He started in Bollywood as a singer, turned into a composer, and later a producer and director. His first Hindi film as a composer was the 1952 film "Anand Math".
The music of Anand Math (1952) was a moderate success. Perhaps, the most notable song from this movie is 'Vande Mataram' sung by Lata Mangeshkar, which Hemanta set to a marching tune. Hemanta Kumar gained popularity in Mumbai as a playback singer. His songs play backed for Dev Anand under music director S D Burman in movies like Jaal ("Yeh raat, yeh chandni phir kahan ... "), House No. 44 ("Chup hai dharti, chup hai chand sitare... "), Solva Saal ("Hai apna dil to awara ..... "), Funtoosh ("Teri duniya mein jeene se ... "), and Baat ek raat ki ("Na tum hame jaano ..... "), became very popular.
He became popular as a composer after the release of "Nagin" in 1954 which became a major success owing largely to its music. He received the prestigious Filmfare Best Music Director Award for this film in 1955.. his classic ‘been’ music in the song “Man Dole Mera Tan Dole" is now immortal.