Manna Dey revives Bollywood's glorious music tradition  
- Bhasyam G Iyengar, New York 

September 29, 2005 

It was a lively evening out there in the cozy auditorium of Royal India Palace at 118-08 Atlantic Ave, Richmond Hill on Saturday, 3rd Sept., 2005.  Manna Dey, the maestro, suddenly took the audience to the glorious past of Bollywood music, complete with the lilting melodies of the yesteryears. The atmosphere was nostalgic to say the least. The memories of great music composers like Naushad, Ravi, Madan Mohan, Shanker-Jaikishan, Kalyanji-Anandji among others, flooded the music hall as the mesmerizing voice of Manna Dey filled the grateful ear drums of a rapt audience. The great artist was not just singing - he virtually carried the listeners to an introspective past, cajoling them to become one with the grandeur of soul touching melodies of old Bollywood music. Splendid tunes like, laga chunari mein daag, tuje suraj kahoo ya chanda, pucho na kaise, yari ha iman mera, to name a few, threw the music lovers into a state of near ecstasy.  

Apart from music, Manna Dey charmed the audience with his interludes of knowledgeable remarks and explanations of the songs and their lyrical richness mixed with humorous observations of the show and other related events of the evening. His selections, covering a wide range of musical notes, varying from the melancholic to fast paced ones, were pleasing and got an appreciative nod from the audience. It was surely a sumptuous piece of lively and absorbing music session. His depth and understanding of intricacies of thoughtful and entertaining music is astonishing. He appeals to both the pundits and the common folk. It is impossible to believe he is approaching the eighties! 

Romanee captures alive a Manna Dey hit
Manna Dey at his introspective and melancholic best
Enter Romanee Kalicharran, the performer par excellence, and the evening suddenly became more colorful as she swung the audience to a different pitch with her deft pair of feet and immensely expressive face. She danced like a peacock to some of the best known Manna Dey songs. She came floating from nowhere and every time she danced, the audience could not resist their temptation of feet-tapping, wanting to join her on the stage! Her slim and supple figure effortlessly going through the required motions, and the beautiful face expressing everything that needed an expression successfully transformed the music into a figurative shape and form. Romanee instinctively provided an exciting vision of the thoughtful songs. This charismatic young dancer is surely a bundle of talent that keeps growing event after event. She is bound to have a tough time handling her fan- mail! Go ahead and keep dancing Romanee, you will be a cynosure soon.  

The other listed artist of the evening, Irin Jhumur lived up to her reputation of an upcoming singer. Irin sang with a lot of composure and she is surely gifted with a beautiful voice. The variations were intact and the songs were sung with much aplomb and melody. She is also gifted with expressive features that make her an effective stage performer. The young lady is surely a talent worth watching. She is destined to go a long way. Good luck to you, Irin. 

There were two special appearances, rather, two pleasant surprises. Zafrin Zakir (Oni), a young and ambitious singer came over with a cheerful smile and sang a few melodious songs. She got the opportunity to sing with Manna Dey and her joy in sharing the stage with the great man was evident and why not? It was indeed a pleasant surprise. At the beginning of the second segment of the charged up evening, there was Nasir Khan who sang Hemant Kumar's ganga aye kahase in his deep voice. Nasir sang with passion, rejoicing in the wonderful lyrics of the song which is touching and sentimental. It was a meaningful interlude.  

And then there was a very graceful and charming lady sitting next to me, thoroughly immersed in Manna Dey magic. Impressed by her intense joy, I said hello to her and wondered whether she could share her happiness with me. She gladly introduced herself as Leela Singh and disclosed an interesting information, that she used to dance for Manna Dey's laga chunri, and incidentally was fondly recognized as laga, consequent to her popular performance of the piece, and that she started dancing as a four year old! Some passion, that.  

Eshri Singh, the renowned broadcaster from Guyana was the Emcee. His rich and resonant voice reverberated through the evening lending a special touch to the occasion. An eternal Indo-Cultural Ambassador serving the cultural needs of the Indians in the Caribbean, Mr. Singh has been recognized by the New York State Assembly for his committed and dedicated service to the cultural aspirations of Indian mass and his influence as a star broadcaster stretches to areas as far as Trinidad and Surinam. He certainly made the evening a rousing one. 

The evening was filled not only with music, but also with citations. Chief guest Dr. Prem Misir, pro-chancellor, University of Guyana, presented a proclamation on behalf of Mr. Brian M McLaughlin, Member of the New York State Assembly, 25th district, County of Queens, honoring Manna Dey. The proclamation lauds the great service of Manna Dey to Indian music, highlighting the quality entertainment he has provided to people across the globe. Another proclamation, also on behalf of Mr. Brian M. McLaughlin, honoring and recognizing the services of Mr. Eshri Singh, while also appreciating the intellectual quality of the work and service of Mr. Singh, was presented by Manna Dey. 

Dilip Nath, a young leader with a new vision, contesting as a city council candidate for District 24th in the ensuing Democratic Primary elections, scheduled to be held on Sept 13th, presented a bouquet to Manna Dey and sought his blessings for success.  

The event was jointly sponsored by Ramesh D Kalicharran and Pritam G.Singh, partners, Kali & Danny and Shoraf Sarker, president, SSNT Real Estate. It was co-sponsored by George Subraj & Bros. of Zara Realty Holding, Bawa Real Estate, Ricky & Bros. Const., among others. While congratulating and interviewing the sponsors and co-sponsors, I was struck by their intensity and zeal. It was apparent that the consideration behind sponsoring was hardly financial. They shared their dreams and visions of being a part and parcel of cultural events. I could sense the smile of satisfaction on their proud faces - a satisfaction that can only arise from something deeper than money and profits. It is very heartening to see such successful people sparing their influence and resources to promote culture. Looking beyond money? Answer seems to be a sure yes. 

Bhasyam G Iyengar is a published freelance writer and critic. 
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