Monthly Archives: March 2013

“Shankar (of Shankar-Jaikishen duo) who knew me and appreciated my versatility. He came like a Dhruvtara into my life” — Manna Dey


This is a post addressed to the members of shankarjaikishan group on Yahoo by Sanil ji which I am pasting here


I was travelling by Shatabdi express and was going through the new in house magazine ‘RAILBANDHU’. There was an interview with Manna Dey by Chandan Mitra. It provided interesting reading. I am unable to get the soft copy from the site. I am reproducing some portion of the interview where Manna Dey refers to SJ.

Q: Many people say you are film world’s most under-rated and under-recognized singer despite being so phenomenally talented. Does this bother you?

It used to. I would be very hurt at being overlooked when it came to singing for the hero. Some music directors, such as Naushad sa’ab never used me, always relying on Rafi for the male voice. As a result, I never sang for Dilip Kumar. In my days of struggle, some producers were positively indecent. I will tell you two incidents to explain what I have undergone and how God has been on my side.

Bharat Bhushan was a big hero in the 1950s, especially after his Baiju Bawra became a major hit. His brother Shashi Bhushan decided to produce Basant Bahar and hired Shankar Jaikishan to score the music. Shankar was my mentor in the film world and always pushed my case, especially if the tunes were classical-based or very fast. They had composed ‘Sur na saje’, a really beautiful number. Rehearsals were complete and we were to record when Shashi Bhushan heard I was to sing it. He said,”Nothing doing, get Rafi”.Shankar argued but the producer would not listen. I was feeling very humiliated when Bharat Bhushan walked in. He heard the debate and finally said, “Let Manna sing now. We will see what to do later.”As you know, the song was a very big hit. At stage shows, I was always requested to sing it.

Another time, we were about to record ‘Yeh raat bheegi bheegi’ for the Raj Kapoor-Nargis starrer, Chori Chori. It was a south indian production by AVM, which was owned by some Chettiar. He had just flown into Mumbai that day and drove straight to the studio to see the recording. As he entered, he yelled, “I don’t see Mukesh. Where is Mukesh?” Shankar told him, “You don’t see Mukesh because Manna Dey is singing this number”. Chettiar was very angry. Cancel the recording,” he ordered, turning to me and said, “You go home”. At this point, Raj sa’ab intervened. He told Chettiar,”Manna and Manna alone will sing this number whether you like it or not.” Few people dared to talk to a big producer like that, but then, few producers had the guts to disobey Raj Kapoor. Reluctantly, Chettiar had to allow the recording to proceed. When I finished, the same Chettiar grabbed me and would not release me from his hug.

But you are right. I never got what I fully deserved. You see I was born into a very proud family.We had no ego but we were proud of our talent. So, I couldn’t do the rounds of producers and music director’s homes, get into Mumbai’s sharabi-kababi culture, or sit in the durbars of big heroes. Most struggling singers have to do that even now. I was a struggling singer in my early days in Mumbai and, thereafter, when I did gain acceptance,I got somewhat typecast. Only a few music directors would experiment with me as the hero’s voice. But I don’t grudge anybody, anything, I have sung my heart out, I have got people’s love in return, I love to sing even now: I have a contented life. what more can a person ask for?I am very happy the way I am.

Q: How did you get selected by Raj Kapoor as his alternate voice?

It was all thanks to Shankar who knew me and appreciated my versatality. He came like a Dhruvtara into my life and moulded my career. But I was surprised myself when he chose me to sing in Boot Polish …Raj Kapoor’s songs were in two categories – Mukesh and non- Mukesh. I was selected for most non-Mukesh numbers.

It is a lengthy interview. I have just taken portions where reference to SJ is there.

Manna Dey is the only one among the great male singers still alive. He has always acknowledged the role SJ played in his career whenever he spoke at length. I had earlier reproduced the relevant portions of his biography where he had referred to SJ. Our group had also visited him at B’lore.

Manna Dey is 92 and not keeping good health. Our group can do something more to show our love and affection.