With the demise of legendary Sandhya Mukherjee, the Bengali film world has perhaps lost the last jewel of its golden age. If Uttam Kumar-Suchitra Sen had formed the most illustrious couple in acting front, Hemanta Mukherjee-Sandhya Mukherjee used to represent that excellence in the sphere of playback songs. The divine combo of Sandhya's melody and Suchitra's lip-synching had indeed created a history which still gives goosebumps to us even five or six decades later!
Although the eternal fact remains that her genius and greatness as a singer was second to none in the Indian musical circuit; still Mukherjee didn't receive her due as far as national honour is concerned. It seems that national awards of top grades form the monopoly of the Bollywood brigade only! Surely this is the very reason why so many personalities hailing from Hindi film industry, have been awarded Padma Bhushan/Padma Vibhushan much earlier despite being not only junior to Sandhya Mukherjee; but also can't hold a candle to her as an artiste.
When she should have been awarded Padma Vibhushan or Bharat Ratna many decades ago; as if to sprinkle salt on the wounds, Mukherjee was offered a mere Padma Shri in 2022 at the age of 90! Do the New Delhi mandarins, who choose the names of the awardees, possess an iota of knowledge of who Sandhya Mukherjee really was! Did they possess minimum qualification to judge the credential and stature of this legend!
Thus, it has again proved that not quality or calibre; but sheer hype, nepotism, political influence and regional credential form the determinant factors while selecting the Padma awardees or recipients of Bharat Ratna. I regard the audacity of offering Padma Shri to Sandhya Mukherjee as an insult to the then living legend.
All admirers of her indeed felt renewed pride for Sandhya Mukherjee for displaying her unique self-respect by rejecting that much belated "honour" named Padma Shri which was indeed much demeaning for a singer of her stature.
Although Mukherjee used to reside at a much higher pedestal than any award the State could think of; but what matters is the behaviour and attitude towards a legend and in this respect, the highest decision-making authorities had indeed failed her.
However, the litmus test of any singer remains how many hearts he/she has won over in his/her lifetime and on this yardstick, Sandhya Mukherjee has indeed passed with flying colours. The legend will indeed live on for eternity through her heart-touching melodies.