99th Birth Anniversary

Hemanta Mukherjee: A man beyond music

Published : 15 Jun 2019 04:26 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 09:38 PM

Today is the 99th birth anniversary legendary music composer and gifted singer Hemanta Mukherjee who has been winning the hearts of Bengali music listeners for more than half a century. Every Bengali having a music player at home is used to listening his songs. Like an inheritance, it can be said, one gets the habit from one or another family members; from an uncle or elder brother or even parents. And most of them become an instant and ardent follower of the loving compassionate tune of the gifted musician.

Years have passed but Hemanta Mukherjee still grace the sentiment and nostalgia of Bengali music lovers with equal frequency as he used to do in his reigning days of several decades.

‘Ei path jodi na sesh hoi’, a super hit Hemant Kumar number lip-synced by legendary actor Uttam Kumar in the film ‘Saptapadi,’ still appeal to the hearts of the listeners with same freshness and liveliness that it did six decades ago when the movie was released.

With the same hypnotising capacity, his compassionate and captivating voice is still appreciated and loved by all types of music listeners. His fame still carries the fragrance of elegant joys and sorrows that are accessible even to the most rigid hearts.

It is mentionable that not only his vocal, his personality as an artiste can also be source of inspiration for today’s new singers; and an example for the long line of fame-seeking youngsters claiming themselves singers. He was one of the very few who believed that a state cannot award an artiste, rather the artist through his spontaneous and glorious contribution, enriches the state. He believed that an artist helps the state gain recognition among other nations. 

In 1987, at a time when he was enjoying popularity across the subcontinent, he politely refused the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award of India, for which he was nominated; having already turned down the offer to receive the Padma Shree, the fourth highest civilian award, in the 1970s.

Hemanta composed music in both Hindi and Bengali, besides singing songs in at least half a dozen Indian languages. His association with another Bengali music icon Salil Chowdhury gave the world some brilliant music. ‘Runner’, penned by hugely popular poet Sukanta Bhattacharya and tuned by Salil Chowdhury, is one of the mostly listened songs in Bangla.

His other super hit modern Bangla songs, to name a few, are ‘O Akash Prodip Jelo Na’, ‘Amr Jiboner Eto Alo’, ‘Ei Meghla Din-e Ekla Ghore’, ‘Ei Baluka Belae Ami Likhechinu’, ‘Ami Duur Hote Tomakei Dekhechi’, ‘O Nodire’, and ‘Obak Prithibi’, also written by Sukanta Bhattacharya. His songs for Bangla movies are equally popular. The songs, Muche Jaowa Din Guli, ‘Surer Akashe Tumi Je Go Suktara’, ‘Aj Dujonar Duti Poth’, and ‘Surja Dobar Pala Ashe Jodi’ are notable.

The gifted singer and music composer met his long-time friend Subhas Mukhopadhyay, later to become a noted poet, who took him to an audition at the Broadcasting Corporation (later All India Radio) when he was a student of class nine. He easily sailed through the audition and got a letter of acceptance three months later. 

In the year of 1937, his first album with Gramophone Company of India, under Columbia Records, was recorded. He first launched his disc of Tagore songs in 1944 while his first film as a music director was in the Bengali film ‘Abhiyatri’ in 1947. By the mid-1950s, he became a prominent singer and composer both in Bengali and Hindi.

Hemanta’s major breakthrough came in the same year of 1952 when Sachin Dev Burman offered him playback singing assignments for Guru Dutt's film ‘Jaal’. His music composition for the movie ‘Nagin’ earned him fame and national recognition as a music director. 

In his autobiography he describes 1954, 1955 and 1956 as his golden years. After the success of ‘Nagin’, he got an offer from Kolkata to direct music for the Uttam-Suchitra movie ‘Shap Mochan’. When the movie was released, it was a super-hit both as a movie and its songs also.

His discography is long. Some of the Tagore songs like ‘O Amar Desher Mati’, ‘Aguner Parash Moni’, ‘Sedin Dujone Dulechinu Bone’, ‘Amar Porano Jaha Chay’, and ‘Tumi Ki Keboli Chhobi” are unparalleled.

In September 1989, he travelled to Dhaka to receive the Michael Madhusudan Award and performed in a concert as well. His immortal songs continue to thrill countless listeners, and they will, in the future.