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Legendary playback singer Manna Dey, who mesmerised generations of listeners with his inimitable voice for over five decades with hits like 'ay mere pyara watan', 'laaga chunri me daag' and 'poocho na kaise', died at a hospital here today at the age of 94 after prolonged illness. Dey, who was in and out of Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital in the last five months for respiratory and renal problems, died of cardiac arrest with his daughter Shumita Deb and son-in-law Jnanranjan Deb by his bedside when the end came at 3.50 AM.
The condition of Dey, who had made Bangalore his home for the last many years, deteriorated since yesterday afternoon, hospital spokesman Vasuki said. With the demise of Dey, the void has become complete in the famous quartet of singers Rafi, Mukesh, and Kishore Kumar, who dominated the Hindi music industry from 1950s to 1970s.
The mortal remains of Dey, whose unique voice lent a rare dimension to his persona, were cremated at Hebbal crematorium here with Jnanranjan Deb performing the last rites with none from the Bollywood fraternity or government present. Dey's body was kept at Ravindra Kalakshetra for about two hours for paying homage amid criticism that arrangements were inadequate, before it was taken in a flower bedecked van to the crematorium. "He (Dey) had simple ideals... he wanted the last rites to be as simple as possible," Shumita told reporters.
Dey, who had turned a recluse in the last years of his live, is survived by two daughters-- the second living in US. His wife Sulochana predeceased him in January this year.
Dey, who rendered all-time hits like 'zindagi kaisi hai paheli' (Anand), 'yeh dosti' (Sholay) and 'ek chatur naar' (Padosan) and 'yeh raat bheegi bheegi' (Chori Chori), was equally at ease, be it romantic ballads, intricate raga-based songs, qawwalis and fast-paced modern numbers. Born in Kolkata in 1919, Dey sang over 3,500 songs in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada and Assamese films before quitting movies in the '90s. His last song was 'Hamari hi mutthi mein' for 1991 film 'Prahaar'.

Credited with pioneering a new genre by infusing Indian classical music in a pop framework, Manna Dey epitomised the golden period of Hindi cinema with his inimitable style and memorable songs like 'Puchho na kaise', 'Aye meri zoharajabi' and 'Laga chunri mein daag'. Along with Rafi, Mukesh, and Kishore Kumar, Dey was the last member of the famous quartet of singers who dominated the Hindi music industry from 1950s to 1970s. In a career spanning over five decades, Dey, who died today in Bangalore at the age of 94, went on to sing over 3,500 songs in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada and Assamese films before quitting movies in the '90s. His last song was 'Hamari hi mutthi mein' for 1991 film 'Prahaar'. While Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore were the favoured voices when it came to the lead actors, Dey stood out for his unique voice. Adept also at singing Rabindra Sangeet, the multi-talented legendary singer's experimentation with western music and qawwali produced many unforgettable melodies. Dey, who had made Bangalore his home for the past few years, started his career in playback singing with the film 'Tamanna' in 1943. The musical score was set by his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey and he had to sing a duet with Suraiya. In 1950, 'Mashal' was the second film where Dey got the opportunity to sing a solo 'Upar gagan vishal', a melody created by Sachin Dev Burman. In 1952, Dey sang both for a Bengali and a Marathi film of the same name and storyline, Amar Bhupali, and established himself as a booming Bengali playback singer that in years to come took him to greater heights. Dey was much in demand for complicated raag-based songs and was once even pitted against his idol Bhimsen Joshi in 1956 movie 'Basant Bahar' for 'Ketki, gulab, juhi' song, something that he initially refused. While his mastery over classical numbers somewhat pigeonholed him, the uniqueness of his voice made it impossible for any singer to replicate him.


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