Those light-hearted conversations will always stay with me: Gulzar After having worked in around 15 movies together, celebrated lyricist, poet and dialogue-writer Gulzar remembers late singer Manna Dey as a fond “friend and a guide”.
Some popular movies that they jointly worked in include Bawarchi (1972), Anand (1970) and Ashirwad (1968) among others. “It’s too early to talk about his death. The feeling is yet to sink in. For me it’s a personal loss as we spent more time together on a personal level than during work. It was a friendly relationship that we both shared. I know him from the days when I was growing up and was learning. Later on in life, I used to meet him quite often.
Manna Da had a unique expertise on classical music. He was a lovely composer. I clearly remember the days when we were working on the film, Pinjare Ke Panchhi (1966) in which he was supposed to sing and I was supposed to do the script and Shailendra ji was doing the songs. Those light-hearted conversations with them during the film will always stay with me. He was always keen on singing, even in his last days. With his going away, we will miss a great musician and great voice. But at the same time it’s a natural loss, and I share the grief with his family and others.”
He will continue to live through his songs: Anandji
Legendary singer Manna Dey, who ruled Bollywood for over six decades with evergreen numbers such as Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua Hai (Shree 420, 1955), Aye Mere Pyare Watan (Kabuliwala, 1961), Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen (Waqt, 1965), Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli (Anand, 1971) and Yeh Dosti Hum Nahi Chodengey (Sholay, 1975) passed away on Thursday morning in Bengaluru, following a renal failure and respiratory illness. The 94-year-old Padma Bhushan and Dadasaheb Phalke awardee had sung over 4000 songs in various Indian languages including his mother tongue, Bengali. A close friend of Dey, Anandji of music composer duo Kalyanji-Anandji, who composed over 40 of Dey’s songs including some of his biggest hits such as Yari Hai Imaan Mera (Zanjeer, 1973) and Kasme Wade Pyar Wafa (Upkar), speaks about the legendary singer.
“Manna Da and I worked together in about 33 films. I might not be credited for composing the maximum number of songs for him but many of his popular numbers including Yaari hai iman (Zanjeer, 1973), Nadiya chaley chaley re dhara (Safar, 1970), Kasme wade pyar wafa (Upkar, 1967) have been with me. The best thing about Dada was the ease with which he bridged between classical, folk, romantic and even fun comic numbers like none other ever could. It was his unique talent.
My association with Dada started even before I composed for him in films. In the early 50s, we used to do these musical nights together, across the country in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh etc. I last composed for him in 1981 for Laawaris. We did not work together after that but in 2003, when he was given a tribute at the Nehru stadium in Kolkata for completing 60 years of playback singing, and he was asked to get someone to perform with him, he called me. I was immensely surprised and touched. He told me, “I only want you on stage with me. Nobody knows me better than you.” That show was a huge success, and even though he had warned me saying, “Stage pe koi masti mat karna”, I made Dada and bhabi (Dey’s wife) dance on stage to some of his hit numbers. I could take these privileges with him because even though he was 12 years elder to me, he was like a friend, a guide and an elder brother to me.
Even as I write this piece, I am getting goose bumps as flashes of some memorable moments that we spent together are coming to my mind. For instance our train journeys together while we went to do musical shows. He’d sing lovely songs and the journeys would be so fun-filled. Dada was not very outspoken, he was not a party man but he had good relations with everyone. He loved eating the Dhokla and dal that I often got on recordings. And he’ll tell me, “Mujhe thoda sa dal dedo, ghar le jaoonga aur tumhari bhabi ko khilaunga. Woh bhi fir seekh legi ki yeh dal kaise banta hai.”
As a human being too, Dada was extremely humble and never over confident even at a time when all his songs were emerging out to super hits. He openly praised his contemporary, Mohd Rafi and would say, “Rafi is really good no, Anand? He is wonderful.” He would never shirk away from admiring Mohd Rafi, who could well be his biggest rival those days.
We last spoke about a year back, and I told him to come to Bombay so that we can do a show together. He was very happy and upbeat about it. The last singing legend of the golden era is gone. But I am confident that what he has left behind will mesmerise people for ever. He will continue to live through his songs.”