Born On: June 16, 1920
Born In: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Died On: September 26, 1989
Career: Singer, Music Composer, Film Producer
Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay enrolled for four years of engineering course from Jadavpur University, but thankfully dropped out of it. That is not to say that he didn't have the makings of a good engineer; it's just that he made a far better singer and a music composer than he could have ever made an engineer. Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay, also known as Hemanta Mukherjee, was born in Varanasi. Apart from singing, this talented individual also tried his hand in writing and even got a short story published in the prized magazine "Desh". But as they say "home is where the heart is"; it was in music that Hemanta found his sense of belongingness and his collaboration with industry stalwarts like Sachin Dev Burman, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle Kishore Kumar, Naushad, Laxmikant Pyarelal, and many others produced fruitful results and cemented his position in the industry as both, a leading playback singer and a gifted music composer. To this day, his legacy in the form of music continues to weave a melodious web among his fans.
Born in the holy city of Varanasi on 16th June, 1920, Hemanta lived in a small village called Baharu in Jainagar. He had developed an early liking towards music, thanks to his exposure to jatras and kabigaans. Soon his family had to move to Calcutta where he was enrolled in Nasiruddin Memorial High School and later on, in Golam Mitra Institution. It was there that he met Subhash Mukhopadhyay, who later went to become his best friend and a famous Bengali poet. The liking he had developed for music at an early age wasn't lost in him as just at the age of 13, in the year 1933, he recorded his first song "Amar Ganete Ele Nabarupi Chirantanii" for the All India Radio. In 1937, he cut his first disc under Columbia (non film), music of which was given by Sailesh Dutta Gupta who went on to become his mentor. At the same time, Hemanta enrolled himself in engineering course from Jadavpur University, as per his father's wishes. But by the next year he dropped out of college and focused solely on his music.
In 1941, Hemanta lent his voice to a song in the Bengali film Nimai Sanyas, the music of which given by Hariprasanna Das. It was around the same time when Hemanta got acquainted with Rabindra Sangeet (songs from a famous poet of the 20th century Rabindra Nath Tagore) and started drawing his inspiration from it in whatever he did. Hemanta's stint as a playback singer in the Hindi film industry begun when in 1944, music director Pandit Amarnath gave him his first break in the movie "Irada'. At the same time, he continued to sing for the Bengali films and repeatedly yet successfully made Rabindra Sangeet even more popular.
Not content with just being a singer, Hemanta ventured into music direction and directed the music of a Bengali film "Abhiyatri" in 1947. For a few years Hemanta continued to compose Bengali music, that although were critically acclaimed, never got the commercial success that one would hope for. Some of these music compositions were for the Bengali film director Hemen Gupta, and when Hemen had moved to Bombay; he called on Hemanta to give composition for what was going to be his first Hindi film composition for the film "Anand Math", that came in 1952. The Vande Matram song from "Anand Math", sung by none other than melodious Lata Mangeshkar, set the ball rolling for Hemanta.
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". The song "Yeh raat yeh chandni fir kahan" established Hemanta's position as a major playback singer. However, it was his music composition for the movie "Nagin" that earned him the fame and national recognition as a music director. The song "Tann dole mera Mann dole" from the movie became a smashing hit and made the snake charmer tune popular among the fans and non-fans alike. In 1955, the music score for this film even earned him a Filmfare Award for the Best Music Director.
emanta's other hit compositions included numerous films including "Jagriti", "Bees Saal Baad", "Khamoshi", "Bin Badal Barsaat", "Do Dooni Chaar", and many more. He also had the honor of being recognized as the voice of the legendary actor Dev Anand, with his playback singing in films like "Jaal", "House No. 44", and "Solva Saal"; all starring Dev Anand. During this period, Hemanta was at the peak of his career with marked variations that only a genius could possess. In Bengal, he was an advocate of Rabindra Sangeet and made it work unlike any other thing; with it being immensely popular and equally loved. Down in Bombay, Hemanta was flourishing both as a playback singer and as a gifted music composer.
It was film production that awaited Hemanta after he had succeeded as a singer and music composer. The first film he produced under his own banner, Hemanta-Bela Productions, was "Neel Akasher Neechey" (1959) directed by Mrinal Sen. The story revolved around a Chinese hawker in Calcutta with the backdrop of India's Freedom Struggle. This movie went on to win the most esteemed award there is for Indian Cinema - The President's Gold Medal. Later on, the name of the production house was changed to Geetanjali productions and the Hindi films produced under this banner were "Bees Saal Baad", "Kohra", "Biwi aur Makaan", "Rahgir", "Bees Saal Pehle", and "Khamoshi". However, except for "Bees Saal Baad" and "Khamoshi", none of the other fared well at the box office.
In 1945, Hemanta Kumar got married to Bela Mukherjee who was also a Bengali singer. The couple was blessed with two kids: a boy named Jayant, and a girl named Ranu. Jayant is married to a famous Indian actress Moushmi Chatterjee.
Last Phase & Death
By the last phase of his music career, Hemanta had already established himself and was continuing to sing and compose music for Hindi and Bengali films. In 1979, Hemanta re-collaborated with Salil Chowdhry, with whom he had tasted the first of success during the 1940s for the Bengali films. Their album, "Legend of Glory" became a major commercial success. In 1980, Hemanta suffered a major heart attack that affected his vocal capabilities but he continued to record even after that. It is notable and praiseworthy that the company, Gramophone Company of India (Columbia Records), which gave Hemanta his first break, continued to have Hemanta for non-film releases in regular periods till the very end.
During this phase, Hemanta continued to appear regularly on All India Radio, Doordarshan, and live programs for interviews. He even composed music for a few Bengali movies and Hindi tele-series. In 1989, after returning from Dhaka, where he went to receive the Michael Madhusudan Award and to perform in a concert; he suffered another heart attack (myocardial infarction) and passed away in a nursing home in south Calcutta. On 26th September 1989, the man with a golden voice left behind a legacy in the form of the tracks he sung and composed. Till this day, record companies continue to re-release his work, either in digitally re-mastered form or remixes.
1920: Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay was born in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
1933: Recorded his first song for the All India Radio.
1937: Matriculated and recorded his first ever album with Gramophone Company of India, under Columbia Records.
1941: Sung playback for the first time in a Bengali film "Nimai Sanyas".
1944: Sung playback for the first time in a Hindi film "Irada".
1945: Married Bela Mukherjee.
1947: Composed music for the first time for a Bengali film "Abhiyatri".
1952: Composed music for the first time for a Hindi film "Anand Math". Also got a major breakthrough as a playback singer to the music directed by Sachin Dev Burman for the film "Jaal".
1955: Received Filmfare award for the Best Music Director category for his composition in the film "Nagin".
1959: Ventured into movie production with the film "Neel Akasher Neechey". Received "President's Gold Medal" (highest honor for a movie by the Government of India) for the same.
1971: Directed a film under his production banner.
1979: Collaborated with Salil Chowdhary and delivered a major commercial success in the album "Legend of Glory Volume 2".
1980: Suffered from a severe heart attack.
1989: Traveled to Dhaka to perform in a concert and receive Michael Madhusudan Award.
1989: Died at the age of 69 in a nursing home in south Calcutta.