Lata Mangeshkar, Shamshad Begum, Asha bhosle. They are musical geniuses whose golden voices carry a whiff of the golden past of Hindi cinema. But then, all geniuses need other geniuses to show them who the real genius is. It was Geeta Dutt, one of the greatest lost potentials of all time. For further proof, why not ask Lata Mangeshkar who was the most imposing figure of Geeta’s time as well as ours? She can vouch that Geeta was a rage in her heyday, having dominated Hindi female reading with her soulful singing style until the midday of the 1950s. How she challenged Mangeshkar herself and probably did makes the Nightingale a better singer in the process. Imagine the world of Bollywood if Geeta hadn’t died at a relatively young age of 41 in 1972. Just imagine if her husband Guru Dutt hadn’t left so early at 39.
Did we say ‘her husband Guru Dutt? ‘ That’s right. In a storyline straight out of A Star is Born, Geeta was already the queen of Bollywood playback and huge commercial success in post-independent India when Guru Dutt was still a great fighter trying to make it in big bad Bombay, a glamorous city of crime and sin who found himself as a prominent figure in his early directorial hits, such as Baazi, Aar Paar, Mr. & Mrs. ’55 and the best black Guru Dutt that Guru Dutt didn’t – CID (led by the legendary Raj Khosla and produced by the Master of Misery).
Born into a wealthy landowning family near present-day Dhaka in 1930, Geeta Ghosh Roy Chowdhuri had a talent for singing from a young age, a vocation her parents would have encouraged. At only 16 when she began singing for Hindi cinema in 1946, it was less than a year after her debut that “Mera sundar sapna beet gaya” by Do Bhai under the direction of SD Burman made her a indisputable star. But listen carefully to the poignant words of Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and it seems to echo Geeta’s last years (“Meri prem kahani khatam hui, simple jeevan ka sangeet gaya”), full of regret, separation and loss after her failed marriage. and a slide into mental depression. There is pain in her voice, believing her skinny age.
She was going to enter into a great partnership with Burman, just as she had done with Hemant Kumar and OP Nayyar. All of these musical legends gave her songs of great emotional depth and romantic longing, for which her honeyed voice suited perfectly. She sang some of the best songs of her career – and indeed, Hindi cinema – for Guru Dutt. Even today, an evening with friends and a gathering of old souls is rarely complete without a series of touchstones from Dutts’ golden age playing on the speaker. “Tadbeer se bigdi hui”, “Sun sun sun zalima”, “Babuji dheere chalna”, “Udhar tum haseen ho”, “Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam”, “Jaane kya tune kahi” and “Na jao saiyyan chhuda ke, ‘you name him. Guru Dutt was the love of his life but also the reason for his downfall. Despite his family’s objections, the couple married in 1953 when Guru was an aspiring director – not yet the dean. despair. The two masterpieces that we most associate with Guru Dutt, Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool and also the other two classics that we consider to be the quintessence of Guru Dutt but were not made by him, Chaudhvin Ka Chand and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, were still a few years a way.The four films have at least three characters in common: Abrar Ali, VK Murthy and Waheeda Rehman.
This last name turned out to be Geeta’s bane. She believed her husband was having an affair with the protégé he had helped discover and nurture in films like CID, Pyaasa, and Kaagaz Ke Phool. In the book Ten Years with Guru Dutt, Abrar Alvi blames Geeta’s “immature behavior and suspicious nature” for her husband’s growing closeness to Waheeda Rehman. Although Waheeda always kept a stoic silence and never spoke openly about her alleged love affair, the media created their own narrative. More than five decades after his death in 1964 (he had a history of attempted suicide but this time it was an accident, according to the family version), Guru Dutt has become a myth. Geeta, on the other hand, has remained a mystery at best and a curiosity at worst.
Guru Dutt’s films are often praised for the way he made music an integral part of the plot. Even the comedic sidekicks (think Johnny Walker) have the meatiest songs. Part of the credit for the hypnotic spell these evergreen songs cast on music lovers should go to Geeta Dutt, as do other key behind-the-scenes collaborators like SD Burman, Hemant Kumar, Sahir Ludhianvi, Lata Mangeshkar, Majrooh Sultanpuri, OP Nayyar, Mohammed Rafi and many others.
On her 91st birthday today, here is a list of five essential Geeta Dutt gems that have captivated music lovers over the decades, enriching our cinema and our lives.
‘Sun sun sun zalima’ by Aar Paar (1954)
Guru Dutt is the brooding bard, which is at its peak when it is dark. But in his lighter films and in more bouncy roles – usually a trademark of his friend Dev Anand – the author comes across as surprisingly and warmly natural. In Aar Paar, he plays the smart taxi driver Kalu who falls “safaa safaa” in love with Nikki (Shyama). But the night they decide to run away, he is supported by Nikki. Soon, Kalu is enlisted by the mob and must prove his innocence to win back his beloved. The film presents two versions of “Sun sun sun zalima”, the first more cheerful captures the sweets of new love, followed by the sad melody which expresses the grief of Nikki. Aar Paar’s other enduring musical moment is the groovy club number “Babuji dheere chalne” and, although taken from the Cuban aria “Quizás, quizás, quizás”, the Bollywood impression stands out with the unique voice of Geeta. From “Sun sun” to “Babuji”, Geeta could easily go from Western to classical, from slow ballads to turbulent ballads. As OP Nayyar said, she is “an asset to any music director”.
‘Hum aapki aankhon mein’ by Pyaasa (1957)
Author Yasser Usman reminds us in his book Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story that this romantic duet, sung by Geeta and Mohammed Rafi, remains the only dream song in any Guru Dutt movie and has been included to “bring relief to the in the middle of a serious story. . “Pyaasa is a flawless soundtrack (in Guru Dutt’s most perfect release). Geeta sang four numbers, including for“ Aaj sajan mohe ang lagalo ”and“ Jaane kya tune kahi ”, both shot on Waheeda Rehman . In an album bristling with so many treasures, we invite you to revisit ‘Hum aapki aankhon mein’. Why? Because its placement in the film is impeccable. This is the only time in the film where the doomed poet Vijay is shown with a semblance of promise and happiness.Anyone who has seen Pyaasa (I bet there are many) will experience Vijay’s woes that gradually escalate in a dog-eating dog social web to which he neither belongs nor does corresponds. ‘Hum aapki aankhon mein’ is a short-lived reverie in a difficult and trying life but ultimately creative.
‘Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam’ by Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
A tormented soul, a suffering and self-destructive artist in a hostile world and a rocky marriage. Guru Dutt Kaagaz Ke Phool is said to contain nuances of its own life and delves into the superficial nature of fame and the fleeting nature of fame. His two immortal compositions (Kaifi Azmi-SD Burman) have become a guide for music lovers – the obsessive “Dekhi zamane ki yaari” is portrayed on Guru who plays the tragic filmmaker Suresh Sinha while “Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam” shines in the background as the injured Suresh and his new find (Waheeda Rehman, who plays Paro in Suresh’s dream project, Devdas) inevitably begins an intimate relationship. Enigmatically shot by VK Murthy in black and white, this one is all about expressions. No lip syncing, no dance moves. Just two souls meeting under the arc lamps. It’s a master class for conveying unspoken love with stealthy looks and nostalgic longing. As Waheeda put it in Nasreen Munni Kabir’s Conversations with Waheeda Rehman, “My face had to say it all.” If Kaifi Azmi’s lyrics give the song meaning (is Gulzar’s “Naam gum jayega” with lines like “waqt ke sitam kum haseen nahin” influenced by her?), The moody voice of Geeta gives it soul.
PS: moviegoers will know this anecdote. One of Amitabh Bachchan’s favorite actresses is Waheeda Rehman, one of her favorite movies is Kaagaz Ke Phool and one of her favorite songs is “Waqt ne kiya”. No wonder Big B immediately agreed to recreate the classic in its burgeoning baritone for 102 Not Out in 2018.
‘Na jao saiyyan chhuda ke baiyan’ by Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)
A slice of Bengali feudal excess, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam explores the decadence that unfolded behind the ornate walls of the old havelis of the 19th century aristocracy in Calcutta. Legend has it that Waheeda Rehman expressed desire for the role of melancholy Chhoti Bahu, but Meena Kumari was born to play it – and immortalize it. Vinod Mehta in her wonderfully readable Meena Kumari biography writes that Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam and especially this “unforgettable” song are the first things that “easily come to mind” when the audience thinks of her. La Tragedienne uses her eloquent balance and poetic cadences to convey the mystique that surrounds her iconic character. Composed by Hemant Kumar and written by Shakeel Badayuni, this melodramatic Valentine’s Day remains the film’s most timeless memory. As Chhoti Bahu (Kumari) tries to keep her alcoholic and debauched husband (Rehman) from leaving her again, the track plunges with shringara rasa. As Meena manages to communicate the inner turmoil of her character through her fiery eyes, Geeta masterfully expresses Chhoti Bahu’s yearning for love and belonging amid spiritual ruins and a passionless marriage in which to take place. finds the young woman.
‘Mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan’ from Anubhav (1971)
At first glance, Basu Bhattacharya’s experimental approach to “marriage” with Sanjeev Kumar-Tanuja (first part of his perceptual trilogy) doesn’t need a song. Still, composer Kanu Roy and lyricist Gulzar give Geeta Dutt one of his swan songs in ‘Mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan’ for which Roy attenuates the instruments to a bare minimum, allowing Geeta’s voice to be free. quiet and the noise-canceling subtlety it deserves. Romantic, tender and visually striking, it falls at a crucial moment in the film – just as the protagonists Amar-Meeta rekindle their lost marital bliss. Bumps await them thanks to an unlikely third wheel (Dinesh Thakur) but for now, they can enjoy their unity under the watchful eye of the servant of the Hari family (AK Hangal). Immediately after this song, Amar, completely drenched in the rain, falls with a fever. As for listeners, they could also make themselves sick – blame him for “Geeta Dutt fever”.