He sang another Punjabi song “Hum Maile Tum Ujal Karde” in the Punjabi film ‘Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai’. Music was composed by S Mohinder. Song from the Bhojpuri movie ‘Bidesiya’ was sung by Manna Dey along with Suman Kalyanpur, Geeta Dutt, K Munshi and Mahendra Kapoor with the composer SN Tripathi. A song “O Ziparor Bandhav” was sung by Bhupen Hazarika with Manna Dey for the Assamese movie ‘Aparupa’ and “Manasa Maine Varoo” from ‘Chemmeen’. The ripples of the songs created by the golden duo of Salil Chowdhury and Manna Dey have not subsided ever since. Even the already quoted Hindi/Urdu song “Zindigi Kaisi Hei Paheli Haye” is still fresh in our memory.
Manna Dey was born to the couple Mahamaya and Purna Chandra Dey. His youngest paternal uncle, musicologist Krishna Chander Dey was an affirmative influence on Manna Dey. He received his early education in Indu Babur Pathshala, a small pre-primary school where he started doing stage shows in school side by side at the age of 10. Then he attended Scottish Church Collegiate School and Scottish Church College. Believing in developing strong vocals for him, he spent time in sports also like our late Mehdi Hasan did who was a wrestler in his youth. Accordingly Manna Dey participated in sports events like wrestling and boxing in his college days, taking training from Gobar Guha. Due to these reasons, he ultimately ended up as a full throat singer with a broad ranged voice. He graduated from Vidyasagar College and started taking music lessons from Krishna Chander Dey and Ustad Dabir Khan. He stood first for three consecutive years in three different categories of inter-collegiate music competitions. He moved to Bombay in 1942 along with Krishna Chander Dey and became assistant music composer with him and then later with veteran music composer SD Burman. His music lessons continued with Ustad Abdul Rehman Khan and Ustad Aman Khan during this period.
In his first movie ‘Tamanna’, Manna Dey rendered a duet “Jago Aayee Usha Ponchi Boley Jago” with famous actress-cum-singer Suraiya. This song became an instant hit. In 1944 his songs like “O Prem Diwani Sambhal Ke Chalna” from the film ‘Kadambari’ composed by Anil Biswas became popular. The other popular songs were “Dil Churaney Ki Liye” from the film ‘Door Chale’ in 1946 composed by Jafar Khurshid, duets with Amira Bahee like “Ye Diniya Zara Suney” from 1946 movie ‘Kamala’ and “Aaj Bor Aayee” with singer Meena Kapoor from 1947 film ‘Chaltey Chaltey’. From 1945 to 1947, many of Manna Dey and Rajkumari duets became popular like “Hay Gagan Me Badal Tharey” in 1945 movie ‘Vikaramaditya’, “Aao Ji Morey” from ‘Insaaf’ made in 1946. There were four duets from the film ‘Geet Govind’ composed by Pandit Indra namely “Kit Ho Nando Kumar”, “Chorr Sakhi Aaj Laj”, “Apney Hi Rang”, “Lalit Labang Lata” from the movie ‘Geet Govind’ that became popular at that time.
After 1956, Manna Dey’s duets with Suman Kalyanpur were popular making them a celebrated team. Their first duet was “Prem Bara Balwan Jagat” from the film ‘Maayaa Nagri’ (1957) composed by BN Bali. After this song, the duo rendered around 45 songs together. Their popular duets include “Tum Jo Aao” from ‘Sakhi Robin’ (1962) composed by Robin Bannerjee, “Dil Se Jo Baat” from ‘Al Hilal’ (1958) composed by C Ramachander, “Na Jane Kahan” from ‘Zindagi Aur Khwab’ (1963), “Ye Din Hai Khushi Ke” from ‘Jab Se Tumhe Dekha Hai’ (1963) and “Bheegi Hawaon Mein” from ‘Shriman Sataywadi’ (1960); all three composed by Dattaram Wadekar, “Aankh Mein Shokhi” from ‘Reshmi Roomal’ (1960) composed by Babul, “Aao Hilmil Ke Nacho Re” from the movie ‘Jaane Anjaane’ (1970) composed by Shankar-Jaikishan and “Dil To Dil Hain Phool Bhi” from ‘Dafaa 302’ (1975) composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal.
As mentioned before, now began an era of Manna Dey’s association with music composer Sachin Dev Burman as his assistant. Manna Dey sang Qavi Pardeep penned songs, “Upar Gagan Vishal” and “Duniya Ke Logo” in the 1950 movie ‘Mashal’. In 1952, Manna Dey sang for a Bengali and a Marathi movie with the same name and storyline ‘Amar Bhupali’. This established him as a leading playback singer in Bengali films as well as in Marathi films by 1953. In the post independence era after 1947, Manna Dey was a sought after singer especially for semi-classical songs for almost a decade. Unfortunately the classical based songs used to be mostly picturised on comedians or in dance sequences. During this period, the music composers who used Manna Dey’s voice were Anil Biswas, Shankar Rao Vyas, SK Pal, SD Burman, Khem Chand Prakash and Muhammad Shafi. I remember the song “Pi Bin Soona Ji” (with Lata Mangeshkar). This song was from 1953 movie ‘Hamdard’ starring Nimmi, Shekhar and Smriti Biswas.