Kolkata: Musical icon Sandhya Mukherjee’s death on a Tuesday evening left millions of her followers who grew up on her singing for Tollywood mega-stars like Suchitra Sen in classics of a Golden era of Bengali movies from 1950s to 1990s, in tears.
The death of the ailing legend was expected, but the void Mukherjee left behind in the musical world may perhaps remain difficult to fill, feel many.
She had shown equal prowess in classical and light classical songs, modern Bengali songs, and even songs of Rabindranath Tagore. She had lent her voice also in several Hindi films.
‘Ei poth jadi na sesh hoy (suppose this road is endless), ‘E shudhu ganer din (today is the day of songs)’, ‘Ghum ghum chand jhikimiki tara (Sleepy moon and twinkling stars)’, ‘Kichhukhon aro na hoy rohite kachhe (You could have stayed for some more time with me)’ are some of the Bengali film songs that people still remember.
Mukherjee was born on October 4, 1931, in Kolkata. She carried the musical tradition of ancestor Ramgati Mukhopadhtay and his son Saradaprasad, her great grandfather.
At the age of 12 when she had sung in All India Radio and her first record was out when she was just 13.
In the late 40s, she started learning music from Santosh Kumar Basu, A T Kannan and Chinmoy Lahiri. However, she began her formal training under Patiala Gharana under legendary Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Under his tutelage, she mastered the art of Indian classical music.
Mukherjee debuted as a playback singer in ‘Anjangarh’ film under the music direction of Raichand Boral.
She went to Mumbai in 1950 at the invitation of S D Burman and debuted in Hindi film music with ‘Tarana’.
In Mumbai, Mukherjee had worked with leading music directors, including SD Burman, Madan Mohan, Naushad, Anil Biswas and Salil Chaudhury.
Mukherjee who had sung in 17 Hindi films returned to Kolkata in 1952 and got married to lyricist Shyamal Gupta in 1966.
He then started singing under the direction of legends like Hemanta Mukherjee, Salil Choudhury, Nachiketa Ghosh, Rabin Chatterjee.
In Bengali films, Mukherjee had sung the first playback in ‘Agnipariksha’ on the lips of Suchitra Sen and regaled the audience marking her own stamp in Bengali film music.
Her last public performance was during the inauguration of Sangeet Mela in 2018.
Mukherjee played a role in the Bangladesh liberation war joining many leading artists who performed free concerts to raise money for the 10 million East Pakistan citizens who were forced to seek refuge in India.
The singer, a recipient of ‘Banga Bibhushan’ and National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer, had refused an offer of a Padma Shri award when she was contacted by central government officials telephonically for her consent before Republic Day this year.