Sailesh Datta Gupta was Hemantaís first music tutor. Hemanta approached a Classical Music trainer to get trained in Classic music but couldnít continue. He had started learning Hindustani classical music under the tutelage of Ustad Faiyaz Khan, but the Ustad's untimely death cut short his learning. Sailesh Datta Gupta introduced Hemanta to Rabindra Sangeet in which he became an exponent later. He had no formal training on Rabindra Sangeet. Sailesh Datta Gupta one day asked him if he knew Rabi Thakurís Songs. When he said in negative, Sailesh Datta Gupta gave him a book that had the notations of the Song "Aamar Mallika Bone". He learnt the song immediately. This was the first time that he learnt Rabindra Sangeet. It was Rabindra Sangeet that gave Hemanta all sorts of inspiration through out his music career. To fine tune and embellish his technique for singing Rabindra Sangeet, he took Rabindra Sangeet lessons from Suchitra Mitra Ė the celebrated Rabindra Sangeet Legend and continued to hear Rabindra Sangeet Classes given by Pankaj Mallik in All India Radio.
Hemantaís initiation into Rabindra Sangeet made an everlasting impact on his composition of music through out his music career. Initially the listeners - upon hearing his Rabindra Sangeet - would dub him as a clone of Pankaj Mallik as he emulated Pankaj Mallik's style of singing in the very beginning. If we hear the Rabindra Sangeet of Hemantaís early years, we can find a similarity between his voice and that of Pankaj Mallik. But in late 50s and 60s, he developed his own distinctive style of singing Rabindra Sangeet that distinguished himself from other Rabindra Sangeet Singers.
In 1937 ho got an opportunity to sing in the cultural program of the University Institute. He was supposed to sing in the program if some of the reputed singers were absent in the program.. But he returned home broken hearted as all of them were present in the program.. Since 1945 he used to get an opportunity to sing songs in the University Institute cultural programs. In 1945 he married Bela Mukhopadhyay who herself was a singer.
Bengali Playback Singer
In 1940, he first emerged as playback singer for a Bengali Movie "Nimai Sannyas" directed by Phani Burma. In that movie, he sang 4 devotional style songs, one of which "Kotha Krishna, Kotha Krishna, Dekha Dao" became very hit. Since then there was no retreating in his ascendance the pinnacle as an undisputed singer in Bengal. The Bengali movie in which he established himself a Music Composer was Ajay Karís Jighansha though his debut in Bengali movie as a Composer was in the Film "Purborag.
Hemanta worked for hundreds of Films as Music Composer and Director. The notable among those are "Jighansha", Sandipan, Pathshala, Shapmochon, Harano Shur, Shesh Paryonto, Lukochuri, Suryomukhi, Suryotoron, Khokababur Pratyaborton, Shikar, Dui Bhai, Morutirthahinlaj, Neel Akasher Niche, Deep Jwele Jay, Baishe Shrabon, Sathihara, Jautuk, Agni Samshkar, Sonar Horin, Modhyorater Taara.
Legendary Uttam Kumarís Voice
The glory of Hemanta as playback singer of the utmost repute canít be described, unless his playback singing for Uttam Kumar in the Bengali Movies - that fetched him enormous fame is not talked about in details. Songs play backed by him for Uttam Kumar one after another became super-hit in almost all the movies. This trend began when he was requested by Sudhin Mukherjee to play back for a romantic movie "Shapmochon" starred by Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. All 3 songs of Uttam Kumar play backed by Hemanta were super hit and thus began a journey of Hemanta-Uttam Era which dominated the Bengali Movies domain for a long period. Once the audience watched the movie Shapmochon, they could hardly ascertain whether the songs ware sung by Uttam Kumar or Hemant. In another famous move "Harano Shur", the director thought that it would be nice of the actor to call the actress by her name "Roma".
But Uttam Kumar wasn't available for that moment. So, it was Hemanta who lent the voice on behalf of Uttam Kumar. The voice was so stunningly synonymous that hardly the audience could realize it. Since then both Uttam Kumar and Hemanta appeared to be such as if they were two brothers of the same mother. Coincidently in a move titled "Dui Bhai", there was a situation in which two brothers starred by Uttam Kumar and Hemanta had the identical voice that could hardly be realized. Hemanta play backed for Uttam Kumar. Then Hemanta-Uttam enthralling combination continued with the movies Tasher Ghar ( "Shunye Dana Mele Pakhira Ure Gele" ), Maru Tirtha Hinglaj ( "Pother Klanti Bhle", "Tomar Bhubone Mago Eto Pap" ), Kuhak ( "Nolo Kishore Go", "Bishnupriya Go Aami Chole Jay" ), Bondi ( "Mou Bone Aaj Mou Jomeche" ), Adwitiya ( "Chanchalo Mon Aanmona Hoy ), Indrani ( Neer Choto Khoti Nei ), Saptapadi ( Ei Poth Jodi Shesh No Hoy ) etc.
Hemanta-Salil Combination :
Salil Chowdhury, the celebrated lyricist and music composer met Hemanta in the mid 40s. In 1949 Hemanta recorded the song "Kono Ek Gayer Bodhu" written and set to tune by Salil Chowdhury. This song become so favourite amongst the listeners especially the middle class and rural people that it was reverberated amongst their lips for quite some time. Since then Hemanta and Salil Combination churned out super hit songs one after another turning both of them into Legendary Status. This song was followed up by "Runnar", "Abak Prithibi Abak Korle Tumi", "Duronto Bhurnir Ei Legeched Pak", "Aami Jharer Kache Rekhe Gelam", "Path Harabo Bole Ebar", "Dhitang Dhitange Bole", "Thikana Aamar Cheyeche", "Moner Janale Dhore".
In 1942 he - under the tutelage of Anadi Dastidar - cut his first Rabindra Sangeet Disc comprising 2 famous songs such as "Aamar Aar Hobe Na Deri", Keno Pantha a Chanchalata". He developed his own distinctive style different from that of Pankaj Mallik with the rendition of these two Rabindra Sangeet.. Thus began a journey of legendary Rabindra Sangeet exponent who made Rabindra Sangeet his life and soul by acquainting the masse with it and taking it to the doorstep of everyone. He introduced a new dimension to Rabindra Sangeet.
In the late 50s and the early 60s he rose to the heightened stardom in Rabindra Sangeet. Some of the songs which were instrumental in elevating him to the status of Rabindra Sangeet exponent are "Aar Naire Bela Namlo Chaya", "Aamar Jabar Belay Pichu Dake", "Aamar Tat Phohalo", "Keno Jamini Na Jete Jagale Na", "He Khonikher Athithi", "Shangsharo Jobe Mono Kery Loy", "Asha Jabar Pother Dhare", "Klanti Aamay Khama Koro Prabhu", "Ei Moninar Aamay Nahi Shaje", "Kache Theke durr Rochilo", "Jakhon Bhanglo Ei Milono Mela", "Aamra Hridoy Tomar Aapon Hater Dole", "Charono Dhorite Diogo Aamare", "Oshru Nodir Shudur Pare", "He Madhobi Dwidha Keno" Etc. In the 1960s and the 970s, he recorded some of his all-time best Rabaindra Sangeet in his Career. He lent his voice for the actor in almost all of the Rabindranath Tagoresí Geetinatya ( Lyrical Drama ) such as Shapmochon ( Aruneshwar ), Chitrangada ( Arjun ), Shyama( Bajrasen ), Chandalika ( Ananda ).
If Pankaj Mallik is credited with popularizing Rabindra Sangeet in the 40s and 50s, then Hemanta can be credited with taking Rabindra Sangeet to the doorstep of the masse. His introduction of Rabindra Sangeet in the Bengali Films was instrumental in further popularizing it to the listeners of all genres. He play backed a good number of Rabindra Sangeet in the Films.. Amongst them the most notables are "Aaji Bashonto Jagrato Dware" ( Chirokumar Sabha ), "Oshru Nodir Shudur Paare" ( Pratinidhi & Naukadubi ), "Jakhon Porbena More Payer Chinho" ( "Bibhash" ), "Diner Sheshe Ghumer Deshe" ( Anindita ), "Tomar Kaache Ei Bar Maagi ( "Bhalobasha Bhalabasha" ) etc. 1984 marked his recording Rabindra Sangeet for over 4 decades. ( List of Bengali Songs playbacked by Hemanta )
Hemant Kumar : Hindi Film Playback Singer :
His debut in the Hindi film songs was in Film "Meenakshi" ( 1942 ).whose music director was Pankaj Mallik. He continued to play back in the Hindi Film Songs till 1947. Success still eluded him as he failed to make an impact in the Hindi Film play back singing. When In 1948 Hemanta sang in a Hindi Film called Zameen Aasmaan, nobody knew him as a playback singer, Hemantaís career didnít get a boost in the Hindi Film from the song play backed in that movie. But 3 years later, Hiren Gupta made him playback for his Film Anandamath. Much to the chagrin of Hemanta Mukherjee, the Film Anandamath didnít fetch him the laurels of success he deserved. He couldnít make a great impact as a Hindi playback singer in Hindi Films until 1952.
It wasnít until 1952 that Hemantaís career as a Playback singer got a shot in the arm when in Guru Duttís Film Jaal, he scored his first hit as a Playback singer with the Song Ye Raat Ye Chaandni Phir Kaha, Sun Ja Dil Ki Dastan under the music composition of noted music composer S. D. Burman. There was no looking back since then. Amongst the most notables of his Hindi Film Songs are "Hi Apna Dil to Aware",( Solva Saal ), "Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein" (Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein (1964), Chandi Ke Chand Tukdo - ( Satta Baazar (1959 ) ), Bekarar Karke Hamen, (Bees Saal Baad (1962), Badli Mein Chhupe Chand ( Shatranj ), Bahaye Chandni Aansoo (Lagaan (1955), Yaad Kiya Dil Ne (Patita (1953). Yeh Jhoomte Nazare (Nai Rahen (1959)), Itna To Kah Do Humse (Saheli (1965), Main Garibon Ka Dil Abe Hayat (1955), Dil Chhed Koi Aisa Naghma (Inspector (1956) ), Tumhi Mere Meet Ho Pyase Panchhi (1961), Door Ka Rahi ( Door Ka Raahi (1971). ( List of Hindi Films where Hemant Kumar playbacked )
He play backed for almost all the prominent music composers, His hit songs mostly came out of the composition of S. D. Burman, Kalyanji-Anandji and himself. He sang a number of romantic duets with Lata such as Yaad Kiya Dil Ne ( Patita ), Badli Mein Chhupe Chand ( Shatranj ), Neend Na Mujhko Aaye( Post Box. 999 ), Yeh Jhoomte Nazare (Nai Rahen (1959)), Itna To Kah Do Humse (Saheli (1965).
Hemant Kumar : Hindi Music Composer :
He debuted as a Music Composer in the Movie Anandamath with Hemant Gupta as the film Director. Unfortunately this move still didnít fetch him the kind of success he deserved. His first superhit movie as a Composer was Nagin. The most famous composition were the songs were "Man Dole Mera Tan Doleí, "Mera Dil E Pukare Aaja".. Since then he composed very good music for a lot of films. It is wrongly criticized by many a critics that Hemantaís success as a Music Composer in the Film "Nagin" was a fluke. He proved them wrong. His next big success came in the the Move Bees Saal Baad.
3 songs ( Ae Mohabbat Meri, Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil, Sapne Suhane Ladakpanke ) playbacked by Lata and 1 ( Bekarar Karke Hamen ) by him were super hit. "Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil" went on to become 1 of the 10 all time best songs of Lata, according to her own admission.
In Anupama, Hemanta made one of the most nostalgic songs playbacked by Lata. In the song "Kuch Dil Ne Kaha" play backed by Lata, Hemanta used minimal orchestration and focused on Lata's breathy vocals as the actress Sharmila Tagore was singing the song "Kuch Dil Ne Kaha" while picking flowers. Hemanta himself sang 1 hit song "Ya dil ki suno Duniyawalo" in that Movie. In Khamoshi which was a remake of Bengali Movie ( Deep Jwele Jaay ), he agains produced some nostaltic song ( Hamne Dekhi Hai ) with Lata's voice.. He himself sang the song "Tum Pukar Lo" which was a super hit,
His other famous music composition are Kahan Le Chale Ho ( Singer : Lata ) from Film : Durgesh Nandini, Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat [ Singer : Lata,], O Bekarar Dil [ Lata Mangeshkar ), Yeh Nayan Dare Dare ( Hemant Kumar ) from the ( Film Kohra ). For more than fifty years of music career, Hemanta presented innumerable hit songs to the listeners. The Number of his recorded songs total about 2000. He composed music of about 150 Bengali over 50 Hindi films. In the 60s, he also brought out his Film Production under the banner of "Geetanjali productions". Since late 60s, he shifted his base to Kolkata and continued to produce super hit songs both as a playback singer and music director. ( List of Hindi Films where Hemant Kumar was music composer )
But after receiving so many awards, when he was offered the Padma Shree, he refused twice to accept the award on excuses that all his assistants got it much before, people much junior to him got it before. His wife Bela Mukherjee asserted with anger that it wouldnít have been right for him to accept the award. The Government should have bestowed the highest award ( obliquely referring to Bharat Ratna ), not just the Padma Shree, had it wanted to express its admiration the lifetime achievement of Hemanta in Indian Music.
The Bangladesh Government awarded him the Poet Michael Madhushudan Dutta Award for his contribution to Bengali music for over 5 decades when he last toured that country barely 2 weeks before his passing away. He sang in the Bangladesh TV after being interviewed by Dr. Abu Hena Mustafa Kamal. He sang the last song of the program "Aamar Ganer Swarolipi Lekha Robe, Aami Jodi Aar Nai Ashi Hetha Phire.", enthralling the Bengali Listeners for the last stage program of his music career. His death on September 26, 1989 not only shocked the music connoisseurs of West Bengali and the rest of India, but also deeply shocked the music admirers, listeners of Bangladesh with many Bangladeshi Daily newspapers giving the news of Hemantaís passing away as the front page coverage. Thus with his decease, a great era which lit the Music arena of the Indian Subcontinent with his dazzling array of musical compositions and rendering of songs that would hardly go into oblivion from any listenerís mind appeared to be going down the Western horizon.
Though Hemanta has left us, yet he remains alive to all his admirers though left the mortal world yet he remains and would continue to remain alive to all his admirers through his countless songs, nostalgic and romantic melodies. Hemanta suffered his first heart attack in 1983. After 1984, he stopped recording any songs according to Doctorsí request. In 1985, he was awarded a D.Litt. by Vishwa-Bharati University. In 1987 he won the National Award for the Movie ( Lalan Fakir ) and the Sangeet Natak Academi award.