A tribute on her death anniversary July 20
There is a great deal common between Geeta Dutt and SD Burman – both being Bengalis is just one of them. Geeta Dutt was born on 23rd November, 1930 at Faridpur in East Bengal (now in Bangladesh) in a prosperous landlord family. Her family had to move to Bombay in 1942 in the wake of Quit India movement, which turned anti-landlord. Her singing was noticed by the music director Hanuman Prasad when he was passing by their apartment. He gave her a break in Bhakt Prahlad (1946) to sing a few lines in a chorus. She had some more songs in 1946, but none that could create any ripples.
SD Burman too came from the eastern part of Bengal, now in Bangladesh, and came over to Bombay in the early 1940s. He also got his break as music director in 1946 in Shikari, which did not create much waves.
Both Geeta Dutt and SD Burman had their first major success when they came together in Do Bhai (1947). Mera sundar sapna beet gaya from this film remains one of her iconic songs. This film had some more outstanding songs such as, Humein chhod piya kis des gaye, Mere piya to base pardes re and Yaad karoge yaad karoge. Songs of Do Bhai catapulted her to the top league in a crowded field of great singers like Shamshad Begum, Suraiya, Rajkumari, Zohra Ambalewali and Amirbai Karnataki.
A couple of years later when Lata Mangeshkar stormed the scene sweeping everyone away, Geeta Dutt was recognized as one who could hold her own against her onslaught. She had great success with several composers such as Bulo C Rani (Jogan), OP Nayyar (Aar Paar, Mr & Mrs 55, Howrah Bridge) and Hemant Kumar (Anandmath, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam). Geeta Dutt’s songs composed by SD Burman, both solos and duets, number about 75. She probably sang more songs for other music directors than SD Burman. As per information on Atul’s site, she sang about 1400 Hindi songs, and she had the highest number of songs (about 100) by Chitragupta. But her collaboration with SD Burman in films such as Do Bhai, Baazi, Pyasa and Kagaz Ke Phool remain at a special pedestal and encompass all the possible genres and emotions in music.
Show-biz is replete with tragic personal life of artistes of great talent and fame – Geeta Dutt was one such unfortunate case. Her marriage in 1953 to the person she deeply loved – Guru Dutt – a great creative genius himself, turned out to be turbulent. His letters to her (published by Nasreen Munir Kabir) reveal a tormented and possessive man. He discouraged her from singing outside his banner. His inability to handle his relationship with Waheeda Rahman, which had no future, brought the marriage to unbearable strain. Her singing assignments dwindled, and because of her own personal problems, she could not take full advantage of the fortuitous opportunity given by SD Burman’s discord with Lata Mangeshkar during 1957-62. Guru Dutt’s suicide at a young age of 39 in 1964 completely shattered her emotionally and financially. She herself took refuge in alcohol which took her inexorably to her untimely death on July 20, 1972, but not before she had displayed her talent at the fag end of her life with two great songs in Anubhav (1971) – Koi chupke se aake sapne saja ke and Meri jaan mujhe jaan na kaho – composed by Kanu Roy.
A very good write-up on Geeta Dutt-SD Burman collaboration is here.
I offer my tribute to her with her best songs by SD Burman. With this I am also planning to do SD Burman in a big way, and present his best songs with other great singers as well on their anniversaries.
1. Mera sundar sapna beet gaya from Do Bhai (1947), lyrics Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
No list of her songs can be made without this song being at the top. Picturised beautifully on Kamini Kaushal, even after 66 years the song remains fresh and eternal. In a tragic irony, there is something prophetic about this song which describes how her own life would play out – My beautiful dream is long gone, I lost everything in love and the heartless world prevailed. I understand its tune is based on a Rabindrasangeet, Rodono bhara ae basanto sakhi, but I have not been able to locate the song.
2. Mera dil tadpa kar kahan chala from Shabnam (1949), lyrics Qamar Jalalabdi
Kamini Kaushal again, with Dilip Kumar in this Fimistan production in lead roles. Geeta Dutt had a special niche for peppy, light-hearted and naughty songs. Kamini Kaushal who is in love with Dilip Kumar, both in reel and real life, lip synchs this pleasant song by Geeta Dutt.
3. Aaj ki raat piya dil na todo from Baazi (1951), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi
From half-a-dozen superhits such as, Aaj ki raat piya, Dekh ke akeli mohe barkha sataye, Suno gazar kya gaye, Tadbeer se bigdi huyi tadbeer bana le, Tum bhi na bhoolo balam and Ye kaun aya ki mere dil ki duniya mein bahar ayi, everyone would have his own favourite. Baazi is a landmark for many firsts. This is the first film Guru Dutt directed for his friend Dev Anand’s home production, Navketan Films, fulfilling a promise they made to each other on sets when they were both newcomers. This was also the beginning of Sahir Ludhiyanvi’s teaming up with SD Burman which would lead to some of the greatest poetry in films with equally commendable music. Navketan’s first film Afsar was not a great commercial success, but with Baazi Dev Anand became a craze and one of the great trinity along with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor, with a distinct image of romance and style. Finally this was the debut film of Kalpana Kartik, who also became an anchor in the life of Dev Anand (and later his wife), when he was feeling a great void after his love affair with Suraiya ended on her family’s stubborn opposition.
4. Bhagwan do ghadi zara insaan ban ke dekh from Bahar (1951), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
A remake of Tamil film Vazhkai, AVM’s Bahar was the debut film of Vyjayanthimala, who became one of the leading female actors in Hindi films. The film had some of the most iconic songs of Shamshad Begum, including Sainya dil mein ana re. Geeta Dutt carved a special niche for herself for singing bhajans after Jogan (1950). SD Burman exploits her talents in this beautiful bhajan picturised on Pandhari Bai (I was not familiar with her, she has been identified on Atul’s site).
5. Bas chupke hi chupke se pyar ho gaya from Ek Nazar (1951), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
Geeta Dutt’s another niche was night club songs, where she reigned supreme. This relatively unknown song is a very good example of her style which is so befittingly picturised on Kuldeep Kaur, a night club dancer par excellence.
6. Ye hansi ye khushi lakho baras yun hi aye from Armaan (1953)
The video of this song is not available, but it is clearly a night-club song, which was Geeta Dutt’s forte.
7. Aaj sajan mohe ang laga le from Pyasa (1957), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi
No Hindi film has been as much written about and acclaimed worldwide as Pyasa. It was released to a tepid response, but later achieved great critical and commercial acclaim. It is now recognized as one of the greatest classics and established Guru Dutt as a creative genius. Sahir Ludhiyanvi’s poetry and SD Burman’s music had a major role in creating Pyasa magic. Ironically the tremendous success of their partnership also became a cause for strain as to who should get more credit for its superb music – the lyricist or the composer. Both were highly temperamental and egotistical, and Pyasa became their last pairing. A cornerstone of its music was songs by Geeta Dutt. This devotional love song (there is no contradiction between devotion and love in Baul/Bhakti/Sufi traditions), by wandering minstrels in Baul style, reflects the inner yearning of the prostitute, Waheeda Rahman to be accepted by the poet Guru Dutt, whom she admires.
8. Aja chhaye kare badra from Lajwanti (1958), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
From devotional and cabaret/nigh-club songs let us move to folk. I have come across this song for the first time while researching for this piece. It is a superb song with equally superb picturisation of folk dance.
9. Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam from Kagaz Ke Pool (1959), lyrics Kaifi Azmi
This autobiographical film by Guru Dutt was a commercial disaster, but acclaimed as another great classic. The poignant words of Kaifi Azmi reflect the inner turmoil of Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rahman, who are bound in a relationship which can have no satisfactory conclusion. Guru Dutt is famous for his song picturisation with his mastery of light and shadows. This song is the most representative of his talent. It is also one of the most recognizable songs of Geeta Dutt – an immortal classic by SD Burman.
10. Nanhi kali sone chli hawa dheere ana from Sujata (1959), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
From bhajan to nightclub to folk to lullaby is quite a range. Here is a very melodious lorie by Geeta Dutt-SD Burman combination.