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Sandhya Mukherjee (also called as Sandhya Mukhopadhyay) - Biography

Sandhya Mukherjee - (1931 - 2022)

- Biography

Sandhya Mukherjee - Biography

Sandhya Mukherjee (also called as Sandhya Mukhopadhyay) was a renowned playback singer in the field of Bengali music. Just as the world of Bengali Film Industry matured with the help of Uttam-Suchitra duo, so did Bengali songs, especially Bengali modern and film songs matured with the help of Hemanta-Sandhya or Manna-Sandhya duo. The work that Hemanta Mukherjee or Manna Dey had done to give a modern look to the male vocals, the beginning of that work in the female voice was held by Sandhya Mukherjee.

That is why it would not be an exaggeration to say that Sandhya Mukherjee was the embodiment of the modernity of the female voice in Bengali music. She had been a living document of history for so long. She did not sing in public for a long time. However, she was a true artist in the world of music. Sandhya Mukherjee's demise is thus literally the end of a golden age of melody.

    At the same time, classical music, light classical music, modern songs, Nazrul songs, Rabindra Sangeet and also playback in Hindi films in Mumbai - the circulation of any Bengali artist has not been so wide for such a long time. Everyone knows that every style of singing is different.

    Undoubtedly, the great achievement of Sandhya Mukherjee is to dedicate each style of song while keeping one's thoughts intact. That is why Rabindra Sangeet has become equally popular in her voice like film songs like 'Ae Shudh Gaaner Din', 'Ami Yeh Jalsaghare' or 'Divas Rajoni, Ami Yeh Kar Ashaye Ashaye Thaki'. In fact, she was called the 'Gitashree'! Once, the Central Government of India announced to honor her with 'Padma Shri'. But, Gitashree rejected it.

    👉 Sandhya Mukherjee's Birth

    Sandhya Mukherjee was born on October 4, 1931, Dhakuria in South Kolkata. She was the daughter of Narendranath Mukherjee and Hemprabha Devi being the youngest of six children. Sandhya herself said in an interview that Ramgati Mukherjee, the progenitor of their dynasty, was a great musician. His son Saradaprasad also practiced music. Sarada Prasad's son was Sandhya's grandfather. Each of them practiced classical music. Sandhya's father, Narendranath was a devotee of Lord Krishna. She learnt the first song from her father. He used to teach her the devotional songs. Her mother, Hemprabha Devi also sang the traditional songs. Nidhubabu's tappa was a favorite. Sandhya Mukherjee became fascinated by her mother's song. 

    Sandhya & Hemanta as the 'Background Singers' 

    👉 Sandhya Mukherjee  - Early life

    December 5, 1943 at the age of 12, Sandhya became the first in the bhajan category in the music competition organized by the All Bengal Music Conference. Mira Bandyopadhyay also took part in that competition.

    At the age of 12, she first sang a song written by lyricist Ajay Bhattacharya in Kolkata Akashvani's 'Galpadadur Asar'. Her first salary on the radio was five rupees. Her first fabulous record was recorded at the age of 13 years and 10 months. It was published from HMV Record Company. Girin Chakraborty provided the lyrics and melody.

    Opportunity to sing behind the scenes came to her in two Bengali films in a couple of years. The music director of the first film is the legendary Raichand Baral. The name of the picture was 'Anjangarh'. Robin Chatterjee was the music director of the second film 'Samapika'. That year, the record of three modern songs in the late forties! Her appearance in the world of music from the mid-forties to the end suggests that her tour was going to be long.

    At the age of 14 and a half, 'Gitashree' was also the first in the examination. The test took place in the mid-forties. After being the first in the two examinations 'Bhajan' and 'Gitashree', singing started in different competitions and it had been going on ever since. Simultaneously Kheyal, Thungri, Bhajan, Ghazal, Kirtan, Bhatiali, Baul, Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Giti, Puratani - there was not a single genre of Bengali music where her footsteps could not be noticed.

    👉 Arrival of Sandhya Mukherjee in music

    Ustad Munawar Ali Khan, son of Ustad Bare Golam Ali Khan, a renowned artist and teacher in the world of classical music, passed away on 13 October 1989. Sandhya Mukherjee called him as her ‘Father’. A memoir of the Sandhya Mukherjee was published in 'Desh' magazine published on 2 December 1989. Sandhya wrote about her music education that magazine. There she acknowledged that she had learnt her first initiation of music from Ustad Bare Golam Ali.

    👉 A wide reminiscence of music practice in the voice of Sandhya Mukherjee

    Later with the revered Chinmoy Lahiri, A Kanon, DT Yogi, Ganapat Rao, Gyanada and Suresh Chandra Chakraborty - some of the opportunities had been privileged. She had been in touch with her father (Ustad Bare Golam Ali Khan) since the early fifties.

    Once she said, “At that time my father was singing all over India. There was no permanent address. His conferences occurred everywhere all over India. My father used to stay at the house of Jnandar Dixon Lane in Calcutta, at the house of Mr. Quader in Jhautla and at the house of Justice Mr. Masud. Later their permanent address was Balu Hakkok Lane. I would go there to learn. There she met Munawar Ali. I called him Vaiya (brother). I, Meera (Meera Bandyopadhyay) used to learn, sometimes my brother (Munawar Ali) would also come and be trained with us.”

    👉 Sandhya Mukherjee's music education

    After the demise of Golam Ali, Sandhya also learned music from Munawar Ali. Munawar used to call Sandhya as Sandhyadi. How was that education? Let's mention an incident. She once recorded Bangla thungri,a popular form of classical songs (e.g. 'Aase na shritam', 'Bajubandh khule khule yaye', 'Kate na birheri raat' etc.) following some famous Hindi thungri of Bare Golam under the supervision of Munawar.

    Then, he made the ornaments in music a little differently and told Sandhya Mukherjee to do the same. Sandhya wrote, “Brother (Munawar Ali) was also an idealist as a teacher. His knowledge of classical music was immense. Father (Ustad Bare Golam Ali Khan) was born for the song. And the way the brother taught the song besides singing was impeccable. His teaching method is excellent. The brother used to teach by understanding who can accept how much, whose voice is like, whose limit is how much. There is no deception in his teaching.”

    Looking at Sandhya Mukherjee’s education, it could be said that she was originally initiated in Patiala gharana. Even though she had such close training in classical music, she could have carefully concealed the identity of her classical music artist while singing modern, film or Rabindra Sangeet. She used to establish her life in the style of that song.

    👉 Sandhya Mukherjee's career in the world of music

    The late 40s –after recording the song of 'Bidushi Varya' to the tune of Rabin Chatterjee, Sandhya had just returned home. Sachin Gangopadhyay, an acquaintance of Sachin Devvarman, came to Sandhya's house and said, "Sachin wants to take you to Bombay. Sachin's wife Meera Devvarman also wants to hear your song. '' Sachindev has already left for Mumbai. Meeradevi still lived at her home in South End Park, Calcutta. Then one day Sandhya Mukherjee went to Meeradevi to made her listen a song. She liked to hear Sandhya Mukherjee. Then, in 1950, she left for Mumbai.

    Sachin's dormitory was at the Evergreen Hotel next to Khar Station in Mumbai. He also arranged for Sandhya Mukherjee there. Sandhya knew Sachin Dev beforehand. They talked to each other at a function in Calcutta.

    Though Sachin Dev took her, the opportunity of her first playback in Mumbai was to the tune of Anil Biswas in the movie 'Tarana'. It was learnt that the elder brother of the Sandhya Mukherjee contacted Anil Biswas in Mumbai.

    Sandhya Mukherjee got acquainted with Lata Mangeshkar while singing in Anil's tune in the movie, 'Tarana'. The song was in a dual voice with Lata - 'Bol papihe bol re, tu bol papihe bol'. Lata's voice was heard on the lips of actress Madhubala and Sandhya Mukherjee song was on Shyama's lips. After Anil's tune, Sandhya also sang in the movie 'Fareb'.

    Within a few days of the introduction, the Sandhya Mukherjee became a close friend with Lata Mangeshkar. Lata often came to the Evergreen Hotel to meet with Sandhya Mukherjee. Along with simple attire, sincere custom, Lata liked Sandhya Mukherjee. There were various discussions about songs with Lata. Later, Lata also came to Dhakuria's house in Sandhya Mukherjee.

    👉 Sandhya Mukherjee's marital life and its influence on her music

    Sandhya had sung as a backing singer in a total of 17 Hindi films. But for whatever reason, she did not prolong her musical life in Bollywood. She decided to return to Calcutta in 1952 for personal reasons. In 1966, she married Shyamal Gupta, a poet and lyricist. 

    Sandhya & Shyamal Gupta

    Shyamal Gupta is the lyricist of many of her songs. After marrying Shyamal Gupta, her life changed a bit. Shyamal Gupta had always tried his best not to touch anything in the Sandhya Mukherjee so that she can remain steadfast in her goal. This period was very important in Sandhya Mukherjee’s life.

    At that time modern songs record had been released one after another. She had recorded multiple songs to the tune of composers like Salil Chowdhury, Nachiketa Ghosh, Rabin Chattopadhyay or Hemant Mukherjee. With that, Sandhya Mukherjee also sang in the background of many films with much attention.

    👉 Sandhya Mukherjee and 'Mahisasurmarddini'

    Participation in 'Mahisasurmarddini' was one of the milestones of the Sandhya Mukherjee artist's life. There were many singers like Pankaj Kumar Mallick, Banikumar, Birendrakrishna Bhadra and a bunch of artists. Sandhya Mukherjee was one of them. At that time there were 'live' programs.

    “We had to leave at 3 o'clock at night at No. 1 Garstin Place”, Sandhya said, “After bathing in the Ganges, Birendra Krishna Vadra used to recite commentary on the dhoti-chadar of gorod (a type of textile).”

    The song 'Bimane Bimane Aloker Gane Jagilo Dhwani' could still be heard in the voice of Sandhya Mukherjee. This song would be recorded later. Supravha Sarkar's recorded song 'Akhil Bimane Tabo Jayagane' and Pratima Bandyopadhyay's 'Amal Kiran Tribhuvan Manoharini' had been sung live many times in the voice of Sandhya Mukherjee.

    In fact, when the show 'Mahisasurmarddini' was live, different artists used to sing the same song again and again every year.

    👉 Sandhya Mukherjee's achievement in the world of Bengali cinema

    In the film 'Agnipriksha', the first voice of Sandhya Mukherjee could be heard on Suchitra's lips. Suchitra-Sandhya pair was the super hit from the beginning! Suchitra acted in such a way that the audience felt as if she was singing herself. Sandhya Mukherjee’s pronunciation, expression, vocal modulation — all in all and the presentation of Bengali film songs began to get a different dimension from that time.

    Gradually it became different from the singing style of Kanandevi, one of the predecessors. The work that Hemanta Mukherjee did in the case of men and later Manna Dey, the same had been done in Sandhya Mukherjee with female voices. She introduced a completely different style to Bengali songs from the traditional style of singing of KL Saigal or Pankaj Kumar Mallick, one of the predecessors of Hemanta Mukherjee. 

    Hemanta Mukherjee & Manna dey

    Suchitra means Sandhya Mukherjee, just as Uttam Kumar's lips song in the film means, the audience had understood, Hemant Mukherjee's voice. Suchitra's lips are on one side as well as her effortless wandering of the Sandhya Mukherjee in different genres of songs. It was as if a distinct part of her musical life, which had given her a different place in the public sphere, that no contemporary Bengali artist had had except Hemant-Manna.

    👉 Sandhya Mukherjee's honor and last life

    Sandhya had received many national honors including Bharat Nirman Award (1999), Banga Bibhushan Award (2011), the highest civilian honor by the Indian state government of West Bengal. But perhaps her greatest reward was her place in the hearts of men. She did not sing in public for many days. Once, at the request of the respected Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, she came to a function a few years ago, picked up a microphone in her hand and sang two lines of a song. The audience returned to the golden age of past just in a moment with her melodious voice. Sandhya Mukherjee departed with the richness of the melody.

    👉 Sandhya Mukherjee's death

    Hemant Mukherjee, Salil Chowdhury, Manna Dey, Shyamal Mitra and Sandhya Mukherjee were parts of the golden age of Bengali music. Hemant, Salil, Manna, Shyamal -they have already left, this time Sandhya Mukherjee, the last representative of the late era.

    It is learned that two of her lungs were infected. The veteran musician was suffering from geriatric illness. In the meantime she fell at home. Femur bone, as a result, broke up with her. On 27 January, 2022 she was taken to the Green Corridor at SSKM Hospital. Next she was admitted to Apollo Hospital, Kolkata after a positive report of COVID-19.

    Occasionally Gitashree's physical condition improved. She was responding to treatment. That's why the doctors operated on her femur bone. The surgery was also successful. But a medical bulletin from Apollo Hospital on Tuesday said Geetashree's condition was "extremely serious". Her blood pressure dropped. At once the legendary musician was put on vasopressor support. Due to the sudden deterioration of the situation on the evening of February 15, 2022 (Tuesday), the last defense could not be made. She was 90 years old at the time of her death.


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