Two of the best ever adulations showered upon Hemanta came from Salil Chowdhury and Lata Mangeshkar. Salil Chowdhury - dubbed as one of the best and the most versatile multilingual music composers of all time was often quoted as saying that if God were to sing, He would have sung the way Hemanta Da used to sing.
Lata Mangeshkar - the melody queen and the nightingale of India commented that while listening to Hemanta Da, it would seem to her as if a saint were singing inside a Temple. She further commented that Hemanta Da was not only a fabulous singer, but also a great composer of unsurpassable talents and that his music was blended with the music of Rabindra Sangeet, Bengali Folk songs, the regional music elements of Assam and Bengal and Classical and Devotional Songs.
Such prolific and effervescent eulogy showered upon Hemanta is not at all unnatural given the fact that Hemanta Mukherjee revolutionized the Indian Hindi and Bengali Music post World War II and brought to the fore a millennium which got the sobriquet as "Hemanta Yug". If we were to find a synonymous word "All rounder" in the Cricket Term, he can be dubbed as a genuine all rounder who was not only an extremely good singer of the highest calibre, but also a good music composer in his own right.
Birth and Childhood
Hemanta Mukherjee was born on June 16, in 1920 at Baranashi in his Maternal Uncle's abode. His father's name was Kalidas Mukherjeee and mother's name was Kiran Bala Devi. He was the middle amongst his three brothers. His younger brother Amal Mukherjee was a singer and music director. He passed his childhood days in a village called Baharu in Jainagar where he developed a liking for music. He was exposed to jatras and kabigaans in his childhood that ultimately made an impact on his music career. But very soon he and his family moved to Kolkatta. His father used to have a small profile job with which he used to manage the family. His father wanted him to be an Engineer and earn a lot of money through this profession. But his mother wanted her son to become a reputed singer like Pankaj Mallik and Saigal. His father wasn't too satisfied with his son's penchant for music. He never thought that he could've a successful music career. But destiny couldn't prevent him from his son's carving out a niche in music career that blossomed into a legendary status later. Despite opposition from his father, Hemanta could continue singing because of his mother's inspiration..
Education & early life
Hemanta studied in Nasiruddin Memorial High School and then in Mitra Institution. While studying at the Mitra Institution, he met Poet Subhash Mukhopadhyaya who went on to become his best friend. Having grown deep interest in Bengali Literature, he along with Subhash and other friends formed "Kalyan Sangha" a literary club to bring out a handwritten magazine. Hemanta used to visit his Poet friend Subhash Mukhopadhyay and used the latter's harmonium as he didn't have his own at that time. It was the jest of Subhash that acted as a catalyst to mould Hemanta into groove in music. Subhash Mukhopadhyay was instrumental in introducing Hemanta to All India Radio ( the sanctum scrotum of Indian Music ). Subhash encouraged Hemanta to have try his luck in singing a song at AIR. Once Hemanta passed the audition test, After composing the music himself, he sang the song "Aamar Gaanete Elo Naborupe chirontoni" written by Poet Subhash Mukherjee in AIR at no remuneration. At that time it was a matter of great fortune to get an opportunity to sing in a Radio Program.
Early journey to Music Career
Hemanta never intended to take up music as his profession. Singing was just a hobby initially to him But after his first stint as singer at AIR, he found indomitable interest in music than ever before. But his journey to proceed with a music career wasn't so easy at the time when Music maestro Pankaj Mallik dominated the Bengali Music and brought "Rabindra Sangeet" to the fore of the Mass listeners. A number of noted Rabindra Sangeet singers such as Shantideb Ghosh arose in the Bengali Music Horizon to enrich Rabindra Sangeet with their celebrated voices. Some lyricists of the highest calibre such as Bani Kumar, Ajay Bhattachary, Shailen Roy penned very enriched and poetic lyrics for the celebrated singers such as Pankaj Mallik and Saigol to lend voice. He was refused to have a recording session by 2 Music Recording Companies such Senola and Megaphone with the latter refusing to listen to Hemanta's voice. Being disheartened at these events, he refrained form approaching any recording company on his own initiative.
Release of Disc
In 1937, he passed his matriculation examination with a First Division, A Bengali story written by Hemanta was published the Illustrated Bengali Weekly Magazine "Desh" Magazine. To fulfil his father's wishes of becoming an Engineer, he enrolled in Jadabupur University.
On many occasions, Hemanta used to be requested to sing songs by the relatives, friends when the visitors would visit their home as his voice began to be liked by his relatives and friends. In such an eventful occasion, Hemanta's father's friend - being impressed by Hemanta's voice decided to take him to Sailesh Datta Gupta the music supervisor of Columbia Music Company.
At the first sight, Datta Gupta liked Hemanta and avidly listened to Hemanta's voice immediately and recommended that he could have a recording session. Within fifteen days, Hemanta's first disc with First Song. "Janite jadi go tumi" on one side and the other song "Balo go balo more" on the opposite side penned by the Lyricist Naresh Bhattacharya was released by the Columbia Recording Company under the music direction of Sailesh Datta Gupta. Quite unimaginatively, Hemanta was barely sixteen at the time of the release of his disk. His next disc was released in another few months "Tomaare chaahiyaa Priya" and "Tumi je sudur chand kuasha chhaoa". That year 1937 proved to be the turning point of Hemanta's career as he got the crucial breakthrough he was looking forward to. Theses two discs made him acquainted with the listeners.
Dropout of Study
After these releases, there grew an indomitable passion in him to take up singing as a career.. But he soon found music and Engineering Study clashing with each other. He had to take a final and the most difficult decision of his life whether to pursue a career in singing or continue his Engineering study. He learned stenography to support himself in the meantime. To support his family and himself, he started giving tuitions. Against his father's wishes, after nearly 2 years of study, he finally dropped out of his Engineering study in Jadabpur University to take up singing as a full-fledged career. Unlike his father, his mother was overjoyed and hoped that one day her son's records would be placed on the shelves of music shop along with those of Pankaj Mallik, Saigol, and S. D. Burman.