Contenders for Phalke award
I was extremely happy when Manna Dey was chosen as the recipient for the Dada Saheb Phalke award for 2007. He is one singer who could have given much more to us had music composers utilized his full potential. But all the same, it is good to have him up there.
Very few people know that Manna Dey’s name was first proposed two years ago by then Congress MP, Nikhil Kumar, and a former Delhi Police Commissioner who is a great Hindi film music buff. Kumar had written a letter to the then Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi recommending Manna Dey. Das Munshi was a little surprised and amused on finding a non-Bengali recommending a Bengali and told Nikhil Kumar that while it was upto the special jury to consider the singer’s name, he will forward his recommendation to the relevant people. Manna Dey’s name was finally considered and approved by the jury comprising many eminent personalities like Yash Chopra, Amjad Ali Khan and Nageshwar Rao.
But on the day, the award was announced, I also went through a list of earlier awardees and to my surprise found that many deserving names were missing from the list. One would have thought that Pran, the legendary villain of hindi screen who later became a successful character actor and Helen were not there amongst film personalities who are alive.
Incidentally Pran was common to all the three camps of the top acting trio of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand and acting along with them in several films. When one talks of a villain in hindi cinema, Pran is synonymous with it. His stylized acting put him way above many of his contemporaries though many other actors also excelled in a villain’s role such as KN Singh, Madan Puri, Prem Nath and Prem Chopra.
Helen was a common feature in most Hindi films having sizzling dances and extra ordinary music. She has a huge fan following.
Amongst those who should also be there up there are of course Mohammad Rafi, Shankar Jaikishan, OP Nayyar, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni, Kishore Kumar to name a few. Many would righlt argue for KL Sehgal. But Phalke awards have always had their share of controversies. When the first award was to be announced, the Bengali and Marathi lobbies clashed. Some thought that V Shantaram should have been the first recepient while others thought that Devika Rani had this right. There is no argument that both deserved but the controversy persisted. Again when Majrooh Sultanpuri got it, many said how could he get it over and above many other poets who were as good as him if not better. Dev Anand got it so late and many obscure people also figured in the list.
But on Phalke awards, I must share what a Hindi films fan shared with me. He had once asked me if I could recall one single situation in a movie where five of the Dada Saheb Phalke award winners figure. I tried but could not think. The answer was in K Asif’s magnus opus, Mughal-e-Azam during the song, Pyar kiya to Darna Kya. The song features Prithviraj Kapoor, Durga Khote, Dilip Kumar. It was sung by Lata Mangeshkar and the music was composed by Naushad. All have won the award.
Hopefully, the award will go to an equally deserving person like Manna Dey in 2008 and in the following years.