MUMBAI: Shameer Tandon, who was the last composer to record with Manna Dey, recalls his experiences with the singing giant.
“I have been blessed that I had the opportunity to record with Mannada 8 years ago for a film called Umar when he was 86 years ‘young’. I called him Dada and chased him to record for me. He said by then he had given up singing for Bollywood. He was doing only concerts to run his kitchen. He wondered why an 86-year old is being chased by a young composer to record for a young hero. I had to explain to him that it’s a small festival film bout three old men who are mistreated in the UK by their children.I explained to him that in the UK and US since house-help is very expensive and unaffordable, parents are kept by ‘beta-bahu’ to look after their children. That the song would be picturised on three 70- year-old men played by Prem Chopra, Kadar Khan and Satish Kaushik.
“Mannada understood why I was insisting on him. I then sent him the scratch and he loved the melody. I went to Bangalore where he stayed and he invited me home for coffee. I briefed him on the song. The next day he said he would report at 9 am to the studio and he was there sharp at 8 50. He was an Englishman in the way he spoke and in his discipline.He went straight onto the recording as the previous day he had already spent 2 hours learning the song from me. Would you believe, at the age of 86 in ONE TAKE he recorded the entire song!! I realized later that the song was on a very high note since it was a little qawallish, and at that age its difficult if not impossible for anyone to hit those high notes. But Dada just delivered with such ease in one go. The man refused to take money.
“He instantly also connected with me for my proximity to the Mangeshkar sisters. He had done homework on me, he told me later. That he found out about me and that he heard some of my little work and only then had agreed to lend his voice to my composition. We had some snacks on a ‘kayley ka patta’ and he told me stories galore of yesteryears.This was when he was 86. Mannada sportingly took up the challenge to hit the microphone in the studio and just rock the song. I hugged him. He said he will sing for his fans on stage till his last breath.
“He invited me for some of his concerts which I went and saw. I saw the ageless man entertain his audiences for 3 hours non -top. Today when he passes away at 94 we should all celebrate and feel happy that he lived a complete life. How many of us in today’s era may even cross 60? How many of our current lot of artists will perform and keep their voice in shape once they cross 50? The man had no ego. He was a child. He learnt the song from me as if it was the first for him. No mobile ringing. No hurry to leave the studio. No unnecessary gossip. He refused to take money but I insisted. He said, ‘Ashirwaad samajh ke rakhlo’. But I just left the envelope in his car. He was so positive. Not a word of negativity did he utter about today ‘s lot or musicians.
“The veterans very typically speak ill of young people when they are past their prime. Just imagine. I could touch him. Touch his feet. I had him sing a song for me. What more could I ask for in life? He was so loving and that was in the song that I recorded for him . The words were ‘Duniya waalon ko nahi kuch bhi khabar, nahin pyar karne ki hai koi umar’.”