This is a special tribute to Geetashree Sandhya Mukherjee on her death.
Sandhya Mukherjee, the pied piper of Bengali music, who gave birth to a cascade of never-heard-before musical melodies that became the lyrical language of millions of romantic hearts, died at the age of 90 in a city hospital, leaving behind a legacy of unforgettable songs that will be remembered long after she is gone.
After Hemanta Mukherjee, Manna Dey, and Shyamal Mitra, Mukherjee was the last living legend in ‘Modern Bengali Songs.’ She not only had a lyrical spectrum of musical rainbow that cast a spell on the romantic dreams of Bengali audiences for more than four decades, but she also had a fearless and undeterred voice even until the end of her life when she could boldly refuse the central government’s ‘Padma I’m not going to get it).
She was taken to the SSKM hospital with shortness and a lung infection a few days after declining the prestigious award. She was later transferred to a private hospital, where she was discovered to be Covid positive, and she died after a 19-day battle. Mukherjee retired from singing in 2003, but she was revered and honoured to the end.
Mukherjee, the youngest of six siblings, was born on October 4, 1931, in Dhakuria, South Kolkata, to railway employee Narendranath Mukherjee and Hemprabha Devi. Santosh Kuamr Basu was her first music teacher, and A.T. Kanan and Chimoy Lahiri helped her refine her skills.
Ustad Bade Golam Ali Khan and his son, Ustad Manwar Ali Khan, were afterwards appointed as her Gurus (Teacher). Mukherjee has sang countless songs for films, but she has never shied away from Indian classical music, according to experts. Her heart melted as she listened to Indian classical music and contemporary Bengali songs.
Despite the fact that she has sang a wide range of songs, she is most known for her Bengali film songs. It’s been argued that Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen’s box-office hits will never be complete without Hemanta Mukherjee and Sandhya Mukherjee’s contributions. ‘Gane mor Indradhanu,’ ‘Ei poth jodi na sesh hoi,’ and ‘Ke tumi Amare Dako’ are still popular Bengali songs.
Despite her musical success, Mukherjee maintained her sense of independence and self-esteem. During Bangladesh’s liberation war, she became involved in the mass movement and donated funds for thousands of refugees. She and Bangladeshi artist Samar Das founded ‘Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra,’ a radio station in Bangladesh at the time where she recorded and broadcast patriotic songs that motivated thousands of Bangladeshi liberation fighters. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman sang the song “Bangabandhu Tumi Phire Ale” in the evening after his release.
She also performed for the ‘Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra’ (Free Bangladesh Radio) in Kolkata, which was established by Bangladesh’s exile government.Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding father, was greeted by a song sung by Mukherjee and broadcast on Swadhin Bangla Betar when he returned to Bangladesh in 1972.
Hindustani classical master Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty expressed his condolences for her death, saying: “For me, this is a deeply personal loss. For all of us, she was like a mother. I’m still in shock that she’s no longer with us.”
Madhabi Mukherjee, a Tollywood diva who has sang countless musical numbers in her films, has described her as an older sister to the juniors of her generation. “She and I had a particular bond. She was like an older sister at times and a mother to me at others. I recall the time we collaborated, and it was one of my favourite periods of my life “she expressed herself.
Usha Uthup, a singer, said she will cherish the love, affection, and support she has received from her.
Even in her final days, when she refused and stated, “My country loves me,” she demonstrated her patriotism and self-respect. In 2003, I took a break from singing. My goal is to achieve this. That’s all I’ve ever done. Nothing drew my attention. In my life, I had never considered receiving the Padma Shri. I don’t need Padma Shri or anything else when my family loves me. Nothing is more important to me than the love of my fellow citizens.