Legendary Bengali singer Sandhya Mukhopadhyay dies at 90

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Desk report, Feb 15: Legendary Bengali singer Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, whose songs stirred up patriotic fervour among Bangladeshis during the Liberation War, has died in hospital care at the age of 90, according to Anandabazar Patrika.

She breathed her last on Tuesday after being hospitalised last month with complaints of breathlessness and lung infection, the Kolkata-based daily said.

She was taken to the state-run SSKM Hospital from her south Kolkata residence on Jan 27, Indian media reported. The singer, who was suffering from COVID-19, was later transferred to Apollo Hospital through a green corridor created by the Kolkata Traffic Police.

She also suffered a mild cardiac arrest, according to Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal. According to her family, Sandhya fell in the washroom and got hurt on Jan 23. She was then taken to the hospital after her condition started to deteriorate.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the tribute from Bangladesh. In a condolence message, she said she was “deeply” saddened by the news of Sandhya’s demise.

Sandhya’s contribution to the Liberation War, besides her mesmerising songs, will be remembered forever, Hasina said. She prayed for Sandhya and extended her sympathy to the grieving family.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata wrote on Twitter: “Deeply saddened that Geetashree Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, the queen of melody in Bengal, is no more. Her departure creates an eternal void in our world of music and in the hearts of millions of her followers here and in the diaspora.”

“I used to look up to her as my elder sister and this is a grave personal loss to me. She used to be the moving spirit in our Sangeet Akademi and we had conferred upon her Bangabibhushan (2011), Sangeet Mahasamman ( 2012) etc.”

“We shall continue to pay our tributes to the departed genius.”

Sandhya was born and brought up in Kolkata and learned music from A T Kannan and Chinmoy Lahiri before training under Patiala Gharana legend Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. She began her musical career in film music in Mumbai with the Madhubala-Dilip Kumar starrer Taraana (1951) under composer Anil Biswas. She sang a duet ‘Bol papiha bol’ with Lata Mangeshkar in the film.

Lata, the legendary playback singer known as the Nightingale of India, died on Feb 6. She was 92.

Sandhya left her mark on Bangladesh’s struggle for independence with songs that helped motivate the Mukti Bahini soldiers and played a crucial role in mobilising the common man to rise up against the forces of oppression.

On his return to a newly independent Bangladesh in January 1972, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was greeted by the song “Bangabandhu phire elo tomar, swapner swadhin Banglay” on Swadhin Bangla Betar.

Written by Abidur Rahaman and composed by Sudhin Dasgupta, the gentle yet powerful song was made all the more memorable by the effervescent voice of Sandhya.

She recently made headlines after refusing to accept the Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian honour in India, for her contributions to music.

A recipient of ‘Banga Bibhushan’, and the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer, Sandhya said it would be “demeaning for her to accept the award at her age”.

“After so many years, I have been selected for the award. I will not accept as it is demeaning for me to take the award at this age when I am old and almost immobile. I am a disciple of Bade Gulam Ali Saheb and I have performed with him in stage shows. The whole country and my audience loves me, that is my greatest prize.”