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Legendary Bengali singer Sandhya Mukherjee passes away

Legendary Bengali singer Sandhya Mukherjee passed away in a hospital in Kolkata on Tuesday evening following massive cardiac arrest, hospital sources said.

She died at the age of 90 at Apollo Hospital in Kolkata, West Bengal around 7.30PM on Tuesday, report Indian newspapers.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offered her condolences.

Sandhya Mukherjee was hospitalised in the last week of January due to complications related to Covid-19 infection.

Sandhya Mukherjee was in the news recently after she turned down the Padma Shri. On 26 January 2022, on the Republic Day and a few days before affecting by COVID-19, she was awarded the Padma Shri for her outstanding contributions in Music. However, she refused the award by telling it “disparaging and degrading”.

Soumi Sengupta, daughter of the veteran playback singer, said that her mother declined the honour because “To confer a Padma Shri to a legend like her at the age of 90 is extremely demeaning”. “There isn’t any politics behind it. She is beyond any politics. She felt insulted, that’s all,” Soumi had said.

Considered one of the sweetest voices of playback singing in the 60s and 70s, Sandhya Mukherjee has thousands of songs in Bengali and nearly a dozen other languages to her credit. Her duets with legendary singer Hemanta Mukherjee are particularly revered by music lovers.

Sandhya Mukherjee received the Banga Bibhusan, the highest civilian honour given by the West Bengal government, in 2011. She was conferred with the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1970 for Jay Jayanti, the Bengali remake of the Hollywood classic Sound of Music.

Sandhya Mukherjee was born in Dhakuria, Calcutta, on 4 October 1931 to Narendranath Mukherjee, a railway official, and Hemprova Devi. She was the youngest of six children. Her grandfather was a police officer, and the family had lived in Dhakuria since 1911.

Sandhya started her music training under the direction of Pandit Santosh Kumar Basu, Professor A T Kannan, and Professor Chinmoy Lahiri. However, her guru was Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, followed by his son Ustad Munavvar Ali Khan, under whom she mastered Indian classical music. According to Manorma Sharma, “Sandhya has been able to maintain her popularity as a classical vocalist even after acquiring the gloss and the glow of playback singing.”

Her best known collaboration is arguably with the Bengali singer Hemanta Mukherjee with whom she sang numerous duets, primarily as playback for Bengali films. Hemanta and Sandhya became known as the voices behind the pairings of the Bengali superstar Uttam Kumar and his numerous heroines, most notably being the actress Suchitra Sen, whose singing voice she became. Besides Hemanta Mukherjee’s compositions, her largest body of work is with Robin Chattopadhyay and Nachiketa Ghosh.

During the Bangladesh Liberation War, she joined the mass movement among Indian Bengali artistes to raise money for the millions of refugees who had poured into Kolkata and West Bengal to escape the fighting, and to raise global awareness for the cause of Bangladesh. She assisted Bangladeshi musician Samar Das as he set up the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, the clandestine radio station broadcasting to Bangladesh and recorded several patriotic songs for him. On the occasion of the release of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the imprisoned leader of the new country of Bangladesh, she released a song Bangabandhu Tumi Phirey Ele. She later became one of the first foreign artists to visit Dhaka, performing at an open-air concert in Paltan Maidan in Dhaka to celebrate the first Ekushey February after Bangladeshi independence in 1971.

In Bengali films her voice was recognised as the voice of the legendary actress Suchitra Sen. Her songs lip synced by Suchitra Sen – ‘Gane Mor Kon Indro Dhanu’, ‘Fhuler Kane Bhromor Ane’, ‘E Sudhu Ganer Din’ and ‘Ei Modhu Rat Sudhu Phool Papiyar’ were unique. Apart from the songs from the movies, the other modern Bengali songs like, ‘Hoeto Kichui Nahi Pabo’, Modhur Modhur Bangshi Baje’, Choiti Phuler Ki Badish Ranga Rakhi’, ‘Tara Jhilmil Swapna Michil’, ‘Gun Gun Mun Bhomora, and ‘Aye Brishti Jhepe, Dhan Debo Mepe’, are immortal. Among her Rabindra Sangeet, ‘Jete Deo Gelo Jara’, ‘Ogo Ke Jabi Pare’, ‘Amar Se Din Bheshe Geche’, ‘Dip Nibhe Geche Momo’, and ‘Dibasha` Rajani Ami Jeno Kar’, are noteworthy. Her classical based voice suited Nazrul Geeti and the following songs are very popular till today – ‘Janam Janam Gelo Asha Potho Chahia’, ‘Horir Rang Lage Aji’, ‘Amar Aponar Cheye Apon Je Jon’, ‘Anjali Loho Mor Sangite’, ‘Harano Hiyar Nikunjo Bone, ‘Kemone Rakhi Akhi Bari Chapiya’, and ‘Bidaye Sandhya Ashilo Oi’. Her two Rajanikanta’s songs, ‘Amito Tomare Chahini Jibone’, and ‘Tumi Nirmolo Koro Mongolo Kore’ will live forever to the listeners.

She married to the famous composer Shyamol Gupa. They have a daughter called Soumi Sengupta Jhinuk and a grandson called Rahul.