With the passing away of Manna Dey, the classical golden voice of the golden era of film music has disappeared. Manna was one of the top five singers of the golden era of film music, Manna, Talat Mahmood, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar. All these singers had departed much earlier, with Manna's passing away the last male melodious voice has also become a thing of memory.
Manna was born as Prabodh Chandra Dey at Calcutta on May 1, 1919. Legendary musician and singer K. C. Dey was his uncle. He discovered his nephew's interest in music, and became his first guru. Later, he took lessons from Ustad Dabir Khan. He continued his tuitions in classical music even after he had become a playback singer in Bombay, and he took lessons from Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan.
When uncle K. C. Dey came to Bombay in the early Forties, Manna accompanied him, and uncle gave the nephew his break as a playback singer in "Tamanna" where he sang a duet with Suraiya. But his journey for fame started with "Mashal" (1950) where he sang `Upar gagan vishaal, neecha hai paatal. Beech mein ye duniya mere Maalik., toone kiya Kamaal' under the baton of S. D. Burman. He also assisted Burman and other music directors. The entire film industry and music lovers all over the country became aware that a great singer with real classical base has arrived.
Manna had to face a very tough competition, Talat, Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore were the favourite voices of heroes. After Talat, Dilip Kumar's songs were mostly sung by Rafi. Mukesh had become the singing voice of Raj Kapoor and Kishore was the favourite crooner for Dev Anand.
Manna did whatever best he could do under the circumstances. He showed his merit whenever he got the opportunity. He made his mark as the voice of Raj with `Pyaar hua iqraar hua,' `Ye raat bheegi bheegi,' `Dil ka haal kahe dilwala' `Chalat musafir moh liyo re' and `Ye bhai zara dekhke chalo.' For Balraj Sahni he sang `Aye meri zohra-zabeen' and `Tu pyaar ka saagar hai.' For Pran he sang, `Kasme vaade pyaar wafa sab' and `Yaari hai imaan mera' and for Rajesh Khanna `Zindagi kaisi hai paheli.'
It was a well known fact in the industry, Manna was mostly given the songs which could not have been rendered by other singers, and Manna could have sung very well all the songs sung by other singers, as he showed with the playbacks he did for Raj.
Manna was acknowledged as the best classical based singer and ironically, he had to concede defeat from Kishore in the duet `Ek chatur naar' he sang with Kishore for "Padosan" as Manna gave the playback for Mehmood and Kishore sang for the hero Sunil Dutt.
Manna received ample recognition in his lifetime. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2005. He was awarded the honorary degree of D. Lit from Rabindra Bharati University, Burdwan University and Jadavpur University. And he got Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2007. Needless to say he got numerous popular and state awards for his songs.
Manna has gone, but his music with evergreen songs will always remain with us. Great music never dies.