Hemant Kumar

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Hemant Kumar
Hemant Kumar 2016 stamp of India (cropped).jpg
Background information
Birth nameHemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay
Born(1920-06-16)16 June 1920
Benares, Benares State, British India
Died26 September 1989(1989-09-26) (aged 69)
Calcutta, West Bengal, India
Genres Film Music, Rabindra sangeet
Occupation(s)Singer, Music director, Producer
Instruments Harmonium
Years active1935–1989

Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, known professionally as Hemant Kumar (16 June 1920 – 26 September 1989), was an Indian Bengali singer and music director who sang in Bengali, Hindi and other Indian languages like Marathi, Gujarati, Odia, Assamese, Tamil, Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Konkani, Sanskrit and Urdu. He was an artist of Bengali and Hindi film music, Rabindra Sangeet, and many other songs. He was the recipient of two National Awards for Best Male Playback Singer.


Hemanta Mukhopadhyay was the exclusive singing voice of Uttam Kumar. He was also popular as being the voice of actors Biswajit Chattopadhyay, Anil Chattopadhyay, Anup Kumar Das, Soumitra Chattopadhyay, Pradeep Kumar Batabyal and Dev Anand.

Early life

Hemanta was born in Varanasi, in the house of his maternal grandfather who was a leading physician. From the paternal side his family originated from Jaynagar. They migrated to Kolkata in the early 1900s. Hemanta grew up there and attended Nasiruddin School and later Mitra Institution school of Bhawanipore area. There he met his longtime friend Subhas Mukhopadhyay who later became a Bengali poet. During this time, he developed a friendship with the noted writer Santosh Kumar Ghosh. At that time, Hemanta wrote short stories, Santosh Kumar wrote poems and Subhash Mukhopadhyay sang songs.[ citation needed ]

After passing the intermediate examinations (12th grade), Hemanta joined Bengal Technical Institute at Jadavpur to pursue Engineering. However, he quit academics to pursue a career in music, despite objections from his father. He briefly tried literature and published a short story in the prestigious Bengali magazine called Desh , but by the late 1930s he was committed entirely to music.[ citation needed ]

Early music career

Under the influence of his friend Subhas Mukhopadhyay, Hemanta recorded his first song for All India Radio in 1935. The first line of the song was "Amar Ganete Ele Nabarupi Chirantanii." Hemanta's music career was primarily mentored by the Bengali musician, Sailesh Duttagupta. In his early life Hemanta used to follow the famous Bengali singer Pankaj Mullick. For this he was nicknamed as "Chhoto Pankaj". In an interview on television in the early 1980s, Hemanta had mentioned that he had also received classical music training from Ustad Faiyaz Khan's student Phanibhusan Gangopadhyay, but his tutelage was cut short by the Ustad's untimely death.

In 1937, Hemanta cut his first gramophone disc under the Columbia label. The songs (non-film) on this disc were "Janite Jadi Go Tumi" and "Balo Go Balo More" whose lyrics were by Naresh Bhattacharya and music was composed by Sailesh Duttagupta. Thereafter, every year Hemanta continued to record non-film discs for the Gramophone Company of India (GCI) till 1984. His first Hindi songs were "Kitana Dukh Bhulaya Tumne" and "O Preet Nibhanewali", released in 1940 under GCI's Columbia label. Music for these songs were composed by Kamal Dasgupta; lyrics were by Faiyaz Hashmi.

Hemanta's first film song was in the Bengali film Nimai Sanyas released in 1941. Music was scored by Hariprasanna Das. Hemanta's first compositions for himself were the Bengali non-film songs "Katha Kayonako Shudhu Shono" and "Amar Biraha Akashe Priya" in 1944. Lyrics were by Amiya Bagchi.His first Hindi film songs were in Irada (1944 film) in 1944 under Pt. Amarnath's music direction. Hemanta is considered the foremost exponent of Rabindra Sangeet. His first recorded Rabindra Sangeet was in the Bengali film Priya Bandhabi (1944). [1] The song was "Pather Sesh Kothaye". He recorded his first non-film Rabindra Sangeet disc in 1944 under the Columbia label. The songs were "Aamar Aar Habe Na Deri" and "Keno Pantha E Chanchalata". Prior to that he had recorded the song "Aamaar mallikabone " in All India Radio/Akashvani but, unfortunately, the record has passed into oblivion. [2]

His first movie as a music director was the Bengali film Abhiyatri in 1947. Although many of the songs Hemanta recorded during this time received critical acclaim, major commercial success eluded him until 1947. Some contemporary male singers of Hemanta in Bengali were Jaganmay Mitra, Robin Majumdar, Satya Chowdhury, Dhananjay Bhattacharya, Sudhirlal Chakraborty, Bechu Dutta [3] and Talat Mahmood.


Hemanta had three brothers and a sister, Nilima. His elder brother Shaktidas Mukhopadhyay, and younger brother Tarajyoti Mukhopadhyay, was a short-story writer in Bengali. The youngest brother, Amal Mukhopadhyay, composed music as well as sang (Ehy Prithibithey Sharita Jibon) for some Bengali movies, most notably Hospital and Abak Prithibi . He recorded a few Bengali songs in the 1960s and also composed music for one of the most memorable renditions – " Jiboner Anekta Path Eklai.." – of Hemanta [4]

In 1945, Hemanta married Bela Mukherjee (died 25 June 2009), [5] a singer from Bengal. Although Bela had sung some popular songs in the movie, Kashinath (1943), with music by Pankaj Mullick, she did not actively pursue her musical career after marriage. They had two children: a son, Jayant, and a daughter, Ranu. Ranu as Ranu Mukhopadhyay pursued a music career in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with somewhat limited success. Jayant is married to Moushumi Chatterjee, an Indian film actress who was popular in the 1970s.

Success and migration to Mumbai

Kumar with Rajendra Prasad and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1950. Hemanta Mukherjee with Rajendra Prasad and Jwaharlal Nehru, 1950.JPG
Kumar with Rajendra Prasad and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1950.

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. [6]

Around the same period, Hemanta started receiving more assignments for music composition for Bengali films. Some were for director Hemen 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. [7] His songs for actor Dev Anand under the music direction of S. D. Burman in movies like Jaal (1952) ("Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahan"), House No. 44 (1955) ("Chup Hai Dharti" and "Teri Duniya Mein Jeene Se"), Solva Saal (1958) ("Hai Apna Dil To Awara"), and Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962) ("Na Tum Humen Jano"), attained popularity. In the 1950s, he also play-backed for other heroes of Hindi films like Pradeep 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.

Career rise

By the mid-1950s, Hemanta had consolidated his position as a prominent singer and composer. In Bengal, he was one of the foremost exponents of Rabindra Sangeet and perhaps the most sought-after male singer. In a ceremony organised by Hemanta Mukherjee to honour Debabrata Biswas (1911–1980), the legendary Rabindra Sangeet exponent, in Calcutta in March 1980, Debabrata Biswas unhesitatingly mentioned Hemanta as "the second hero" to popularise Rabindra Sangeet, the first being the legendary Pankaj Kumar Mallick. In Mumbai, along with playback singing, Hemanta carved a niche as a composer. He composed music for a Hindi film called Nagin (1954) which became a major success owing largely to its music. Songs of Nagin remained chart-toppers continuously for two years and culminated in Hemanta receiving the prestigious Filmfare Best Music Director Award in 1955. The very same year, he scored music for a Bengali movie called Shapmochan in which he played back four songs for the Bengali actor Uttam Kumar. This started a long partnership between Hemanta and Uttam as a playback singer-actor pair. They were the most popular singer-actor duo in Bengali cinema over the next decade.

In the latter part of the 1950s, Hemanta composed music and sang for several Bengali and Hindi films, recorded several Rabindra Sangeet and Bengali non-film songs. Almost all of these, especially his Bengali songs, became very popular. This period can be seen as the zenith of his career and lasted for almost a decade. He sang songs composed by the major music directors in Bengal such as Nachiketa Ghosh, Robin Chatterjee and Salil Chowdhury. Some of the notable films Hemanta himself composed music for during this period include Harano Sur , Marutirtha Hinglaj , Neel Akasher Neechey , Lukochuri , Swaralipi, Deep Jwele Jaai , Shesh Parjanta , Kuhak, Dui Bhai, and Saptapadi in Bengali, and, Jagriti and Ek Hi Raasta in Hindi.

Movie production

In the late 1950s, Hemanta ventured into movie production under his own banner: Hemanta-Bela productions. The first movie under this banner was a Bengali film directed by Mrinal Sen, titled Neel Akasher Neechey (1959). The story was based on the travails of a Chinese street hawker in Calcutta in the backdrop of India's freedom struggle. The movie went on to win the President's Gold Medal — the highest honour for a movie from Government of India. In the next decade, Hemanta's production company was renamed Geetanjali productions and it produced several Hindi movies such as Bees Saal Baad , Kohraa, Biwi Aur Makaan, Faraar, Rahgir and Khamoshi — all of which had music by Hemanta. Only Bees Saal Baad and Khamoshi were major commercial successes.

Back in Bengal, Hemanta scored music for a movie titled Palatak in 1963 where he experimented with merging Bengal folk music and light music. This proved to be a major success and Hemanta's composition style changed noticeably for many of his future films in Bengal such as Baghini, and Balika Badhu . In Bengali films Manihar and Adwitiya, both of which were major musical as well as commercial successes, his compositions had a light classical tinge. In 1961, for commemorating Rabindranath Tagore's birth centenary, Gramophone company of India featured Rabindrasangeet by Hemanta in a large portion of its commemorative output. This too proved to be a major commercial success. Hemanta went on several overseas concert tours including his trip to the West Indies. Overall, in the 1960s decade he retained his position as the major male singer in Bengal and as a composer and singer to be reckoned with in Hindi films.

In the 1960s he was the predominant and lead male voice in many of Tagore's musical dramas like Valmiki Pratibha, Shyama, Sapmochan, Chitrangada and Chandalika. With Kanika Bandopadhyay (1924–2000) and Suchitra Mitra (1924–2010), who were the lead female voices in these, he was part of the Rabindra Sangeet triumvirate that was popular and respected. It was referred as 'Hemanta-Kanika-Suchitra' and, with Debabrata Biswas, this quartet was and continues to be the mostly heard exponents of Tagore compositions. Asoktaru Bandopadhyay, Chinmoy Chattopadhyay, Sagar Sen, Sumitra Sen and Ritu Guha were the other leading exponents of Rabindra Sangeet at that time.

Later career

In the 1970s, Hemanta's contribution in Hindi films was nominal. He scored music for a handful of his home productions, but none of these movies were successful nor their music. In Bengal, however, he remained the foremost exponent of Rabindra Sangeet, film and non-film songs. His output continued to be popular for most of the decade. Some of them are Jodi jante chao tumi... (1972), Ek gochha rajanigandha, Aamay prasno kore nil dhrubatara..., Sedin tomay dekhechilam... (1974), Khirki theke singho duar... (Stree, 1971), Ke jane ko ghonta... (Sonar Khancha, 1974), Jeona daraon bandhu... (Phuleswari, 1975 ) and popularised Rabindra sangeet using them beautifully in films as per situations. A very popular and classic example is the song Chorono dhorite diyogo amare.. in Dadar Kirti (1980). In 1971, Hemanta debuted as a film director in for his self-produced Bengali movie Anindita. It didn't fare exceedingly well at the box office. However, his rendition Diner seshe ghumer deshe was one of his best and popular Rabindra Sangeet renditions. In the same year Hemanta went to Hollywood by responding to film director Conrad Rooks and score the music of Conrad's Siddhartha and played back [ O Nadire... (composed and sang by him earlier in Neel Aakaser Niche) in that film. He was the first Indian singer to play back in Hollywood. The US government honoured Hemanta by conferring him with the citizenship of Baltimore, Maryland; the first ever singer of India to get USA citizenship. In the early to mid-1970s, two major music composers in Bengal, Nachiketa Ghosh and Robin Chatterjee, who had worked closely with Hemanta, since the early 1950s, died. Simultaneously, music composed by Hemanta for Bengali films like Phuleswari, Raag Anurag, Ganadebata and Dadar Kirti established him as the major film music composer in the Bengal movie scene. In 1979, Hemanta re-recorded some of his earlier works with composer Salil Chowdhury from the 1940s and 1950s. This album, titled Legend of Glory, vol. 2 was a major commercial success.

In 1980, Hemanta had a heart attack that severely affected his vocal capabilities, especially his breath control. He continued to record songs in the early eighties, but his voice was a shade of its rich baritone past. In 1984, Hemanta was felicitated by different organizations, most notably by the Gramophone Company of India, for completing 50 years in music. That very year Hemanta released his last album with Gramophone Company of India — a 45 rpm extended play disc with four non-film songs. Over the next few years, Hemanta released few non-film songs for small-time companies that had cropped up in the nascent cassette-based music industry. Only a few of these were commercially successful. He composed music for a handful of Bengali movies and one Bengali and one Hindi tele-series. However, by this time he had become an institution, a beloved and revered personality who was a courteous and friendly gentleman. His philanthropic activities included running a homeopathic hospital in memory of his late father in their native village in Baharu, in the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. He continued to feature regularly on All India Radio, Doordarshan (TV) and live programmes/concerts during this period.

In a television interview, recorded in the early 1990s, to noted elocutionist Gauri Ghosh, his wife Bela Mukherjee recalled that she never knew during his lifetime the number of families and persons he helped to put up financially or otherwise; it was only after his departure that this truth gradually unveiled.

In 1987, he was nominated for Padmabhushan which he refused politely, having already turned down a previous offer to receive Padmashree in the 1970s. In this year, he was publicly felicitated in Netaji Indoor Stadium in Calcutta for completing 50 years in musical journey, where, Lata Mangeshkar presented him with the memento on behalf of his fans and admirers. Despite his aging voice, he became the Best Male Singer in 1988 for his rendition in the film "Lalan Fakir".

In September 1989 he travelled to Dhaka, Bangladesh to receive the Michael Madhusudan Award, as well as to perform a concert. Immediately after returning from this trip he suffered another heart attack on 26 September and died at 11:15 pm in a nursing home in South Calcutta.


Kumar in a 2016 stamp of India. Hemant Kumar 2016 stamp of India.jpg
Kumar in a 2016 stamp of India.

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.

Hemant Kumar 2003 stamp of India Hemant Kumar 2003 stamp of India.jpg
Hemant Kumar 2003 stamp of India


Filmography as a composer

English filmography as a composer

1972 Siddhartha

Bengali filmography as a composer

Total number of films: 138

1947 Abhiyatri
1948 Bhuli Naai
Padma Pramatta Nadi
1949 Diner Par Din
Sandipan Pathshala
1951 Jighansa
1952 Swapno O Samadhi Jointly with Khagen Dasgupta
1955 Shapmochan
1956 Suryamukhi
1957 Shesh Parichay
Taser Ghar
Harano Sur
1958 Lukochuri
Neel Akasher Neechey
1959 Deep Jwele Jaai
Marutirtha Hinglaj
Sonar Harin
Kshaniker Atithi
1960 Baishey Shravan
Gariber Meye
Khoka Babur Prayabartan
Shesh Paryanta
1961Dui Bhai
Agni Sanskar
Madhya Rater Tara
Sathi Hara
1962 Atal Jaler Ahwan
Dada Thakur
Hansuli Banker Upakatha
1963 Badshah
Ek Tukro Agun
High Heel
Saat Pake Bandha
Shesh Prahar
1964 Arohi
Natun Tirtha
Prabhater Rang
Swarga Hotey Biday
Sindure Megh
1965 Alor Pipasa
Ek Tuku Basa
Ek Tuku Chhonya Lage
1966Kanch Kata Hirey
1967 Balika Badhu
Dushtu Prajapati
Nayika Sangbad
Ajana Shapath
Jiban Sangeet
1969Chena Achena
Man Niye
Shuk Sari
1970Deshbandhu Chittaranjan
Duti Mon
Mahabiplabi Arabindo
Shriman Prithviraj
1974Bikele Bhorer Phool
Mohan Baganer Meye
Nishi Mrigaya
Raag Anuraag
Sansar Simantey
1976Banhi Sikha
1977Din Amader
Hatey Roilo Tin
Shesh Raksha
1978 Ganadevata
Nadi Theke Sagare
Pranay Pasha
1979Shahar Theke Dooray
Nauka Dubi
Dadar Kirti
Paka Dekha
Shesh Bichar
1981Kapal Kundala
Khelar Putul
Subarna Golak
1982Chhoto Maa
Uttar Meleni
1983Amar Geeti
1984Agni Shuddhi
1985Bhalobasa Bhalobasa
Boba Sanai
1988Surer Sathi
1989 Bhalobasar Rat

Hindi filmography as a composer

1952 Anand Math
1954Daku Ki Ladki
Bhagwat Mahima
1956 Anjaan
Arab Ka Saudagar
Durgesh Nandini
Ek Hi Raasta
Hamara Watan
Ek Jhalak
Hill Station
Kitna Badal Gaya Insaan
Miss Mary
Yahudi Ki Ladki
1958 Do Mastane
1959 Chand
Hum Bhi Insaan Hai
1960Girl Friend
Duniya Jhukti Hai
1962 Bees Saal Baad
Maa Beta
Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam
1963 Bin Badal Barsaat
1964 Kohraa
1965Do Dil
1966 Biwi Aur Makaan
1967 Majhli Didi
1968 Do Dooni Char
1969 Khamoshi
Devi Choudhurani
1970Us Raat Ke Baad
1972 Bees Saal Pehle
1977 Do Ladke Dono Kadke
1979 Love in Canada

Other languages filmography as a composer

1961Ayel Basant Bahar
1964Balma Bada Nadaan

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  1. Tagore Songs by Hemanta Mukherjee. faculty.ist.unomaha.edu
  2. Debashis Dasgupta, Desh, Bengali weekly magazine from Anandabazar Patrika Ltd., Calcutta, 11 November 1989. P. 36
  3. S. Bhattacharya, Amar gaaner swaralipi, A. Mukherjee Press, Calcutta, 1988. Pp. 82,83,84
  4. Mostly complete discography
  5. "Singer passes away". The Times of India . 26 June 2009. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  6. Salil Chowdhury's obituary
  7. Hemant Kumar: That velvet touch


  1. Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay, "Ananda dhara", Deb Sahitya Kutir Press, Calcutta, 1970.
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