Manna Dey, the nonagenarian singer, who was the last surviving pillar of Bollywood's playback pantheon - Rafi, Kishore, Mukesh being the rest - passed away in Bnaglore after a few months of illness. He had been fighting lung infection in a Bangalore hospital for about 5 months. Though he hailed from Kolkata, he had made Bangalore his home for the past 20 years. His death marks the end of a virtual musical century and the creation of a void almost impossible to fill.
Born Prabodh Chander Dey in 1919 in Kolkata, he aspired to be a wrestler initially but his paternal uncle motivated him to take up music. But success did not come to him easy in a musical space dominated by Mukesh, Rafi and Kishore. The tragedy was - here was a highly accomplished semi-classical singer who could render any kind of melody yet he was nobody's voice because very early on, his voice got labelled as suitable for old movie characters. But a chance pairing with composer SD Burman for Ziddi catapulted him to musical centrestage, after which he never looked back. Singing for a range of composers, he sang around 3500 songs in Hindi and other vernacular languages. His last recorded song for a Hindi movie had been in 1991 though he was active on the concert circuit until a few months before death.
Among his immortal classics, one can easily list Poochho Naa Kaise Maine Rain Bitaayi, Laaga Chunri Mein Dagh, Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli, Kasme Vaade Pyarr Wafa Sab Baatein Hain, Ik Chatur Naar, Yaari Hai Imaan Mera and, of course, the immortal quawalli Ye Ishq Ishq Hai composed by Roshan. So much was his musical training embedded in classical music that Mohammed Rafi used to listen to his songs in leisure time. Not surprisingly, he was decorated with several major awards in his long innings including the Dada Saheb Phalke Award. Bollywood music would certainly not be the same as before. RIP