She entreated, she enticed, she prayed, all just with her voice that leading ladies of the 50s sang with. Today, 20th July, is 46 years since she passed away, too early.
I was a little girl when I returned from my school and witnessed my father relaxing on his chair with the record player playing “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Jeena Yahan, Zara Hat Ke, Zara Bach Ke Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan”. I instantly liked the song and within moments learnt the entire melody and kept humming. It was then that my father told me that this song was sung by no other but Geeta Dutt.
Born on 23 November 1930 as Geeta Ghosh Roy Chowdhuri she was one of ten siblings to a wealthy Zamindar family in Bangladesh. Her family left their ancestral home back at Bangladesh and settled in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Assam in the early forties. They then moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) in the year 1942 where Geeta started her schooling.
The child prodigy with a god gifted voice was trained under Guru K. Hanuman Prasad. In the year 1946 it was her Guru who gave her the first chance as a playback singer to sing two lines in the mythological film Bhakta Prahlad. Her first breakthrough happened in the year 1947 when she sang for Do Bhai. Since then there was no looking back.
She reigned the Bollywood music industry between years 1947 to 1949 and her songs were focused on mythological and tragic themes. But in 1952, the movie Baazi was released. It was a crime thriller whose music track was focused on Jazz. Geeta made a stunning comeback and the sensuous side of her voice was revealed. She became a versatile singer who could easily switch on from conventional songs to western buzz. Her demand in the music industry increased with the majority of music directors wanting her voice for their songs, for both film and non film genres.
Having sung for composers OP Nayyar and SD Burman, says this bio on IMDB, that although SD Burman made her a success with the jazzy Baazi (1951), he preferred to use that special lilt in her voice for traditional Indian melodies; in fact no other singer apart from Geeta has truly embodied the spirit of SD Burman’s music. OP Nayyar, on the other hand, developed Geeta’s voice for more westernized songs, and under his music Geeta could sing for just about any genre of song. Whether the song was hip or Western it made no difference to her.
In a tribute on her by the Indian Express, it is said that Geeta had always been choosy about singing in films; when she did sing, she breathed life into the creations of music directors like SD Burman, Hemant Kumar, Madan Mohan and OP Nayyar. Her repertoire was amazing – one moment she could be the voice of the bubbly Geeta Bali singing ‘Tadbeer say bigdee huyee taqdeer bana le’ (Baazi, 1951), and the next, the lovelorn Waheeda Rehman singing ‘Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo’ (Pyaasa, 1957).
Being a multifaceted singer Geeta has in her records sung more than twelve hundred songs and in various Indian regional languages, namely Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, Bhojpuri, Maithili and Punjabi. To list a few of her hits: “Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya”, “Tadbir Se Bigdi Hui Taqdeer”, “Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Lagalo”, “Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam”, “Aye Dil Hain Mushkil” (Aka “Bombay Meri Jaan”), “Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata”, “Jaane Kahan Mera Jigar Gaya Ji”, “Na Jao Saiyaan Chhuda Ke Baiyaan”, “Mera Dil Jo Mera Hota” and many more.
On a personal front during recording for the film Baazi she met the upcoming film director Guru Dutt. Dutt on hearing her voice fell head over heels in love with her. The couple married despite the strong opposition from their families. Geeta who was already established at that time proved to be strong support to Guru Dutt. Thereafter she came to be known as Geeta Dutt, and it was said that their romance added sparkles in her voice, and she gave some of the best hits in the movies directed by her husband.
However life was not kind on her. Says Indian Express that it was Geeta Dutt who an already established singer before marriage, delayed marrying Dutt as she had a family of her own to support. But still the marriage happened. Guru Dutt was her ardent admirer and she sang for all of his home productions. While being greatly talented, Guru Dutt suffered from frequent bouts of depression and was emotionally insecure. During his brief career, he faced some vicious film reviews and disappointing box office results, which he couldn’t handle. Work, his and hers, kept them apart physically and mentally, and was the root cause of misunderstandings between the couple.
Ultimately Guru Dutt died a premature death leaving Geeta heartbroken. She could never come in terms with this sudden demise of her husband and took to alcohol. Says Indian Express Geeta’s singing career saw a sudden decline, and years of loneliness and struggle followed. Towards the last few years of her life, the heartbroken and lonely Geeta Dutt did very few singing assignments, in Hindi and Bengali films. Her last Hindi film was Anubhav(1971). Ironically, Geeta Dutt’s last film is about a couple coming closer together after a misunderstanding; in real life, Geeta and her husband could never find closure.
The struggle took a toll on her health and she left the theatre of life on 20 July 1972 at a tender age of forty one. Post her death as recognition from the Government a postage stamp bearing her face was released on 3 May 2013.
Sad but bitter truth legends do not live long. Geeta might have died young but her music lives in us.
Image source: IMDB
Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, an MBA in supply chain management and is engaged with a corporate sector. Her essay in the anthology “Book read more...
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