Remembering Hemant Kumar on his 97th birth anniversary.

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Hemanta Mukherjee, often credited as Hemant Kumar (16 June 1920–26 September 1989), was a playback singer, music director and film producer, who sang in Bengali, Hindi and other Indian languages. He won two National awards for the category best male playback singer.

Under the influence of his friend Subhas Mukhopadhyay, Hemanta recorded his first song for All India Radio in 1935. The first line of the song was “Amar Ganete Ele Nabarupi Chirantanii.” Hemanta’s music career was primarily mentored by the Bengali musician, Sailesh Duttagupta. In an interview on television in the early 1980s, Hemanta had mentioned that he had also received classical music training from Ustad Faiyaz Khan’s student Fanivusan Banerjee, but his tutelage was cut short by Ustad’s untimely death.

In 1937, Hemanta cut his first gramophone disc under the Columbia label. The songs (non-film) on this disc were “Janite Jadi Go Tumi” and “Balo Go Balo More” whose lyrics were by Naresh Bhattacharya and music was composed by Sailesh Duttagupta. Thereafter, every year Hemanta continued to record non-film discs for the Gramophone Company of India (GCI) till 1984. His first Hindi songs were “Kitana Dukh Bhulaya Tumne” and “O Preet Nibhanewali”, released in 1940 under GCI’s Columbia label. Music for these songs were composed by Kamal Dasgupta; lyrics were by Faiyaz Hashmi.

Hemanta’s first film song was in the Bengali film Nimai Sanyas released in 1941. Music was scored by Hariprasanna Das. Hemanta’s first compositions for himself were the Bengali non-film songs “Katha Kayonako Shudhu Shono” and “Amar Biraha Akashe Priya” in 1944. Lyrics were by Amiya Bagchi.

His first Hindi film songs were in Irada in 1944 under Pt. Amarnath’s music direction. Lyrics were by Aziz Kashmiri.

Hemanta is considered a foremost exponent of Rabindra Sangeet. His first recorded Rabindra Sangeet was in the Bengali film Priya Bandhabi (1944). The song was “Pather Sesh Kothaye”. He recorded his first non-film Rabindra Sangeet disc in 1944 under the Columbia label. The songs were “Aamar Aar Habe Na Deri” and “Keno Pantha E Chanchalata”.

His first movie as a music director was the Bengali film Abhiyatri in 1947. Although many of the songs Hemanta recorded during this time received critical acclaim, major commercial success eluded him until 1947. Some contemporary male singers of Hemanta in Bengali were Jaganmay Mitra, Robin Majumdar, Satya Chowdhury, Dhananjay Bhattacharya, Sudhirlal Chakraborty, Bechu Dutta and Talat Mahmood.

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