Sunday, June 01, 2008

In a league of his own…

I was pleasantly surprised and felt very fortunate to watch Manna Dey's interview in the "Being" series on CNN-IBN on the occasion of releasing his autobiography. However, as the interview progressed it was not a very nice thing to hear (for a huge Manna Dey fan like me) that he could never become of the voice of one hero of his time, as was the case with other singers of his age. Perhaps, this was with reference to some facts mentioned in his Manna Dey still 'regrets things he could not achieve or how he could have done things differently if..". Later the interviewer rightly pointed out that it is this 'distinguishing' fact that made him a unique singer who is remembered and admired for his scintillating or soulful numbers than the heroes or situations on which the songs were picturized. We find it difficult to remember whether it was Ashok Kumar or Bharat Bhushan or Raj Kapoor. Think of the ageless masterpieces like ‘ poochoo na kaise main raein bitayee’ ‘tum bin jeevan kaisa jeevan’ or ‘sur na sajee kya gaoon main’ , 'zindagi kaisi hai paheli haae’, ’… these will remain all-time favorites as long as we have music lovers on this planet.

Manna Dey is incomparable, his voice is rooted in Indian classical music, for him a song is more than a mere composition of words, evidently this is what differentiates him from other ‘playback’ singers, he never interpreted the song for a particular actor by modulating his voice or style, he treated it as ‘song’ with its own identity devoid of where or how it’s going to be shown… the conversation touched upon his struggle in life to ‘prove’ himself when there were ‘better singers’ as he claims, referring to Kishore Kumar, Mohd.Rafi, Hemant Kumar and others. His versatility is what makes him a different singer from the rest. Needless to several decades later the scene is completely different...we have half-a-dozen singers singing for the same superstar in one movie.

Though an octogenarian now, Manna Dey still believes in regular ‘riyaz’ and the need to excel and do better than he did before. How humbling it is to hear from a great master, in an age that lives and dies for instant fame, success and luck. Isn’t there something for all of us to learn!
Here are a few lines from his private album:
Sunsaan jamuna ka kinaara
Pyaar ka antim sahara
Chandni ka kafan oodhe
So raha kismat ka mara

Kisse poochoo main bhala ab dekha kahin mumtaz ko
Meri bhi ek mumtaz thi.

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