Remembering Hemanta Mukherjee often credited as Hemant Kumar on his 28th death anniversary.
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 is also the greatest artist of Rabindra Sangeet. He won two National awards for the category best male playback singer. He is often credited as one of the greatest Indian singers of all time for his unparalleled manly voice.
In the mid-1940s, Hemanta became an active member of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and started an association with another active IPTA member — songwriter and composer Salil Chowdhury. One of the main driving forces behind the establishment of IPTA was the Bengal famine of 1943 and the inaction of the British administration and wealthy Indians to prevent it.
In 1947, Hemanta recorded a non-film song called “Ganyer badhu” (“The rural bride”) that had music and lyrics by Salil Chowdhury. The six-minute song recorded on two sides of a 78 rpm disc was sung at a varying pace and lacked the conventional structure and romantic theme of a Bengali song. It depicted an idyllic, prosperous and caring rural woman’s life and family and how it gets ravaged by the demons of famine and ensuing poverty. This song generated an unforeseen popularity for Hemanta and Salil in eastern India and, in a way, established Hemanta ahead of his male contemporaries. Hemanta and Salil paired again in several songs over the next few years. Almost all these songs proved to be very popular.
Around the same period, Hemanta started receiving more assignments for music composition for Bengali films. Some were for directorHemen Gupta. When Hemen moved to Mumbai a few years later, he called upon Hemanta to compose music for his first directorial venture in Hindi titled Anandmath under the Filmistan banner. Responding to this call, Hemanta migrated to Mumbai in 1951 and joined Filmistan Studios. The music of Anand Math (1952) was a moderate success. Perhaps, the most notable songs from this movie is ‘Vande mataram’ sung by Lata Mangeshkar, which Hemanta set to a marching tune. Following Anandamath, Hemanta scored music for a few Filmistan movies like Shart in subsequent years, the songs of which received moderate popularity. Simultaneously, Hemanta gained popularity in Mumbai as a playback singer. His songs playbacked for actor Dev Anand under music director Sachin Dev Burman in movies like Jaal (“ Yeh raat, yeh chandni phir kahan … “), House №44 (“ Chup hai dharti, chup hai chand sitare… “), Solva Saal (“ Hai apna dil to awara ….. “), Funtoosh (“ Teri duniya mein jeene se … “), and Baat ek raat ki (“ Na tum hame jaano ….. “), became very popular and continues to be so. In the 1950s, he also play-backed for other heroes of Hindi films like Pradip Kumar ( Nagin , Detective ) and Sunil Dutt ( Duniya Jhukti Hain , ) and later in the 1960s for Biswajeet ( Bees saal Baad , Bin Badal Barsat , Kohra ) and Dharmandra ( Anupama ); he was the music composer for all these films.
Nearly two decades after his death the Gramophone Company of India releases at least one album by Hemanta Mukhopadhyay every year, repackaging his older songs, because of the commercial viability of his songs. His legacy still lives on through the songs he has recorded, music he has composed, and through many male singers in Bengal and the rest of India who continue to imitate/emulate his singing style.