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Manna Dey and Mohammad Rafi’s duet songs were masterpieces

By Dr. Souvik Chatterji

Rafi, Kishore Da and Manna Dey

Only genius singers have the capability of simplifying difficult ragas and Hindustani classical music simplified into the version which is understandable by the common mass. Both Manna Dey Sahab and Mohammad Rafi Sahab had the capability of making those complicated tunes simple, melodious and romantic. There were huge numbers of difficult songs composed for both of them in the 1950s and 1960s.

Some of them had become immortal over the years. The greatness of Manna Dey and Rafi Sahab lies in simplifying these high voltage qawwalis and classical songs in the language of the lay man. Every filmlover who had watched the films and heard the classical andaz in these songs in the beginning wondered about the brilliance of Manna Dey and Rafi Sahab, and then enjoyed them, clapped at the rhythm created by them and sang all the lines themselves. It was a revolution brought about by the 2 genius singers. It can be very well understood, had these singers not being born, the giant of giants Roshanlal Nagrath, Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad Ali, Madan Mohan Kohli and others would not have composed the songs at all.

Roshanlal Nagrath’s qawalies had the quality and the brilliance to overshadow the romantic songs and be the striking song of the film beating all other songs. In Barsaat Ki Raat, the qawwali sung by Manna Dey ji and Rafi Sahab titled “Na to caarvaan ki talaash hai, na to humsafar ki talaash hai, Mere shauq-e-khaana kharaab ko, teri rehguzar ki talaash hai”, was the lifeblood of the film. Sudha Malhotra and Asha Bhosle also made notable contribution in the song.

The Roshan, Sahir Ludhianvi magic continued in the film Taj Mahal. Pradip Kumar played the role of emperor Shah Jahan in the film. Rich urdu lyrics and khandani Hindustani classical songs mesmerized the audience in 1963. One of the brilliant qawalies titled “chandi ka badan, sone ki nazar” had classical contest of Rafi Sahab with Manna Dey. Again there was strong performances of Mahendra Kapoor and Asha Bhosle in the song.

The Roshanlal Nagrath, Sahir Ludhianvi masterpiece continued in Bahu Begum in 1967. Again there were brilliant performances of Pradip Kumar and Meena Kumari. Rafi Sahab and Manna Dey complimented each other in the song “dhoond ke laoon kahan se mai”. In that song in addition to the classical tans, both Rafi Sahab and Manna Dey Sahab, established the sufi andaz of the song as it was picturized in a dargah. The other duet song of Rafi Sahab and Manna Dey Sahab in the film titled “waqib hoon khub ishq ke” really made the musical bandits astonished. Perfection was very close to Manna Dey and Rafi Sahab’s uncomparable singing.

Madan Mohan Kohli did another good experiment in the film Haqeeqat. In that film in 1964, Rafi Sahab, Manna Dey Ji, Bhupinder Ji and Talat Saab had sung the song “hoke majboor usne bhulaya hoga”. Everyone’s style was very different. Very significantly the pathos exhibited in the song was also very unique in respect of all the singers.

Shankar Jaikishan composed a beautiful song “mehfil mein shama chamki” in the film Gunahon Ka Devta in 1967. Here also Manna Dey and Rafi Sahab showed their own gayaki skills to make the song sound beautiful. Naushad Ali created a beautiful qawali in Rajendra Kumar’s film Palki in 1967 titled “main idhar jaaun ya udhar jayun”. Rafi Sahab and Manna Dey reached the message of the lyricist to the audience through their excellent classical singing. In the film Chandi Sona in 1977, Rafi Sahab and Manna Dey sang the song “ek shokh haseena se”. The singing was notable again. Sonik Omi composed the song “mujhse nazren milane ki” for Manna Dey and Rafi Sahab in the film Maan Gaye Ustad released in 1981. There were duet songs sung by Rafi Sahab and Manna Dey in light mood like “yeh do diwane milke” in Johar Mehmood in Hong Kong, “dekho dekho madam” in Pyar Mohabbat, “aayo aaten kyun nahin”, but those had comedy andaz in respect of them.

The list just goes. More than 100 articles can be devoted to the two giants Manna Dey and Rafi Sahab. Their songs and films require restoration.

Souvik Chatterji, the author of this article

Souvik Chatterji, the author of this article

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15 Blog Comments to “Manna Dey and Mohammad Rafi’s duet songs were masterpieces”

  1. Sunil Rai says:

    Rafi Saab & Manna Dey saab were not only legends but greatest of human
    beings.Though they were competitors but still the best of friends.It is not
    possible in today’s materialistic world!!!!

  2. rajnish says:

    souvikji nice article but incomplete the film kalpana the gem of a song TU HAI MERA PREM DEVATA by none other than the maestro OP NAYYAR.

  3. Anwar-ul-Haque says:

    Another sorrowful demise!

    The great female playback singer of Pakistan film industry Zubaida Khanum has passed away. She was probably the toughest competitor of legend Noor Jahan but left film industry very early after her marriage. She sang just around 250 songs in her about 10 years career (from 1950 to late 50s); but left her unforgettable marks on the film music.

    Her few great songs are as follows. These are just few which came in mind without much thought, there are dozens of such gems.

    Urdu songs:
    Teri ulfat mein sanam dil ne bohot dard sahe
    Mera nishana dekhe zamana
    O dil jala Na dil wale
    Ae chand un se ja kar mera salam kehna
    Aaye mausam rangeele suhani
    Kia hua dil pe sitam, tum na samjho ge balam

    Panjabi songs:
    Asan jaan ke meet leyi ankh we
    Bure naseeb mere wairi hoya pyar mera
    Meri chunni diyan reshmi tandan
    Dila ther ja yaar da nazara Len de

    These were pure diamonds!

    We can only say, “Uth gaye saqi Jo they, mai-khana Khali reh gaya”.

    Best regars,


  4. Anwar-ul-Haque says:

    Dear Souvik ji,

    Very timely and beautiful article! Thanks for sharing pure diamonds of these two great singers and gentlemen.

    After Mehdi Hassan, it was time now for Manna Day to leave music fans of sub-continent weeping and crying. There will be no Rafi Sb, no Mehdi Hassan AND no Manna Day again. There will be no such brilliant humans inside the great singers.

    Kori chunaiya aatma mori, mael hai maya jaal
    Wo duniya mere babul ka ghar, ye duniya sasural



  5. sabnavees says:

    Souvik Ji,

    Very nice article. I salute both the stalwarts our dearest Rafi sahab & Manna Dey sahab. Both have created a big ————- which can never be filled up.

  6. K P Hassan says:

    Dear Souvikji,

    The article itself is a great tribute to the legend singer Manna Dey Sahab in right time. We all the Rafians also join with you to extend our love and respect to Manna Da. Like our Rafi Sahab, Manna Da was also a versatile genius especially his talent in classical songs. Manna Da had praised Rafi Sahab in several occasions with open heart. He had no any ego problems. The songs of Manna Da like ‘POOCHO NA KAISE’ , ‘LAGA CHUNERI MEIN DAG’, JHANAK JHANAK’, ‘E BHAI ZARA DEK CHALO’ AA JA SANAM’, YE RAT BHEEGI BHEEGI’, etc. etc are still very popular and like to listen by all.

    As told by Mr Ahmed Kutty, Manna Da is very special for every malayalees. In the year 1965 Manna Da had sung a song ‘MANASA MAINE VAROO’ for the film ‘CHEMMEEN’. This song was a super duper hit and still very popular in Kerala. Apart from this,Manna Da was also our ‘JAMAI BABU’ as his wife was a malayalee from Kannur District. Manna Da we all love you too much.

    Souvikji, thanks for your excellent article that inspired me to write a few lines about Manna Da and pay my tribute to him.

  7. Ahamed Kutty says:

    Dear Souvikji,

    Like Rafi Saab I like to read about Mannada also.

    Mannada had sung two songs in our Malayalam Language.
    “Maanasa Maine Varoo…” for the film “Chemmeen” and
    still people like it too much.The other one is for the film
    “Nellu” a duet song with the South Indian Singer
    Jayachandran.For both the songs the music given by
    Salilda.Mannada could pronounce Malayalam in a better
    way since his wife helped him to learn the language
    who is a Malayalee.

    I could hear and read so many comments he told about
    Rafi Saab.When there was an interview with him by
    FM Rainbow,Bangalore he was weeping like a child
    when he was telling about Rafi Saab and singing some
    lines from the song “Yeh duniyaa yeh mehfil”

  8. Siva says:

    Dear Souvik
    Nice article..i would like to add one masterpiece by Rafi sahab and Manna da, composed by O.P Nayyar ( in a completely different style than his usual) for film Kalpana: Tu hai mera prema devata…in fact this would be the best duet sung by both these legends together…


    Dear Souvik, Good compilation at the right time. Amongst male cine song songers, Manna Dey was the last link. Alas ! he too went heavenly abode, leaving his sung song behind “Qasme waade pyaar wafa sab baaten hain baaton ka kya?”

  10. r l arora says:

    Dear Souvik Ji

    thanks for your article. yes i know Rafi Saab liked Manna Dey songs too much. He once told that people hear my songs and I hear songs of Manna Dey.

    It was greatness of Rafi Saab that he loved music and had appreciation for all those who deserved it.

    Rafi Sahib and Manna dey sahib both had one hobby of flying kites. Rafi asked Manna Dey how he is able to cut his kite so easily, Manna Dey Saab told Rafi Saab ‘aap bade seedhe aadmi ho’ thats why i am able to cut your kite. Infact Rafi was so much simple, kind and clear hearted gentleman.

    thanks once again Souvik ji.

  11. Dr. Souvik Chatterji says:

    Dear Halderji,
    You have mentioned that the loss of Manna Dey Sahab was a loss of lovers of regional music as well as Mannababu had sung more than 1000 songs in Bengali. Manobendra Mukherjee an eminent classical singer of the 1950s and 1960s, in his interview before my father Chitta Ranjan Chatterjee (he had died 2 years ago) told that the versatility of the singer lies on his acceptance before every type of music director. Rafisahab fulfilled that criteria and that was the reason why Manobendra Mukherjee himself considered Rafisahab to be the best singer of the country.

    As far as Manna Dey was concerned, you will agree he fulfilled that criteria in the bengali front. I will list few songs of Manna Dey, of different composers.
    1. coffee houser sei addata – Suporno Kanti Ghosh
    2. Kofota chokher jol – Dr. Nochiketa Ghosh
    3. koto dure aar – Manna Dey
    4. dekhi oi hashir jhilik – Rotu Mukherjee
    5. ami taar thikana rakhini – Sudhin Dasgupta
    6. ami je jalsaghare – Anil Bagchi
    7. baje go beena – Salil Choudhury
    8. o kokeela tore sudhai re – Hemanta Mukherjee

    Now Manobendra Mukherjee himself was a great competitor of Manna Dey because he had sung the most difficult songs of all times. I will give you a small list.
    1. ami eto je tomay bhalobesechi – Manobendra Mukherjee
    2. ami parini bujhite parini – Salil Choudhury
    3. birohini chirobirohini – Himangshu Dutta
    4. koto je sayechi betha – Chinmoy Lahiri
    5. o amar chandramallika – Dr. Nochiketa ghosh
    6. moyur konthi ratero nile – Sudhin Dasgupta
    7. ei pranjhorona jaglo – Rabin Chatterjee
    8. tomar pother prante moner – Satinath Mukherjee
    9. ei nil nil jal sagore – Prabir Majumdar
    10. jodi amake dekho tumi udashi – Abhijit Banerjee.

    What I want to say is appreciating a great singer is a virtue. I have seen that virtue in Manna Dey Sahab, Manobendra Mukherjee and ofcourse Great Mohammad Rafi Sahab.

  12. Dr. Souvik Chatterji says:

    Thanks Aliji and Halderbabu,
    An old interview of Pransahab was published after the sad demise of Manna Deyji. Firstly Pransahab said that in the song “kasme wade” in the film Upkar in 1967, he told Manna Deyji, please dont make the song so complicated where giving lips to the song will be challenging. Raj Kapoor after the song “laga chunari me daag chupayun kaise” told Manna Dey, the song is so difficult and the last part which had to do with the rag and the taal, which Manna Dey sang with rythm was almost impossible to give lips in. Roshanlal Nagrath, the composer of the song and the film Dil Hi To Hai in 1963, then told Raj Sahab, please dont alter the song. In the film, the sequence was that the musical ustad was supposed to defeat the dancer.

    Such was the greatness of Manna Dey Sahab, that he was not supposed to imitate the actor, the actor had to put their feet in his shoes and do justice to the song. In case of Rafisahab he could even read the mind of the actor for whom he did playback. When the song “aasman se aya farishta” was recorded by Shankar Jaikishan, Shammi Kapoor sahab was not present in the studio. Rafisahab could imagine what Shammi Kapoor would have expected out of the style of singing. When Shammi Sahab returned back and heard Rafisahab’s rendition he was astonished, he said if a listner would have closed his eyes and heard the song, the listener will at once understand that this was sung for Shammi Kapoor.

    God was too kind for genius singers like Rafi Sahab and Manna Dey Sahab. They created history for generations after generations.

  13. Gopal Bhai says:

    Few more notable numbers : Tumhe husn deke khuda ne sitamgar banaya from Jab se tumhe dekha hai, Aye dost mere maine duniya dekhi hai from Sachhai, Baden miyan deewane from Shagird.

  14. P. Haldar says:

    Good article, Souvik. They were not only great singers but they were also great human beings. I’m posting a very good piece on Manna da written by Gandhiji’s grandson in yesterday’s Telegraph:

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