Prabodh Chandra Dey (1 May 1919 − 24 October 2013), known by his stage name Manna Dey, debuted in the film Tamanna in 1942, and went on to record more than 4000 songs from 1942 to 2013. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri in 1971, the Padma Bhushan in 2005 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2007.
Dey sang in all the major regional Indian languages, though primarily in Hindi and Bengali. His peak period in Hindi playback singing is from 1953 to 1976.
Dey was born to Mahamaya and Purna Chandra Dey on 1 May 1919. In 1943 he got his first solo break with Ram Rajya. Incidentally, the producer of the film Vijay Bhatt and its composer Shankar Rao Vyas had approached K C Dey with an offer for playback in the film. When K C Dey refused the offer on the grounds that he would not lend his voice to other actors, they spotted Manna Dey sitting in the corner of the room and offered him the opportunity.
His songs like "O Prem Diwani Sambhal Ke Chalna" from 1944 film Kadambari composed by Anil Biswas, "Dil Churaney Ki Liye from Dur Chaley" (1946) composed by Jafar Khurshid, his duets with Amira Bahee like "E Diniya Jara Suney" from Kamala (1946) and duet song "Aaj Bor Aayee" with Meena Kapoor from 1947 filmChaltey Chaltey became chartbusters in respective years. Between 1945-47 many Manna Dey-Rajkumari duets like "Hay Gagan Me Badal Tharey" in 1945 for the film Vikaramaditya, "Aowji Morey" from Insaaf (1946), all 4 duets from the film Geet Govind composed by Pandit Indra - "Kit Ho Nando Kumar", "Chorr Sakhi Aaj Laj", "Apney Hi Rang", "Lalit Labang Lata" from Geet Govind became popular.
He sang for first time songs composed by Sachin Dev Burman, Upar Gagan Vishal and Duniya Ke Logo in the 1950 movie Mashal, which became popular and from here his association with S.D.Burman began. Its lyrics were written by Kavi Pradeep.
His first duet with the then upcoming singer Lata Mangeshkar was "Lapat Ke Pot Pahaney Bikral" composed by Vasant Desai for Narsingh Avtar (1949) & with the then struggling singer Asha Bhosle was "O Raat Gayee Fir Din Aya" from 1953 film Bootpolish.
Manna Dey established his verstality between 1948 to 1954 by singing not only the classical based film songs but also singing such film songs which were fusion of Indian classical music and pop music and by giving classical music concerts. His experimentation with western music too produced many unforgettable melodies resulting in an increase in singing offers in films from 1955.
By 1954, Manna Dey became popular among musical circle across film industries of various Indian languages. He became nationally famous after release of Do Bigha Zamin (1953) where two of the songs sung by him and composed by Salil Choudhury became hits.His association with Shankar-Jaikishan and producer Raj Kapoor had begun while working for Awara, but their combination became famous while working together for Boot Polish in 1954. The trio worked in many films together from 1954-1971 whose musical scores were appreciated, irrespective of their box-office fate, like Shree 420, Chori Chori, Mera Naam Joker.
His career reached in peak form when he recorded 95 Hindi songs in single year 1957 and 64 in 1958. His peak period in Hindi film industry is considered to be from 1953 to 1969 where he recorded 758 Hindi songs of which 631 came between 1957 and 1969.
New age composers like Kalyanji-Anandji started recording songs with Manna Dey from 1958 and Laxmikant Pyarelal from 1964. Rahul Dev Burman made Manna Dey sing the westernised songs – "Aao Twist Karen" and "Pyar Karta Ja" which became chartbusters in 1965. But the composers who gave Manna Dey consistent popular song numbers in commercially successful films from 1955-1969 were S.D.Burman, C.Ramachandra, Ravi, Avinash Vyas, Vasant Desai, Anil Biswas, Salil Choudhury and Shankar Jaikishan. The solo songs sung by Manna Dey like "Lapak Jhapak Tu Aa Re" from Boot Polish(1954), "O Gori Tori Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hai" from Seema(1955), "Yeh Kahani Hai Diye Aur Toofan Ki" from Diya Aur Toofan (1956) composed by Vasant Desai, "Humdum Se Gaye" from Manzil (1960), "Aye Mere Pyare Watan" from Kabuliwala (1961), "Laga Chunari Mein Daag" from Dil Hi Toh Hai (1963), classical songs like "Sur Na Saje" from Basant Bahar (1956), "Kaun Aya Mere Mann" from Dekh Kabira Roya (1957), "Pucho Na Kaise Maine Rain" from Meri Surat Teri Aankhen (1963), "Jhanak Jhanak Tore Baje Payalia" from Mere Huzoor (1965); folk based songs like "Kisi Chilman Se" from Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962), "Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen" from Waqt (1965), "Chalat Musafir Moh Liya" from Teesri Kasam (1967), "Aao Aao Sawariya", and duets with Lata like "Masti Bhara Yeh Sama" from Parvarish(1958), "Nain Mile Chain Kahan" from Basant Bahar(1956), "Kehdoji Kehdo Chupaona Pyar" from Kismat Ka Khel (1956), "Tum Gagan Ke Chandrama" from Sati Savitri (1964), "Dil Ki Girah" from Raat Aur Din(1966), "Chunari Sambhal Gori" from Baharon Ke Sapne (1967), were chartbusters in their respective year of release. Credit is also given to Manna Dey for popularising classical based solo and duet songs to the masses like the duet with Lata – "Pritam Daras Dikhao" from Chacha Zindabad (1959), became a popular song though it was based on classical Raag Lalit. His rendition of "Kasame Vaade Pyar" from Upkar (1967) pictured on Pran and composed by Kalyanji Anandji won accolades for Dey, and was also significant in Pran’s career as he began to do positive roles.
Manna Dey gave playback for Raj Kapoor in Shree 420 (Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh), Chori Chori (Yeh Raat Bheegi, Jahan Main Jati and Aja Sanam), Parvarish (Masti bhara hai sama), Dil Hi To Hai (Laga chunari mein daag), Mera Naam Joker (Ae bhai zara dekh ke chalo) and "Ek Paon Chal Raha Hai" from Kal Aaj Aur Kal(1971). R.D.Burman recorded hit songs with Manna Dey regularly from 1965 with films like Bhoot Bangla, Gomti Ke Kinare, Chandan Ka Palna, Baharon Ke Sapne,Padosan, in late 60’s. He sang for Balraj Sahni in many films from 1950 till 1969 and was voice of Mehmood and Anoop Kumar in many films from 1960-1975.
Among the new breed of singers which emerged after 1956, Manna Dey's duets with Suman Kalyanpur were popular making them a celebrated team. Their first duet was "Prem Bada Balwan Jagat" from Maayaa Nagri (1957) composed by B.N.Bali and since then have sung around 45 songs together. Their popular duets include "Tum Jo Aao" from Sakhi Robin (1962) composed by Robin Bannerjee, "Dil Se Jo Baat" from Al Hilal (1958) composed by C.Ramachandra, "Na Jane Kahan" from Zindagi Aur Khwab (1963), "Ye Din Hai Khushi Ke" from Jab Se Tumhe Dekha Hai (1963) and "Bheegi Hawaon Mein" from Shriman Sataywadi (1960)- all 3 composed by Dattaram Wadkar, "Aankh Mein Shokhi" from Reshmi Roomal (1960) composed by Babul, "Aao Hilmil Ke Nacho Re" from Jaane Anjaane (1970) composed by Shankar-Jaikishan and "Dil To Dil Hain Phool Bhi" from Dafaa 302 (1975) composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal.
Dey recorded popular duets with Mohd. Rafi, Dey sang 101 Hindi songs along-with Rafi which include 58 duets with Rafi such as "Ishq Ishq" (Barsaat Ki Raat) "Tu hai mera prem Devta" (Kalpana), "Mama o mama" (Parvarish), Duniyaan ke liye from Maan Gaye Ustaad (1981), "Main Hoon Tera Prem Aur Tu Ho Meri Pran" fromRahu Ketu (1979), the song "Hindustan Ki Kasam" from Hindustan Ki Kasam (1973), "Hum To Tere Hai Deewane" from Johar Mehmood in Hong Kong, "Badey Miya Diwane" from Shagird, "Ye Do Diwane Dil Ke" from Johar Mehmood in Goa, "Agar Dil Dil Se" from Shola Aur Shabnam (1961).
With Asha Bhosle, Manna recorded around 160 Hindi songs from 1953–1982 though their duets kept releasing till 1986 and their last song sung together was inTeri Maang Sitaaron Se Bhar Doon (1982). Popular duets of Asha-Manna Dey include "Ye Hawa Yeh Nadi Ka" from Ghar Sansar (1958), "Tu chupi hai kahan" from Navrang (1959), "Jodi Hamari Jamegi" from Aulad(1968), "Sanjh Dhali Dil Ki Lagi" from Kala Bazar (1960), "Aye Kash Chalte Milte" from Manzil (1960), "Na Tohh karvan Ki Talash Hai" from Barsaat Ki Raat (1960), "Jane Na Doonga" from Dadimaa (1966), "Re man sur me ga" from Lal Patthar (1971), "Zindegi hai khel" from Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) and "Paisa Daulat" from Dharkan (1972). Dey sang around 27 Hindi duets with Geeta Dutt from 1949 with the last being from Ziddi in 1964. The popular duets of Geeta Dutt-Manna Dey include both classical songs as well as those which have style of Twist dance, Rock & Roll, cha-cha-cha like "Aan aan milo" from Devdas, :O Mister Suno Ek Baat" from Agra Road (1957), "Karo Na Phere Gali Ke Mere" from Bengali film Gali Theke Rajpath (1959) composed by Sudhin Dasgupta, "Naya Naya Chand Hai Jee" Khuda Ka Banda (1957) starring actor Chandrashekar and composed by S.N.Tripati. The song "Picnic Me Tick Tick" from Piya Milan Ki Aas (1961) composed by S.N.Tripati is noted for Manna Dey yodeling and singing in a style which is known as forte of Kishore. With Lata Mangeshkar, Manna recorded around 103 Hindi duets of which songs like "Tere Bina Aag Yeh Chandni" from Awara, "Yeh raat bhigi bhigi" and "Aaja Sanam Madhur Chandni Mein" from Chori Chori, "Pyar hua iqrar hua" from Shree 420, "Woh Chand Muskaye" from Akhri Dao (1958), "Ritu aye", "Dil Ki Girah Khol Do" from Raat Aur Din (1966), "Aya Abdulla Aya" from Juaari (1968), "Soch Ke Ye Gagan Jhume" from the flop film Jyoti (1969) and "main buddho lambo lambo" of Buddha Mil Gaya (1971) are still extremely popular.
Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey had recorded only 6 songs together until 1968 and all proved to be hits, some of them being "Tubhi Piya Chikara Hoon" and "Tu Jaam Liye Jaa" from Bewakoof (1960), "Babu Samjho Ishaare" from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958) all three composed by S.D. Burman and "Baheta Pani Baheta Jaye" from Dhaake Ke Malmal composed by C. Ramachandra, "Joyo Joyo Mere Lal" composed by S.K. Pal in 1952 and their first duet together - "Subaho Ki Paheli Kiran" in 1951 from Andolan. In 1968, R.D. Burman brought them together for "Ek Chatur Naar" in Padosan. Reportedly the song "Ek Chatur Naar" (a duet by Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey) from Padosan (1965) was partly improvised by Kishore Kumar at the time of recording and Manna Dey, determined to show Kishore Kumar how he would sing the duet better (since Kishore had not been trained classically), got into the mood of the song and immortalised "Ek Chatur Naar". Though Manna Dey was disappointed that he loses to Kishore on-screen for the song at the time of film's release, they soon became good friends again by 1970. Later in an interview in 1987 Dey said that with the variety of songs – folk, pop, western and classical based songs sung by Kishore Kumar from 1968 to 1987, he was definitely greater than Dey himself and at par with Rafi and Mukesh. Dey recorded around 31 songs with Kishore from 1951 to 1987 and all of them became chartbusters. From 1969, after release of Aradhana, the highest in demand playback singer was Kishore Kumar, so careers of Mukesh, Rafi and Manna Dey were affected and they got lesser number of songs to sing. His peak period as a playback singer is considered to be from 1953 to 1969 and in the year 1969 it seemed that Dey’s career in Hindi films would be over due to resurgence of Kishore Kumar but he had an extended peak period till 1976. The song "Tujhe Suraj Kahun Ya Chanda" from Ek Phool Do Mali in 1969, S.D. Burman composition "Mitwa Mitwa Piya Maine Kya Kiya" from Us Paar (1974) and his duet with Shailendra Singh from Bobby – "Na Maangoon Sona Chandi" were a chartbusters in respective years. His song "Sawan Ki Rimjhim Main" was aired in non-film program section in Vividh Bharati and became popular on the radio.
He received a fresh lease of life in his playback singing career from 1971 after Rajesh Khanna allowed music directors to picturise or feature songs sung by Dey in films with Khanna in lead role beginning with Anand, composed by Salil Chowdahry. For Rajesh Khanna, Dey had sung songs "Zindagi kaisi hai paheli" (Anand, 1971), "Tum bin jeewan kaisa jeewan" and "Bhor Aaye Gaya Andhera" (Bawarchi, 1972), "Nadiya Chale Re" (song sung with Rajesh ands Dey), "Hasne ki chah ne kitna mujhe" (Avishkaar, 1973) and "Gori tori paijaniya" (Mehbooba, 1976). Later in a 2012 interview, Dey said, "I loved the way he picturised music. The success of a song depends upon how an actor picturises it. He was the number one in picturising songs. I will be ever indebted to him.From 1970-1983, he recorded around 503 songs used in Hindi films. Thereafter he became selective of the kinds of songs he sings and chose to do less work in Hindi.
The demand for Kishore-Manna Dey combination only grew after 1972. Their popular songs were "Mere Pyale Mein" from Aamir Garib (1974), "Is Ishq Mein Har" from Mr. Romeo (1974), "Yeh Dosti" from Sholay (1975), "Duniya Me Jeeney" from Naukri, "Kamal Hain" from Karz, "Phool Chaahiye Na" from Pyas (1982) and their last duet was in 1986 film Maqqar - "Tu Hi Mera Sapna". Salil Chowdhry compositions rendered by Dey from films like Ananad and Anadatta became popular as well. Also the trio of Rafi-Kishore-Manna Dey sang together hits like "Tujhme Ishwar, Allah Tujhme" from Nanha Farishta (1969) and "Band Mutthee" from Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi (1981). Kishore-Manna Dey together also sang with Asha in many films and famous among them are "Khan Chacha" from Dil Deewana (1974), "Aa Kitni Sundar Jagah" from Chandi Sona, both composed by R.D. Burman and with Lata in "Goyakechu Nanche" from Manoranjan (1974), "Logo Ke Juban Me Apna" from Nehla Pe Dehla, both composed by Pancham.
Lata and Manna Dey recorded fusion songs, which used both Indian and western instruments. Several such songs included the duets "Kaanhaa Bole Naa" and "Balma Moraa Aanchaar" for the film Sangat, composed by Salil Chowdhury in 1975, which became very popular and was picturised on Rakesh Pandey and Kajri. The song "Neela peela hara gulabi" is a famous Holi song sung by Lata with Dey in Aap Bete (1976). In 1974, Dey sang along with Lata-Kishore in the song "Goyakechu Nanche" from Manoranjan (1974) which became a chartbuster in 1974. Manna Dey continued to have hit Hindi songs to his credit from 1971 to 1986, such as "Dulhan Banungi" from Who Jo Hasina (1983), composed by Raamlaxman and sung with Lata, "Aankhon Ka Salaam Lo" with Lata-Rafi in Samraat, "Dilwaale Dilwaale" from Kranti (1981), "Yaari Hai Imaan" from Zanjeer, "Ye Duniya Hey Usi Ko" sung with Kishore-Usha from Suraksha (1979), "Tum Besahara Ho To Kisi" from Anurodh (1977), "Jo Likha Gaya Hai" from Umar Qaid (1975), among others. "Sab Kho Diya Sab Pa Liya" from Maqqar (1986), composed by Rajesh Roshan was the last duet of Lata-Manna Dey for a Hindi film and was a chartbuster. He worked with composers like Laxmikant Pyarelal, Kamlyanji Anadji, Pancham, Bappi Lahiri, Raam Laxman, Sonik Omi, S. Rajeswar Rao, Ravi, Rajesh Roshan extensively from late 70s to 1990 in Hindi films.
Since 1992, Dey withdrew himself from Hindi film music. But he continued to sing in Bengali movies, bhajans and gazals in different languages and appeared in live performances during 1992 to 2012 . His last live performance was in 2012 in Mumbai. His last recorded song in Hindi films was for the film Umar in 2006 composed by Shamir Tandon, Duniyawaalo Kee Nahee Kuchh Bhee Khabar, which he sang along with Kavita Krishnamoorthy and Sonu Nigam. He was presented the Filmfare Life Time Achievement Award in 2011.
On 8 June 2013, Dey was admitted to the ICU in a Bengaluru hospital after a chest infection gave rise to other complications. His health gradually improved and about a month later doctors took him off the ventilator support.
He died of a cardiac arrest at 3:45 pm on 24 October at Narayana Hrudayalaya hospital. Musicians, politicians, cricketers and other notable persons issued statements on his death.