She had a unique voice with exceptional mellifluous tonal purity with unusual swing and it fuelled pathos and other emotions in the mind of the listeners
Who hasn’t heard the famous melodies of ‘Baabuji Dheere Chalna’ or ‘Waqt Ne Kiya’? Sung by Geeta Dutt, the songs still manage to make one groove to their tunes, no matter how old one is! This name will always bring melodious and unforgettable misty feelings from the good old times. The legendary singer was born in 1930 and died 44 years ago on July 20, 1972.
She was a meteor, who could last only half a life, but in that span, she created an oeuvre of distinct sound and elegance.
Geeta Dutt appeared on the world of film music in 1947 and with her very first song “Mera sundar sapna beet gaya” she attained unprecedented fame and popularity winning the hearts of millions of music lovers. She brought new freshness and charm with her melodious voice and created a mood as desired by both her lyric writers and composers who were amazed at the range and depth of her expression.
Geeta Roy, nee Dutt, was born in a rich family in Faridapur district (East Bengal, currently in Bangladesh) in 1930. Not much is known about her earlier life as a young girl until she appeared as a sixteen-year-old singer in Bhagat Prahlad (1946).
An eventful chapter in Mumbai
In 1942, the family relocated to Mumbai where Geeta was enrolled in the Bengali High School. In the absence of a music tutor, she continued to practice on her own. One day, noted composer/music director K Hanuman Prasad heard her singing while passing by her modest home in Dadar, Mumbai.
Highly impressed, he offered her a chance to sing in the mythological film Bhakta Prahlad. History was made. Later in the year, Geeta sang for two more of Hanuman Prasad’s films Raseeli and Nai Maa.
In 1947, Sachin Dev Burman who heard her sing in Bhakta Prahlad contacted her and asked her to sing for his upcoming film Do Bhai. The song “mera sundar sapna beet gaya” rendered by Geeta became an instant hit! The sale of the music album was phenomenal.
She won countrywide acclaim. The teenager reached the highest echelons of playback singing during the year 1948-1949, managing to overshadow Shamshad Begum and Raj Kumari – the famous voices of that era.
Misconception about her
It is a common (and incorrect) perception that the legendary playback singer Geeta Dutt sang only for Hindi films. Her Bengali songs are very popular as well, both film and non-film. Having stayed in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, Geeta was a fluent speaker of Marathi and Gujarati. She had a great talent of learning new languages. Many music lovers will be surprised to know that she has sung in Gujarati, Marathi, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Nepali and Maithili languages.
Geeta sang for Dev Anand’s Baazi (1951). It was Guru Dutt’s maiden directorial venture. They fell in love and tied the knot in May 1953.
So the story goes, Dutt’s entry into Geeta’s life was a blessing and a curse as well. Her career blossomed and her most famous songs – including those sung for Dutt’s films – happened during this period. Her numbers viz ‘Ye lo main haari piya’, ‘Jaa jaa jaa bewafa’ and ‘Babu ji dheere chalna’ became chartbusters.
Geeta’s singing possessed an other-worldly charm; it was the spontaneous outpouring of her heart. At one moment, she would sing a catchy ‘Mera naam chin chin chu’, and then switch to a seductive number, ‘Tadbir se bigdi hui taqdeer bana de’. Versatility was her middle name.
Plummeting into hard times
Both Geeta and Guru were temperamental, sensitive and emotionally fragile. Geeta earned more than Guru Dutt, who was struggling to make his mark as a director. Grapevines said Dutt had married Geeta for money. Deeply wounded, Dutt ordered her to sing only for his movies.
She refused point blank. To make matters worse, although Dutt was a strict disciplinarian on the sets, yet in his private life, he was a chain smoker and an alcoholic. The duo began to drift apart. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was Dutt’s introduction of newcomer Waheeda Rehman in his movie C.I.D. in 1956.
Deeply shocked, Geeta Dutt began neglecting rehearsals, recordings, riyaz and took to drinking heavily. At this juncture, Dutt’s career too went on a downslide. The film “Kagaz ke phool” was more or less an autobiographical narrative but unfortunately it failed at the box office. However, we find Geeta giving us one of her most memorable numbers portraying her true to life mental agony –“Waqt ne kiya kya hasin sitam, tum rahe na tum.”
The children were very close to their mother because of the way Guru Dutt treated the family, especially their mother. She was a kind hearted house wife with malice towards none and charity for all. Even when it became clear that Guru Dutt left Geeta for a younger and stunningly beautiful Waheeda Rehman, Geeta did not harbour ill feelings to Waheeda but blamed her husband whom she loved and regarded well.
In this turbulent situation their third child, a daughter, was born in 1962. On October 10, 1964, Guru Dutt allegedly committed suicide. Soon after, Geeta Dutt suffered a nervous breakdown.
The frenetic cadence of modern life that Geeta captured through her ceaseless spontaneity ceased to exist in 1972. But Geeta Dutt in a short and glorious span of only few years left us with a rich legacy of thousands of songs into which she breathed life with her unique ethereal voice that have stood the test of time and continue to enthrall generations after generations of fine music lovers all over the world.
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