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Geeta_Dutt portrait

For those who love songs from Bollywood, the versatile singing talent of the late Geeta Dutt is remembered very fondly to this day. Here is an article from Mr Raj Kanwar, an India-based author, freelance journalist and music lover.

A Singer called ‘Geeta’

Geeta Dutt and her versatile voice are remembered on her death anniversary, which was on July 20.

When Geeta Dutt (née Roy) sang, ‘Yaad karoge, yaad karoge, ik din humko yaad karoge’ in ‘Do Bhai’ in 1947, she had not imagined how prophetic the lyrics by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan would turn out to be. Today, 68 years after that song had captured the imagination of music lovers and 43 years since her death in 1972, three generations of her die-hard fans still fondly remember her and her melodious voice continues to mesmerise them. Her 43 death anniversary was observed on July 20.

The music of ‘Do Bhai’ with another of Geeta’s song, ‘Mera sundar sapna beet gaya,’ topping the charts, was a hit, and the movie became the second highest grosser at the box office in 1947.

It was virtually Geeta’s first movie, and the countrywide popularity of her songs made the teenager’s nascent career leap overnight to another dimension. Her popularity scaled newer heights in 1948 and 1949, eclipsing Shamshad Begum and Raj Kumari, who then ruled the roost. She became every director’s choice and the reigning diva.

Then suddenly, she found her supremacy being challenged by another teenager, Lata Mangeshkar. Lata had scored a unique hat-trick in 1949 with three mega-hits in ‘Mahal,’ ‘Andaz’ and ‘Barsaat.’ Naushad’s lilting music in Mehboob Khan’s ‘Andaaz’ and Khemchand Prakash’s soulful songs in Kamal Amrohi’s ‘Mahal,’ enthralled listeners. However, it was in Raj Kapoor’s ‘Barsaat,’ with amazing music by the new duo Shankar-Jaikishan, that Lata demonstrated new facets of her talent. She emerged as the new singing sensation, and Geeta found herself relegated to the second position. Nevertheless, Geeta managed to hold her own.

In fact, 1950 turned out to be the most productive year for Geeta, during which she recorded more songs than in the previous year. In ‘Jogan,’ she sang six of Meerabai’s devotional bhajans. ‘Mat jaa mat jaa jogi,’ ‘Main to Giridhar ke ghar jaaoon,’ ‘Eri main to prem diwani’ and the most popular one, ‘Ghunghat ke pat khol’ that captivated the devout. That year, she sang for several reputed music composers as well, such as S.D. Burman, Avinash Vyas, Bulo C. Rani, Chitragupta, Ghulam Mohammed, Khayyam, Hansraj Behl, Khemchand Prakash, Husnlal Bhagatram, SN Tripathi and Vasant Desai.

Then Guru Dutt happened in 1951. Dev Anand’s ‘Baazi’ was his directorial debut. It was on its sets that Geeta and Guru met and fell in love. They married in May, 1953. They spent the first three years blissfully. Their first son Tarun came in 1954 and the next, Arun, in 1956.

Ironically, Dutt’s entry into her life became both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, as Geeta’s career blossomed and she sang some of the most lilting songs in movies such as ‘Aar Paar’ (1954) and ‘Mr. and Mrs. 55’ (1955). Both were huge hits. Coquettish songs such as ‘Ye lo main haari piya’, ‘Jaa jaa jaa bewafa’ and ‘Babu ji dheere chalna’ became chartbusters.

Other singers, such as Lata, were as good if not better, but Geeta’s singing possessed an ethereal charm; she sang from the heart. At one moment, she would sing a devotional song and the next, she would switch over to a catchy ‘Mera naam chin chin chu,’ and then to a seductive number, ‘Tadbir se bigdi hui taqdeer bana de.’ There was no end to her versatility.

“A soft spoken woman in real life, she would metamorphose into an exotic cabaret performer with clever modulation of voice in the recording studio. Her voice was rich, vibrant and well-toned and could switch from exotica to melancholy in a matter of minutes,” says Shikha Biswas Vohra, daughter of the veteran composer, Anil Biswas.

Both Geeta and Guru were temperamental, sensitive and emotionally fragile. Geeta as a top playback singer in 1953 made more money than Guru Dutt, who was struggling to make his mark as a director. A few busybodies insinuated that Dutt had married Geeta for money. That hurt Guru no end and he asked her to sing only for his movies. Some brushed aside these insinuations. “Guru Dutt belonged to the type for whom money meant nothing; it was only a commodity to trade dreams with,” comments Amit Biswas who, as a child, used to play with Tarun and Arun in their beautiful bungalow on top of Pali Hill.

Guru was a strict disciplinarian on the sets, but was the opposite in personal life; he was a chain smoker and drank a lot. Though ostensibly they continued to live together, they had started drifting apart. In the midst of this marital turmoil, Guru Dutt introduced a newcomer, Waheeda Rehman in his movie ‘C.I.D.’ in 1956. Rumours of Guru’s affair with Waheeda distressed Geeta. She ignored rehearsals and recordings, neglected her riyaz and took to drinking. Both began neglecting their respective careers. Then Guru Dutt faced heavy financial loss with ‘Kaagaz ke Phool.’

Amid the personal problems was born their third child, Nina, in 1962. Two years later, on October 10, 1964, Guru Dutt allegedly committed suicide. His death shattered Geeta. Then followed the years of financial hardship.

It was out of compulsion that she took up singing again in Basu Bhattacharya’s ‘Anubhav.’ Music was by Kanu Roy and lyrics by Gulzar. She sang three memorable songs, ‘Meri jaan mujhe jaan na kaho,’ ‘Koi chupke se aake’ and ‘Mera dil jo mera hota.’ It was remarkable that Geeta, despite a gap of a few years, had not lost the verve and vivacity of old.

She loved her children. “She was an extrovert and a fun-loving person. I remember the good times we had; at a moment’s notice Mummy would say, ‘Come on, let’s go for a picnic,’ and we would pack up and leave. She loved having people around, our friends used to stay over and she would cook and look after everyone. She loved doing that,” Arun had said about his mother.

But she continued to drink, which eventually took its toll and she died on July 20, 1972, of cirrhosis of the liver. She was only 42.

Notes:

  1. The writer Mr Raj Kanwar can be reached at rkanwar_in@yahoo.co.uk.
  2. This article of his appeared in The Hindu. Here is the link: http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/remembering-geeta-dutt-on-her-death-anniversary/article7456125.ece
  3. Permission from the author to re-publish it here is gratefully acknowledged.
  4. Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/10/bollywood-legends-talat-mahmood

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