dil ka haal sune dilwale’ in Shri 420, ‘Yeh raat bheegi bheegi’ in Chori Chori and ‘Jhoomta mausam’ in Ujaala.


The most interesting feature of Shanker and Jaikishen’s medodies was their sheer novelty and, in that respect, they remain unrivalled. The man on the street enjoyed singing them for fun and their appeal has survived the passage of time. Their commitment to their work was truly commendable and considering their taste and flair for innovation, which they introduced to suit a song’s mood and lyrics, along with the kind of effort that went into their compositions, it is hardly surprising that they should have produced such memorable hits.


It was Shanker and Jaikishen’s last composition for me, ‘Sur na saje’ from Basant Bahar, which would bring the most productive period of my career with them to a glorious close.”



I thought for those of us in the group who have not read the book, it will be of great help. In the book, Manna Dey starts with SDB among the MDs and then comes to SJ. It may be remembered that he started as an assistant to SDB and got his break also from SDB. But having read the above one can understand where he places SJ among the MDs he had worked with.


However, I did not understand how he has written that ‘Sur na saje’ was the last composition with SJ.