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Geeta Dutt : A Biography
(Courtesy: The Guru Dutt - Geeta Dutt home page)

Geeta Roy was born in Faridpur District in East Bengal in 1930. In 1942 when she was just twelve her parents shifted to Mumbai. Over there in their modest flat at Dadar music director Hanuman Prasad heard her singing casually. He gave her two lines to sing in the film Bhakt Prahlad ( 1946 ). "I gave playback for some children." she said. But her rendering of those two lines stood out and astonished everybody in the recording studio. A minor incident became the genesis of a great musical career. Her major assignment come the following year, 1947, with Filmistan's Do Bhai. Music Director S.D. Burman had heard the song in Bhakt Prahlad and he promptly got hold of her address and met her to use her voice in the film. The music of that film clicked in a big way particularly 'Mera sundar sapna beet gaya.' Geeta Roy had arrived. Disc scales of the song rocketed to new heights. 1947-1949 saw Geeta Roy rule as the number one playback singer in the Mumbai film industry as she moved from strength to strength.

However three films released in 1949. Barsaat, Andaaz and Mahal. All three smashing hits. The music of each film better than the other. In all three films the heroine's songs were sung by a young lady who had also made her debut in playback singing in 1946 but till then had not made any significant headway in her career. The success of these films changed all that. The song 'Aayega aanewala' from Mahal soared to heights of till then unseen popularity. ( It remains an all time favourite even today ) The singer was ... Lata Mangeshkar. Lata went on to become the greatest playback singer the Indian screen has ever seen. Only two singers managed to survive the Lata onslaught in the 1950s. Shamshad Begam and Geeta Roy. Though relegated to the second spot, Geeta managed to hold her own against Lata for more than a decade and she and Lata were the premier two female playback singers of the 1950s.

By 1951, Geeta had become a singer well known for bhajans and weepy weepy sad songs. Jogan( 1950 ) in fact had 12 solo bhajans sung by her! But 1951 also saw the release of a film, Baazi. Directed by first time director Guru Dutt, the film, a crime thriller influenced by the film noir movement of Hollywood was a trend setter of sorts, leading to a spate of urban crime films that Bollywood churned out in the 1950s. The jazzy musical score revealed a new facet to Geeta's singing. The sex appeal in her voice and the ease with which she went western was marvellous to behold. While every song in the film was a raging hit, one stood out for special appeal. 'Tadbir se bigdi hui taqdeer' a ghazal that was occidentalized into a jazzy seductive song! From then on in the 1950s for a club dance or a seductive song, the first choice was Geeta. The song stood out fo rmore reasons than one. During the recording of the song she met the young director of the film, Guru Dutt. Thus blossomed a romance which culminated in marriage on 26 May,1953. Geeta went on to sing some of her best songs in her husband's films while continuing singing in various outside assignments as well. The couple had two sons Tarun and Arun and a daughter Nina.

However by 1957 the marriage had run into rough weather and was on the rocks. Guru Dutt had got involved with his new leading lady Waheeda Rehman. And it was ironic that Geeta the playback singer's voice was used on Waheeda Rehman the actress as she 'sang' sweet nothings to Guru Dutt. The breaking up of her marriage also began having repercussions on her career. To quieten things down Guru Dutt launched a film Gauri( 1957 ) with her in the lead. She was to be launched as a singing star and it was to be India's first film in cinemascope but the film was shelved after justa few days shooting. This was the time when one heard complaints from music directors about her not being easily available for either rehearsals or recordings. She neglected her riaz. And to make things worse she began finding solace in drinks.

On October 10, 1964 Guru Dutt passed away. Waheeda had gone out of his life. And Geeta and he could never really get back together. It is said his death due to an overdose of sleeping tablets in his drink was an accident but the cause of death remains a mystery. Geeta was a broken woman, shattered by his death. She now had neither her singing or her husband. Lata's younger sister, Asha Bhonsle, had not only taken her place but had gone beyond her. Geeta suffered a nervous breakdown. When she recovered she found herself in a financial mess. She did try to resume singing again, cutting discs at Durga Puja and giving stage shows , even doing a Bengali film, Badhu Bharan ( 1967 ) as heroine! But her health kept failing as she drank herself to a point of no return. She died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1972. But not before she showed she still had it in her were she given a mike to sing. The songs of Basu Bhattacharya's Anubhav ( 1971 ), 'Meri jaan mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan', 'Koichupke se aake' and 'Mera dil jo mera hota' represent some of the finest work that Geeta Dutt ever did.

The first thing that strikes one when you hear Geeta Dutt sing was that she never sang. She just glided through a tune. Of all her contemporaries her musical training was perhaps the sketchiest but what she lacked in training and technique, she more than made it with her ability to breathe life and emotion into any song she was singing. In the recording room there was no matching Geeta's vivacity, vitality and spontaneity, her sense of rhythm unparalleled. Her capacity to be both sensual yet sensitive gives Geeta Dutt's voice a unique ethereal quality. To quote Raju Bharathan, Music critic in Filmfare February 1-15, 1985 Page 89,

'Geeta Dutt was thandi hawa and kaali ghata rolled into one. The moment she came, you got the refreshing feeling of aa hi gayi jhoom ke. There was a rare swing in her voice. She hit you like a thunderclap..........This made Geeta Dutt the one singer that Lata Mangeshkar really feared. In training and technique Lata was way ahead but neither training nor technique was of much use when pitted against Geeta in the recording room........This put Lata on the defensive and I think she avoided singing with Geeta as far as possible. (They have sung few duets) I vaguely remember Lata acknowledging this fact when Geeta died on July 20, 1972.'

Geeta Dutt scored heavily as a singer particularly when she sang under the baton of two music directors, S.D. Burman and O.P.Nayyar.

The S.D. Factor:

S.D. Burman was among the earliest to discover the magic in Geeta Dutt's voice. In 1947 with Filmistan's DoBhai. He persuaded the producer to give her a break. The producer being unsure of Geeta made a deal with S.D. Burman. She would record a song but it would be retained only after hearing the result. The song 'Humein chod piyakis desh gaye' was recorded and played back. The rest as they say is history. Even as it lead to Geeta becoming the foremost singer of the industry by 1951 she had found herself in a position where she was regarded good only for bhajans and sad songs. It took S.D.Burman's jazzy and westernized score for Baazi which showcased Geeta's versatility, her breezy voice. S.D. Burman effectively used the Bengali lilt in her voice memorably in films like Devdas and Pyaasa. Thesong 'Aaj sajan mohe ang lagalo' from the latter is one of the finest examples of the Bengali kirtan put over on the Hindi screen. No female singer has better articulated the spirit of Burmanda's music in its early years. In fact in 1957, when he fell out with Lata, Burmanda was looking to make Geeta his main singer rather than the upcoming Asha Bhonsle. After all by then Geeta was a mature singer while Asha was still raw. But due to her troubled marriage Geeta was not free to practice in the style required by S.D.Burman who was a hard taskmaster in matter of rehearsals. He joined O.P. Nayyar in shaping Asha rather than wait for Geeta. Some memorable songs sung by Geeta under S.D. Burman's baton are:

'Mera sundar sapna beet gaya' (Do Bhai - 1947 )
'Woh sapnewaali raat' (Pyaar - 1950 )
'Tadbir se bigdi hui taqdeer' (Baazi - 1951 )
'Aan milo aan milo' (Devdas - 1955 ) with Manna Dey
'Aaj sajan mohe ang lagalo' (Pyaasa - 1957 )
'Hawa dhire aana' (Sujata - 1959 )
'Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam ' (Kaagaz ke Phool - 1959 )

Geeta sang 72 songs for Dada Burman of which 43 were solos. The last song she recorded for him was from the film Ziddi(1964), 'Main tere pyaar mein kya kya na bana dilbar.'

The O.P. Nayyar wave:

Geeta suited O.P. Nayyar's ebullient themes to a T. He developed the side of Geeta which had emerged with Baazi. Under his freewheeling baton Geeta developed into a really hep singer who could belt out any number - soft, sultry, happy, snappy, romantic, teasing or tragic. It was Geeta Dutt's rare gift that she could effervescently sing for both the doll and the moll. And it was O.P. who got Geeta to stop being overtly emotional in sad songs. O.P.'s comments on Geeta :

' ..........Who will deny there is a unique quality to her singing. Give her a blatantly westernized tune this momentand a complex classical composition the next, and she will do equal justice to both with an ease of expression which a singer can only be born with. She is particularly good for songs accompanying boisterous jamborees. With that tantalizing lilt and fascinating curves she puts into her singing,she is the ideal choice if it is seductive allure you want in a song........Geeta Dutt is an asset to any music director. '

Some immortal gems sung by Geeta Dutt underO.P. Nayyar's baton:

'Zara saamne aa'( Baaz - 1953 )
'Babuji dhire chalna' (Aar Paar - 1954 )
'Thandi hawa kali ghata' (Mr. & Mrs 55 - 1955 )
'Jab badal lehraya' (Chchoomantar - 1956 )
'Mere zindagi ke humsafar' (Shrimati 420 - 1956 )
'Chor, lutere, daku'( Ustad - 1957 )
'Mera naan chin chin choo' (Howrah Bridge - 1958 )
'Kaisa jadoo balam tune dara' (12 o'clock - 1958 )

This is not to say that Geeta was any less effective with other music directors. The songs she has sung for Hemant Kumar in Anandmath ( 1952 ), Bahu ( 1954 ),Ek Jhalak ( 1957 ), Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam ( 1962 ) bear testimony to this. It's just that for the sheer volume and the scaleof popularity that the songs of S.D. Burman and O.P. Nayyar reached make them special in Geeta's oeuvre.

The Best of Geeta Dutt

In early 1957 while selecting the ten best songs that she has sung, Geeta Dutt mentioned

' People have a complex that successful film songs are not necessary the best. I beg to differ. If a song catches public fancy it could only be because of all round perfection in all departments - in its music, in its writing, in its singing. Should I then list my ten best songs or my ten most popular songs? The dividing line, I feel is very thin. The songs that have stood the test of public approval and the songs that have personally appealed to me are the same. '

The ten songs she selected then represented definite landmarks in her singing career. They are:

'Mat ja mat ja jogi' (Jogan - 1950 ) This was her own personal favourite.
'Mera sundar sapna beet gaya' (Do Bhai - 1947 )
'Na yeh chand hoga' (Shart - 1954 )
'Tadbir se bigdi hui taqdeer' (Baazi - 1951 )
'Yeh lo main hari piya' (Aar Paar - 1954 )
'Khayalon mein kisike' (Baawre Nain - 1950 ) with Mukesh
'Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo' (Pyaasa - 1957 )
'Jaane kya tunhe kahi' (Pyaasa - 1957 )
'Ae dil mujhe bata de' (Bhai Bhai - 1956 )
'Hai yeh duniya kaunsi' (Sailaab - 1956 )

This as mentioned was in early 1957. Citing the reason for her selections Geeta mentioned:

' I feel that a song must express human emotions in simple language and in a tune that affords the singer sufficient scope to do full justice to the thought underlying the lyric. I feel that the songs I have listed are simple enough to be appreciated by people of all ages at all times.'

Some of Geeta's best work for e.g. 'Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam' from Kaagaz ke Phool(1959), 'Chale aao, chale aao' from Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) and the songs of Anubhav (1971) were to come later and naturally they do not find a place in that list.

Thus if I were to select a list today, it might read something like this:

'Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam' ( Kaagaz ke Phool - 1959)
'Aaj ki kaali ghata' (Uski Kahani - 1966 )
'Meri jaan mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan'( Anubhav - 1971 )
'Na jaao saiyaan chudha ke baiyaan'( Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam - 1962 )
'Yeh lo main hari piya' (Aar Paar - 1954 )
'Tadbir se bigdi hui taqdeer' (Baazi - 1951 )
'Na yeh chand hoga' (Shart - 1954 )
'Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo' (Pyaasa - 1957 )
'Mera sundar sapna beet gaya'( Do Bhai - 1947 )
'Ghungat ke pat khol' (Jogan - 1950 )

This is of course but a personal choice. And a most difficult one to make. For many of Geeta Dutt's songs endure in appeal even today. The discerning would ask but what about 'Hawa dhire aana' from Sujata ( 1959 ) or'Thandi hawa kali ghata' from Mr. and Mrs 55 ( 1955) or for that matter even ' Mera naam chinchin choo' from Howrah Bridge ( 1958 ) or 'Jaata kahaan hai diwaane' from C.I.D. ( 1956 ) Well try making your own list! See if you can manage to include 'Tehro zara si der' from Savera ( 1958 ) or 'Ja ja ja ja bewafaa' from Aar Paar ( 1954 ) or 'Preetam aan milo' from Mr. and Mrs 55. ( 1955 ) or even 'Aayi birha ki raat' from Navdurga( 1953 ).

Albums of Geeta Dutt Available

Cassettes:

Hindi:

Magic Moments - Geeta Dutt
Enchanting hour with GeetaDutt
The Best of Geeta Dutt
All time greats - Geeta Dutt( set of 2 )
Rare gems - Geeta Dutt (setof 2 )
The Golden Collection - Geeta Dutt ( set of 4)
Duets to remember - Geeta Dutt & Talat Mehmood
The Golden Collection - Duets of Geeta Dutt (set of 4)
Hits of Geeta Dutt
HMV ke anmol ratan - Geeta Dutt Vol 1 Babuji dheere chalna
HMV ke anmol ratan - Geeta Dutt Vol 2 Ghunghat ke pat khol
Anmol yaadein - Geeta Dutt Vol 1 Babuji dheere chalna
Anmol yaadein - Geeta Dutt Vol 2 Ghunghatke pat khol
The Golden Collection - Geeta Dutt, the irrepressible
Geeta Dutt sings for O.P. Nayyar

Gujarati:

A teetna sambharna - Geeta Dutt

Bengali :

Modern Bengali songs - Geeta Dutt
Film songs of Geeta Dutt
All time greats - Geeta Dutt ( set of 2)

CDs:

Hindi:

The Golden Collection - Geeta Dutt ( setof 2 )
Magic Moments - Geeta Dutt
Duets to remember - Geeta Dutt
Rare Gems - Geeta Dutt
The Golden Collection - Geeta Dutt, the irrepressible
Geeta Dutt - Sensuous Songs

Bengali:

The Best of Geeta Dutt

Back to Geeta Dutt

 

 

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