Film Ghazal Kanu Roy

An Undercelebrated genius

Today is the 103rd Birth anniversary of this genius who despite truckloads of proven talent, never got due recognition from the industry, composers , fans nor the media. Born Prabodh Chandra Dey, he is much better known by his Dak-naam, Manna.

A man who could sing pure raagdaari just with as much ease and felicity as rock and then sing romantic numbers as well as sad ones that would tug at your heart strings. No one in the industry could straddle the entire spectrum with such ease. Rafisaab ran him very very close, but Manna da owned that undoubted mastery on the saptaks. Manna Dey was born to a family of musicians. His youngest uncle, the legendary K C Dey had a huge role in shaping his singing prowess as well as influencing his career choice. A trained classical singer, he trained apart from K C Dey, with Ustad Dabir Khan and Ustad Aman Ali Khan. In the early 40s, Manna Dey accompanied his uncle, K C Dey who had composed music for a number of Bengali films including Chanakya in 1939 and reached Mumbai. He started working with K C Dey as an assistant Music Director and later even assisted the legendary S D Burmanda. Mannada actually started his singing career in a movie, Tamanna which had  K C Dey as the composer and his very first song, a duet with Suraiya, was a big hit. The very next year, he got his first solo break with Ram Rajya. Incidentally, the producer of the film Vijay Bhatt and its composer Shankar Rao Vyas had approached K C Dey with an offer for playback in the film.  K C Dey refused saying he would not lend his voice to other actors, they spotted Manna Dey sitting in the corner of the room and offered him the opportunity. He went on to work with the greats, starting with Sachin Dev Burmanda, Anil Biswas, Khemchand Prakash and in all worked with a little under 200 composers in his career. He even became a composer to finish projects left incomplete by Khemchand Prakash’s premature demise.

As a single song that I would choose to pay tribute to the big man, I was spoilt for choice. Who else could sing the most shuddha Shastriya Bandish for ribtickling on-screen performance by Mahmood?? Or the soaring inspiring song from Anand? Or the philosophical song from Mera Naam Joker? I chose to go with Anubhav, made unforgettable by so many greats: Basu Bhattacharya, Sanjeev Kumar, Tanuja, Dinesh Thakur and last but not the least, Kanu Roy.

Anubhav was the first film in what became known as Basu Bhattacharya’s  trilogy of films based on the travails of the middle class urban Indian couples  (it was followed by Avishkaar and Griha Pravesh). Anubhav deals with a six-year-old marriage that has emotionally plateaued because the husband, Sanjeev Kumar  (who is shown to be a prominent newspaper editor, but he could be any other profession as well) is too busy with work… and  because married men often take their wives for granted in a way that they don’t do with their other relationships. We have been fed for far too long with the images of “and they lived happily ever after” and the exploration into marital life with all its warts, foibles and shortcomings, are either totally lacking or cursory at best. Basu Bhattacharya’s Anubhav is one of the earliest Hindi films that ever attempted one of these explorations. Basu Bhattacharya  brilliantly establishes this rather cold and increasingly distanced universe in its opening scene of the movie where the audience jumps in the midst of a very busy, typical house party – there is a lot of revelry and mingling – so much so that we don’t know who are the hosts; Everyone feels like the same. The narrative is excellently conveyed by a handheld camera. Yet, there is a prominent underpinning of indifference to it all, which becomes evident as we soon see a child walking around, unattended and looking lost.  In this work driven crazy lifestyle, Sanjeev Kumar frequently works late at office as well as at home and sleeps in a different bedroom too, paying scant regard to the effects on the wife (Tanuja) or the marriage. Anubhav is about that urban space where lines get blurry between work life and personal life, an idea which we have grown conscious of in the last two decades in particular – Basu Bhattacharya captures the time when its early seeds were sown.The movie is amazingly well made: a large space owned by two people but actually run with the help of no less than five servants, all of whom have too much free time and too little to do and spend it gossiping about their employers, about  Sanjeev Kumar not even knowing the servants’ names, the separate bells for each kind of order. On the first morning after the party, as he leaves for work, he doesn’t  even look towards his wife. It seems like a functional, but heartless automated world. I saw reflections of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s classic  Anuradha, which is also a tale of a busy, career minded husband neglecting his wife to the point of jeopardising the very future of the marriage. The song by Manna Dey is just poignant and melodious to the extreme. The lyrics by Kapil Kumar are a sheer pleasure to read, a real satiation to all senses. ( wrongly attributed by some to Gulzar).

फिर कहीं कोई फूल खिला
चाहत ना कहो उसको 
फिर कहीं कोई दीप जला
मंदिर ना कहो उसको
फिर कहीं

मन का समंदर प्यासा हुआ
क्यूँ किसी से माँगे दुआ 
लहरों का लगा जो मेला
तूफ़ाँ ना कहो उसको
फिर कहीं कोई फूल…

देखें क्यूँ सब वो सपने
खुद ही सजाए जो हमने 
दिल उनसे बहल जाए तो
राहत ना कहो उसको
फिर कहीं कोई फूल…

Kanu Roy was a uncelebrated genius, who was so brilliant in his compositions with minimalistic instrumentation ( a big plus for spendthrift producers and directors) this song moves me to tears and always leaves me with a lump in the throat. It underscores the unfairness in treating Manna Dey, and also Kanu Roy. This clip has two songs , another brilliant song by Mannada from Aavishkar.

Stay safe, folks, stay happy and healthy. I will meet you tomorrow at 1120 am for the 25th ( “Silver Jubilee” ) edition of my fortnightly programs on AIR Delhi FM Gold with my kind hostess, Kiranji Misra.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

4 replies on “An Undercelebrated genius”

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