The land of cultural riches that Bengal is, it is no wonder that the state has since ages harboured and nurtured some phenomenal talents. Be it in artistic creativity or literary renditions, in the facade of folk presence or in classical prominence, Bengal has always been a celebration of the arts and the artists, of cultural manifestations and of gifted pursuits. Music in particular has been a continuous flow of passion from this land, hailed as the home of the legendary Rabindranath Tagore, considered the doyen of a wide many range of creative expressions. And the melody has continued its unabated flow since forever, traversing boundaries and disrupting the limitations of language to crossover to become a pan Indian phenomenon. Bengali singers have long since dominated Bollywood with their soulful voices and spirited melodies. Here’s celebrating the most popular Bengali singers in Bollywood from the past to the present-
Internationally acclaimed singer Manna Dey’s entrails in Bollywood had long established him as one of the most versatile and celebrated vocalists the Hindi film industry had been blessed with. As also one of the playback singers who enjoys credit for the success of Indian classical music in Hindi commercial movies, Dey had been the recipient of numerous awards that which included the Padma Shri, the Padma Bhushan and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. In venturing beyond the complexities of the classical to deliver also fusion pop music and experimental western music, Dey established himself as an extremely talented musician. In the years since his debut sometime in the early 1940s, Dey went on to lend his voice to a number of memorable songs, both in solo renditions and in duets. As one of the earliest Bengali singers in Bollywood, Manna Dey’s popularity and legacy is second to none.
Even with a career cut short by the ravages of her personal life, Geeta Dutt’s singing exploits in Bollywood meant that she established herself as very popular artiste of the Indian film industry in a short span of time. In fact in her repertoire of some 1200 songs in Hindi films alone, Dutt might even be among the most popular Bollywood singers ever. Undoubtedly also one of the best Bengali singers to have graced Bollywood, Dutt’s vocal melodies continue to remain popular even today, in assertation of her legacy. Known mostly for her mellifluous melodies, Dutt also made ample show of versatility by belting also seductive and dance numbers with ease. In her effortless jazz as an artiste therefore, Geeta Dutt remains one of the phenomenal songstresses of Bollywood.
An iconic name in the realm of playback singers in Bollywood, Kishore Kumar was a Bengali talent who had been immensely popular an artist in the Indian film industry. His popularity and appeal remains unprecedented even now, many decades after his death. Crooning his way to immortality with numerous classics, many of which featured his distinctive yodeling, Kumar however wasn’t just a man with the voice. An able actor, director, writer, producer and screenwriter as well, Kumar however is not instantly recognisable as a Bengali by many owing to his popular stage name. Born as Abhas Kumar Ganguly, this phenomenal talent is however one of the many Bengali stars who have only enriched Bollywood with their contributions.
Very prominent in his presence, whether it be his style of music or his fetish for gold, Bappi Lahiri is a wonder unparalleled in the realm of Bollywood music. His disco style songs are the bearer of Lahiri’s identity, that which in their peppy, danceable renditions earmark him as a musician fit for the crowd. The son of famous Bengali singers Aparesh Lahiri and Bansuri Lahiri and the nephew of Kishore Kumar, Baapi Lahiri’s place and popularity in Bollywood stems from the identity of a music distinctive to his own.
Hailing from Kolkata, Alka Yagnik has been one of the most prolific of female singers in Bollywood, Bengali or otherwise. A two time recipient of the National Film Award, Yagnik is distinguished in singing the maximum number of female solos in her Bollywood career. With sleeper hits like Ek Do Teen, Chholi Ke Peeche, Chamma Chamma, Tip Tip Barsa Paani and soul soothing renditions of Mera Dil Bhi Kitna Paagal Hai, Dheere Dheere Pyaar Ko badhana Hai, Payeliya, Taal Se Taal Mila as well as some immensely popular ballads like Baazigar O Baazigar, Tu Mile Dil Khile credited to her, it is evident that Yagnik perhaps is the most popular playback singer Bollywood has ever had.
A National Award winning singer, Shreya Ghoshal’s unique vocal explorations has long established her as a popular name in Bollywood. One of the leading playback singers in Indian cinema, Ghoshal is celebrated for the quality of her voice that which makes her renditions instantly endearing to listeners. Featuring five times in the Forbes list of the top 100 celebrities from India, Ghoshal also is the first Indian singer to have her wax figurine in Madame Tussauds Museum.
Trained in Indian classical music, Ghoshal has very often been applauded as being the most versatile singer of her generation. She also is the only Indian singer to be included in the list of Verve’s 50 Power Women when she made the cut in the 2016 edition. A Bengali beauty, Ghoshal commands enough popularity with her heart touching melodies to even have the United States state of Ohio celebrating 26 June as “Shreya Ghoshal Day”.
Popular as the King of Melody for his many a melodious numbers, Kumar Sanu is another of the Bengali singers Bollywood would have been incomplete with. A Padma Shri awardee, Kumar Sanu was born as Kedarnath Bhattacharaya and assumed his stage name because he was much influenced by the legendary Kishore Kumar. The first Indian singer to have been honoured by the United States state of Ohio in declaring March 31st as Kumar Sanu day, Sanu’s own legacy is one of no less prominence. Some of the most popular songs of the yesteryears feature Sanu’s vocals, whose trademark style render him easily decipherable from the rest.
One of the most sought after singers in Bollywood in recent times, Arijit Singh is of half Bengali- half Punjabi origin. However, his musical lineage being an extension of his Bengali roots, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to label Singh as a Bengali singer. The man behind some of the most soulful numbers echoing the caverns of Bollywood since more than some couple of years now, his songs touch the soul in all their mellifluous essence, delving into a world where emotions rule privy. Equally versatile is Singh in delivering such melodies that ring in a happy vibe and that which make him all the more a hit with leading composers and actors. No wonder one of the richest Indian singers is also amongst the most popular Bengali singers when it comes to enjoying an unparalleled presence in Bollywood.
Affable in his personality as much as he is in his style of rendering hits, Shaan is another of the contemporary Bengali singers holding his own in Bollywood. Delightfully melodious and mostly resplendent in a happy vibe, most of Shaan’s songs seem to be an extension of his genial personality. Delivering quite some chartbusters during the late 1990s and the early 2000s, Shaan is also one of the few Indian singers to have collaborated with international singers. In etching his distinctive musical mark on Bollywood, Shaan continues to be an extremely popular name even when he seems to be somewhat past his prime now.
Another National Award winning name who ranks among the popular Bengali singers in Bollywood is Monali Thakur. Born in a Bengali musical family in Kolkata, Thakur has mesmerised fans and audiences with her melodious voice that resonates with a certain consoling depth, striking an instant chord to the heart. Her musical catalogue is one that spans a number of Hindi and Bengali filmy songs and quite some non filmy ones. Also an occasional actor who has acted in a couple of Bengali short films as well as some full length ones in both Hindi and Bengali, this multi talented singer is another of the pretty mavericks Bollywood has been fortunate to have in its ranks.
With some of the most popular Bollywood numbers of the recent past to his name, Abhijeet Bhattacharya is another of the notable Bengali singers the entire nations likes to hum along with. A notable playback singer in the Hindi film industry who however has amassed a massive 6000+ songs in over a thousand films mainly in Hindi and Bengali, Bhattacharya has lent his voice to almost every A lister actor of Bollywood.
Also an actor and a politician, Babul Supriyo however started out as a singer and remains one of the prominent Bengali names in Bollywood till date. His name spans a number of popular Hindi as well as Bengali film songs. In a nearly three decade long singing career, Supriyo has carved a niche for himself in Bollywood by rendering some memorable melodious numbers over the years.