In Hemant Kumar Mukhopadhyaya we have an ideal of yet another Bengali musician who efficiently strode multiple music-related worlds! He sang and composed Bangali modern melodies, composed Bengali and Hindi film music and, in addition, served to the spread of Rabindra Sangeet through his illustrations! For over fifty long years Hemant was active in music in equally demanding diverse fields and he notably achieved distinction in all of them! Further, he entered the field as a singer when both Bangla Gaan and Rabindra Sangeet could boast of celebrated artists – and yet this ‘untrained’ voice made its deep impact! It is no shock that at a later point Ustad Amir Khan could not believe it possible to render melodious and moving numbers as Hemant Kumar did – without any training.
Hemant Kumar was horn in Benatas (Kashi) on June 17. 1920, educated in Calcutta and studied engineering in Jadavpur University at a time when music and singing were not venerated easily acceptable pursuits by and for the gentry! He wrote a short story, sang for AIR and cut his first disc of Modern Bengali song — all during 1935-1937 — foreseeing in a way his artistic alternatives! He always maintained that he had no systematic training in ‘classical music’ but received guidance from Panchu Gopal Bose and mini Banerjee (a disciple ofUsrad Faiyaz Khan).The latter reportedly taught Hemant on the pre-condition that he eschewed singing modem songs! (One more name mentioned as Hemant’s guru in the realistic category is Nirapad Mukherjee). Fond of Rabindra Sangeet, Hemant cut a disc of Rabindra Sangeet in 1949 and participated in chorus for New Theatre productions. (Honorarium of Rs. 20 that he acquired for the first song he recorded — enabled him to purchase a harmonium). He worked for a while as an assistant to composer Hari Prasanna Dass.
Hemant’s first Bengali playback was in Nimai Sannyasi in 1940.
Hemant Kumar had an interesting way of composing when he was working in ‘other’ languages. For example, when he was given a composition in Marathi he would write down the text in Bengali and then substitute each word with a Bengali word of precisely the same duration and then compose a tune.
Hemant always acknowledged that he derived his inspiration from Rabindra Sangeet and agonized the fact that modern composers in films were totally isolated from the creative course of film making.
Some of his songs include:-