Read The Part -1 

It was interesting to learn that Manna Dey‘s first recorded song in Hindi was a duet Jaago aayi usha (Tamanna-1942) with reigning singer-actress Suraiya. In his long career spanning decades in the Hindi film industry, the veteran singer chalked up an enviable number of duets with almost all of his contemporaries, and even singers a generation ahead. Kavita Krishnamoorthy, who considers him her mentor, talks fondly of having travelled the world with Manna Dey, accompanying him on countless stage shows.

If it was difficult to winnow my choices down to a dozen of Manna Dey’s solo songs, how much more of a puzzle was it to sort through the hundreds of his duets with the other singers of his time to make a manageable list? Every Manna Dey /(other singers) combination on my list showed three or more other songs that were among my favourites. The problem facing me was not what to pick but what to leave out. In an unsuccessful bid to make things easier for me, I decided to keep the list down to pure duets – which meant no triads, no quartets/quintets (effectively removing two lovely qawwalis), no songs with a chorus. Just Manna Dey and one other singer. (Now you see, Pacifist, why Mausam beeta jaaye found no place on my list?)

Apart from removing some of my absolute favourite Manna Dey songs, this did not seem to make my task any easier. I still found myself with multiple choices, all of them songs that I absolutely love. So, like any student faced with multiple choice answers all of which seem to be right, I closed my eyes and picked one.  The only difference is that here, there was no wrong answer. I may have chosen them in a seemingly haphazard manner, but these songs will always be there among my all-time favourites.

So here, once again, I give you a handful of Manna Dey’s duets, some popular, some not-quite, all of them sung with the veteran singer’s characteristic elan. Keep in mind that these are my choices, and hence highly subjective (and also subject to change at a moment’s notice). 

Ketaki gulab juhi_Basant Bahar_Shankar Jaikishan_Shailendra_Manna Dey_Bollywoodirect1) Manna Dey – Bhimsen Joshi

 Ketaki gulab juhi 

Basant Bahar (1956 )

Music: Shankar-Jaikishen

Lyrics: Shailendra

A lovely jugal bandi with classical music maestro Bhimsen Joshi, Manna Dey was wont, in later days, to wonder at music directors who pitted him against a classical music giant and had him win, while inPadosan, they had him, trained in classical music, lose to Kishore Kumar. In an interview later, Manna Dey confessed that he had thought of running away until S-J found someone else to sing the song. I found this clip on YouTube where Manna Dey talks about the song. (Watch from the 1.00-minute mark.)

Mr. X_1957_Ashok Kumar_Bollywoodirect_Manna Dey_N DUtta_Hasrat Jaipuri2) Manna Dey – Sudha Malhotra

Main pyar ki laila hoon
Mr X (1957)
Music: N Dutta
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri 
The film starred Ashok Kumar and Nalni Jaywant, the hit pair of the 50s in a murder mystery caper that is the precursor to Mr X in Bombay and Mr India… (and perhaps others). Full of corpses, invisible killers, and mysterious men who appear and disappear at whim, the film may not have been the greatest of successes, but it did have a rip-roaring musical score (think Mohammed Rafi’s Laal laal gaal) Similarly, Manna Dey got to croon a zesty number with Sudha Malhotra, quite different from the ‘mendicant songs’ he had been saddled with. Unfortunately, I could not find a video for the song. (Perhaps the entire cast made off with the invisible potion?) 

Usko nahin dekha_Dadi Maa(1966)_Majrooh Sultanpuri_Manna Dey_Bollywoodirect_Roshan3) Manna Dey – Mahendra Kapoor

Usko nahin dekha

Dadi Maa (1966)
Music: Roshan
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
I must confess to not having liked the song at all when I was younger. I used to liken it to a surfeit of sugar. It is only as I grew older that I began to like the melody. Beautifully rendered by the two singers, it is as usual picturized on two obscure (to the Hindi film-viewing public) actors, Dr Kashinath Ghanekar (well known to Marathi film-goers) and Dilip Raj. The maa, of course, is Bina Rai, who, I think, is worthy of all the admiration being heaped on her! When I was researching their collaboration, I also came across a lovely Bhojpuri song from a film called Bidesiya.  I liked it so much, I cannot resist posting it here.

Na jaane kahan tum the3_Zindagi Aur Khawab_Dutta Ram_Kavi Pradeep_Manna Dey_Bollywoodirect4) Manna Dey – Suman Kalyanpur

 Na jaane kahan tum the
Zindagi aur Khwaab (1961)
Music: Dutta Ram
Lyrics: Kavi Pradeep

Another melodious gem from Manna Dey, this time in tandem with yet another underrated singer, Suman Kalyanpur. She had a remarkably sweet voice, and some lovely songs to her credit. This particular song, from a film that I hadn’t heard of until recently (I’d heard the song but never knew which film it was from) is a very sweet romantic song, and though I did have to look at Rajendra Kumar, he didn’t annoy me as much as he usually does. Manna Dey’s voice took care of that. But even with Rajendra Kumar and Meena Kumari in the lead, the film seems to have sunk without a trace. Yet Dattaram’s compositions have withstood the test of time, outliving the fate of the film they were composed for. It is interesting that the lyricist for this song was Kavi Pradeep who was better known for his patriotic songs and philosophical numbers. My other choice for their collaboration was Bheegi hawaaon mein from Shreeman Satyawadi.

Hum pyaar ke do matwale_Apradhi Kaun_Salil Chowdhary_Manna Dey_Bollywoodirect_Geeta Dutt5) Manna Dey – Geeta Dutt

Hum pyar ke do matwaale

Apradhi Kaun (1957)

Music: Salil Choudhary

Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

My favourite Manna Dey – Geeta Dutt duet has to be Aan milo aan milo shyam saanwre from Bimal Roy’s Devdas. But this one, from a lesser-known (though still a Bimal Roy production) Apradhi Kaun is such a foot-tapping, peppy number that I just had to include it in the list. I always felt that Geeta Dutt’s voice best complemented Manna Dey’s, even though he sang most of his duets with Lata Mangeshkar. Just listen to the sweetly romantic  Naya naya chand hai jee from another lesser known film Khuda ka Banda.

Arre haan dildaar_Bewaqoof (1960)_Manna Dey_Bollywoodirect_Majorooh Sultanpuri_SD Burman6) Manna Dey – Shamshad Begum

Arre haan dildaar
Bewaqoof (1960)
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
This is an interesting composition by SD Burman, with Majrooh Sultanpuri providing the necessary nonsense verse (in rhyme!). The film stars Kishore Kumar and Mala Sinha, along with Pran in a usual tale of babies exchanged at birth (or not!). In a situation where Pran is being taken for a ride, Manna Dey’s and Shamshad Begum’s vocal calisthenics find a perfect vehicle in the facial contortions of IS Johar (who plays the hero’s sidekick) and Krishnakumari. What is also interesting about this song is the way the comic lyrics (in Hindi) mimic different accents – Bengali, Tamil, and Sinhalese as the ‘listeners’ keep changing ‘radio stations’ according to their taste.

Ek chatur naar_Padosan_Manna Dey_Bollywoodirect_Rajinder Krishen_RD Burman7) Manna Dey – Kishore Kumar

Ek chatur naar karke singar

Padosan (1968)

Music: RD Burman

Lyrics: Rajinder Krishen

Conventional wisdom would suggest I list Ek chatur naar karke singar as my choice for a Manna Dey – Kishore Kumar duet. My problem with that song is that its picturisation leaves much to be desired. I usually end up blocking the video. By all accounts, Manna Dey was not very happy either at having to ‘lose’ the competition to Kishore Kumar in this song. (He was classically trained; Kishore was not.) The day of the recording, Kishore Kumar was nowhere to be found; instead, Manna Dey received a telephone call asking him to go to Kishore Kumar’s house, where the latter’s mother had prepared luchis especially for him. So he trooped off to Kishore Kumar’s residence, where he found RD Burman and Kishore Kumar waiting for him. The veteran singer recounted how they rehearsed for six hours and recorded for another six (partially because Kishore insisted on improvising in the middle) before the song was complete.

Ae kaash chalte milke_SD Burman_Manzil 1960_Manna Dey_Bollywoodirect_ Majrooh Sultanpuri_Asha Bhosle_8) Manna Dey – Asha Bhosle

Ae kaash chalte milke
Manzil (1960)
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
I had three choices (winnowed from the many) on my final list of choices for a Manna Dey – Asha Bhosle duet. The others were the playful Saanjh dhali from Kala Bazar and the absolutely fantastic (both song and sequence) Tu chhupi hai kahan from Navrang. The latter, especially because it highlights Manna Dey’s command over sureven in the high notes and the picturisation is fantastic; then, I regretfully decided against it because a) Asha sounded a tad screechy as she hits the high notes, and b) I wanted to include some songs where Manna Dey actually sang for a top hero. So why not Saanjh dhali?  Well, it lost out when I closed my eyes and jabbed. 🙂 Seriously, though, Ae kaash chalte milke has an irresistible sweetness to it, so even though Saanjh dhali has Manna Dey at his mischievous best, I chose this. 

Tu hi meri prem devta_Kalpana_Manna Dey_Bollywoodirect_ Qamar Jalalabadi_O P Nayyar_Mohd Rafi9) Manna Dey – Mohammed Rafi

Tu hai mera prem devta

Kalpana (1960) 
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Qamar Jalalabadi
Manna Dey has always spoken about Mohammed Rafi, his (more successful) contemporary with great respect and admiration, even though he was a far better classical singer than the latter. In interviews, where reporters usually pushed him for comment on whether he had been sidelined because of Mohammed Rafi, he was always quite clear that he thought Mohammed Rafi was a great singer and deserved every ounce of his success. In fact, he had once declared that he knew Mohammed Rafi was a better singer than him; more importantly, Rafi was such a gentleman, and between them, there was no sense of one-upmanship. (To hear Manna Dey’s opinion of Mohammed Rafi in his own words, watch here until the 2.11 mark.) In return, Mohammed Rafi had once told the assembled media, “You listen to my songs, but I only listen to Manna’s songs.” It is a compliment that Manna Dey cherishes.

From their collaborations (only pure duets), I also had the funny O Mama, o mama from Parvarish, and Muh se mat laga ye cheez hai buri from Johnny Walker, which has drunken revellers extolling the value of temperance. This choice made itself though, since Tu hi meri prem devta is vastly superior to the other songs in terms of composition and virtuosity that both singers brought to their craft. Its picturisation also wins hands down, showcasing as it does the dancing talents of two performers who were past masters of theirs.     

Jaa tose nahin bolun_Parivaar_Manna Dey_Bollywoodirect_Parivaar (1956)_Lata Mangeshkar10) Manna Dey – Lata Mangeshkar 

Ja tose nahin bolun Kanhaiya
Parivaar (1956)
Music: Salil Choudhary
Lyrics: Shailendra
This selection proved to be the toughest of the lot! Not for nothing – Manna Dey sang the maximum number of duets with Lata Mangeshkar. I had, among others, Yeh raat bheegi bheegi  from Chori Chori, Bheegi chandni from Suhagan, Masti bhara hai sama from Parvarish, Jhoomta mausam mast mahina from Ujala… songs as varied from each other as chalk from cheese, the only similarity being the perfection with which each is rendered. I consoled myself with the notion that I could do a ‘My Favourites – Manna Dey-Lata Mangeshkar Duets’ post later. This song was chosen, again, for the sweetness of its rendition, the playfulness of the lyrics that Lata brings so beautifully to life and the mastery that Manna Dey displays over the sur as he joins in. Manna Dey’s opinion of Lata? Listen to his own words….

Written By:- Anuradha Warrier, is a writer, editor, film and music buff. She writes for pleasure, edits for a living, and indulges in watching films, listening to music, and writing about both on her blog Conversations Over Chai as and when time permits.

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