Kichhukhon aro na hoy rohite kachhe...

Kichhukhon aro na hoy rohite kachhe...

Kolkata: Sandhya Mukherjee, one of Bengal's greatest semi-classical singers, died on Tuesday evening at a private hospital after a massive cardiac arrest, leaving behind a legendary, genre-straddling four-decade legacy that made her a rare treasure and the musical voice of an era of romance for millions of Bengalis across the globe.

The iconic singer, who had worked with leading music directors such as SD Burman, Naushad and Salil Chaudhury, was born on October 4, 1931, in Kolkata.

She carried the musical tradition of ancestor Ramgati Mukhopadhyay 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. She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law.

Her death was condoled by a host of luminaries, including Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

She had been in the hospital since January 27 due to ill health and was put on vasopressor support and shifted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) earlier in the day following a drop in her blood pressure, hospital sources said.

She suffered a massive heart attack at around 7.30 pm following which she expired. Because of irregular heartbeats, she could not be revived, the senior hospital official said.

Mourning Mukherjee's death Mamata Banerjee, who had a close relationship with the singer, said she would curtail a three-day tour to the northern districts of the state which had embarked on and would return to the city to attend her last rites.

Banerjee said that the singer's body would be kept at the Rabindra Sadan from noon to 5 pm for her admirers to pay their last respect.

"Sandhyadi's last rites will be conducted with full state honours which include a gun salute. Her body will be kept at the 'peace heaven' (mortuary) tonight and I am trying to be back in the city by tomorrow after which the last rites will be conducted," Banerjee said.

From across the border, Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina mourned Mukherjee's death and in a message said "Gitashree (Distinguished Musician) Sandhya Mukherjee not only spread 'Ganer Mugdhta' (musical magic) throughout the sub-continent, her role in Bangladesh's freedom struggle will never be forgotten."

In January 1972, when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, more commonly called 'Bangabandhu', returned from prison to a newly independent nation, he was greeted by the song "Bangabandhu phire elo tomar, swopner swadhin Banglai… (Bangabandhu has returned to his dream – an independent nation of Bengal)" on Swadhin Bangla Betar (Free Bengal Radio).

It was written by Abidur Rahaman and composed by Sudhin Dasgupta, one of the most prolific composers from West Bengal, and was made more memorable by the effervescent voice of Sandhya Mukherjee.

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.

Cutting across borders, for millions of Bengalis across the globe, Mukherjee had become the musical voice of an era of romance, where Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen ruled the matinee lights of Tollywood.

In the late forties, she started learning music from Santosh Kumar Basu, AT 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.

She began her career as a playback singer in the early fifties but returned to Kolkata in the late 1950s due to personal reasons.

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 over the telephone for her consent before Republic Day this year.

She won a national award in 1971 for her songs in the 1970 Bengali drama Nishi Padma and the Banga Bibhushan Samman, an honour instituted by the West Bengal government, in 2011.

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, E shudhu ganer din, Ghum ghum chand jhikimiki tara, Kichhukhon aro na hoy rohite kachhe are some of the Bengali film songs that people of all ages still remember.

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.

Condoling her death, Hindustani classical maestro Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty said: "It is a personal loss for me. She was a mother figure for all of us. I still can't believe she is no more."

Yesteryears Tollywood star Madhabi Mukherjee, for whose movies Mukherjee had sung several musical numbers, also described her as an elder sister to the juniors of her era.

"I shared a special bond with her. She was at times like an elder sister, and at the time, she was like a mother to me. I still remember the period we worked together," she said.

Singer Usha Uthup said the love, affection and support she had received from her would be some of the most cherished moments of her life.

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