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Hemant Kumar - A Singer Par Excellence
By Prithviraj Dasgupta

" Amar gaaner swaralipi lekha rabey
Pantha pakhir kujano kakoli ghirey "

("The chords of my songs will be preserved
In the tunes of the flying birds")

' Yeh raat yeh chaaNdni phir kahaN - Sun jaa dil ki daastan' - the romantic Dev Anand singing his heart out to heroine Geeta Bali saw the emergence of a young singer with a rich mellifluous voice on the firmament of the Indian Music industry- Hemant Kumar - whose deep voice and lilting melodies enthralled numerous music lovers for more than half a century.

Hemanta Mukherjee was born on the 16th of June 1920 in Varanasi. From an early age he had developed an everlasting bond with music. In his autobiography "Ananda-dhara" he mentions " I would always be on the lookout for a chance to sing . Be it a religious festival or just a family gathering I would enjoy singing any new song that I had picked up".

His talent was soon recognized and Hemanta Mukherjee sang his first song on the AIR in 1933 at the age of 13. Six years later he cut his first gramophone disc for HMV. Recognition soon followed in the elite music circle of India. In 1940 he sang his first Hindi geet 'Kitna dukh bhulaya tumne'. But commercial success was yet to come. In his own words "I would wait at soirees for organizers to call on me, but singers of the stature of Pankaj Mullick and K.L. Saigal would arrive and I would have to remain content listening to them."

But a true genius never goes unrecognized. In 1948, a firebrand lyricist and music composer - Salil Chowdhury teamed up with him and gave birth to a completely new form of music - Kavya-geeti (ballad but not necessarily romantic) . It was immediately a smash hit. To this day the song - 'Ga.Nyer Bodhu'remains the symbol of the once properous rural Bengal. Soon Hemanta received offers from the Bombay film Industry. And after that there was no looking back.

Jaal, Nagin, Anarkali, Solva Saal, Baat Ek Raat Ki, Bees Saal Baad, Khamoshi, Anupama all are bedecked by jewels carved by this master craftsman. Hemant's jovial number from Solva Saal 'Hai Apnaa Dil to Aawara' finished as the chartbuster in the 1958 Binaca Geetmala. Every Dev Anand number to which Hemant lent a voice became an instant super-hit.

Hemant Kumar was also a music director of no less a calibre than he was a singer. In 1955, Hemant Kumar received the prestigious Filmfare Award for the Best Music Director for the film 'Nagin'. Interestingly, the famous been music of this film is used by snake charmers to this date and has been used innumerable times in films.

Back in Bengal, the Hemanta-Salil duo were churning out all time hits. At the same time as Nagin, Hemant Kumar received an offer to compose music for the Bengali movie Shapmochan starring the rising star Uttam Kumar . This again proved to be a runaway hit and the Uttam-Hemanta combination became part of a legend which continued for the next 20 years.

Hemanta also left an indelible impression as one of the foremost exponents of Rabindrasangeet. His rendering of the male characters in Tagore's dance dramas made these characters come to life just through their voice.

For more than fifty years Hemant Kumar gave to music listeners innumerble hits - jewels by thier own virtue. His recorded songs total about 2000. He scored the music of about 150 Bengali and 50 Hindi films. He also had a brief stint with film direction under his home banner "Geetanjali productions". Although not blockbusters, the films were modest runners.

Though Hemant Kumar has left the mortal world yet he remains alive to all his admirers through his countless songs - immortal melodies in the history of Indian music.

`Agami prithibi kaan petey tumi shuno
Ami jodi aar nai ashi hetha phirey
Tobu... Amar gaaner swaralipi lekha raabey'
(The future world may listen to the tune of my melodies.
Even if I do not return here...
The chords of my songs will be scored)


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