Geeta Dutt was launched in a chorus song in Bhakta Prahlad (1946), where she sang only two lines. But her rendering of those two lines stood out. She rose to fame with her next major assignment – as a Playback singer for Do Bhai. Initially she was typecast into singing bhajans and sad songs, but it was S.D Burman who recognized the magic in her voice and brought out a new facet of Geeta’s singing in Baazi. It’s believed that no female singer has better articulated the spirit of Burmanda’s music in its early years than Geeta.
Apart from S.D Burman, she worked a great deal with O.P Nayyar who developed the side of Geeta which had emerged with Baazi. Under his baton she turned into a really hep singer who could belt out any number – soft, sultry, happy, snappy, romantic, teasing or tragic.
Quoting him on Geeta: ” ……….Who will deny there is a unique quality to her singing. Give her a blatantly westernized tune this momentand a complex classical composition the next, and she will do equal justice to both with an ease of expression which a singer can only be born with. She is particularly good for songs accompanying boisterous jamborees. With that tantalizing lilt and fascinating curves she puts into her singing,she is the ideal choice if it is seductive allure you want in a song……..Geeta Dutt is an asset to any music director.”
Remembering Geeta Dutt fondly today, 20th Jul, on her Death Anniversary, here’s a tribute to this great singer – some of her songs that I like the most.
1. Ae dil mujhe bata de tu kispe aa gaya hai (Bhai Bhai, 1956) : I must say that this is a Madan Mohan hangover It’s such a playful number filled with so much of innocence. It conveys the feeling of a first teenage crush, so unsure and so happy at the same time. Am not a teenager any more but given a situation like this, I would love to dance to this tune myself – though very filmy, I am not as creative as the people in fims to sing a song of my own (so I would adjust with this) . Madan Mohan’s melodious composition, Rajendra Krishan’s lyrics, Geeta’s magical voice and the glow in Shyama’s face and the twinkle in her eyes - it’s such a mesmerizing blend!
2. Tadbeer se bigdi hui (Baazi, 1951) : It’s S.D Burman’s jazzy musical scores in Baazi that demonstrated a new facet of Geeta’s singing. She had this ability to breathe life and emotion into any song she was singing. Take this one for example – at times I wonder if this really had two Geetas in this song – one onscreen and the other one behind the screen singing for her. Both are so vibrant and lively. Every emotion that Geeta Bali displays on screen can be felt in the voice. Sahir’s lyrics are quite meaningful and inspirational which inspite of the jazzy music stands out.
3. Arey tauba yeh teri ada (12 O’Clock, 1958) : Be it this or Tum jo hue mere humsafar, Aji ho suno toh, Kaisa jadoo balam tune dara….each song is a gem. Early in the morning, I had heard Kaisa jadoo balam tune dara in Bhoole Bisre Geet on Vividh Bharati, and I was humming it the whole day. I was so definite that I would include it in the list here but then I thought of Arey tauba yeh teri ada and I changed my mind. There’s quite a lot of similarity between Ae dil mujhe bata de and Kaisa jadoo balam tune dara – they both have the same feel to it where as Arey tauba is different in every way and it has HELEN in it! Aji ho suno toh is quite different too, it has an unique lilt to it, quite different from other songs sung in restaurants and clubs but Arey tauba wins for me. This song does look and sound like a precursor to Mera naam chin chin chu - the ending music of this song was the starting music of Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu.
4. Babuji dheere chalna (Aar Paar, 1955) : This is Geeta Dutt’s trademark song. The first thing that strikes one when you hear Geeta Dutt sing is that she never sang. She just glided through the tune. This song just goes on to prove this! Be it Geeta’s rendition or Shakeela’s moves, they just flow with the music. Amazing! This song demonstrates the sexiness in Geeta’s voice and her easy adaptation to western tunes. Though it’s inspired by Perhaps perhaps perhaps, I find Babuji breathtakingly sensuous. Geeta Dutt’s breathy and sultry singing, the brilliant music and picturisation: all of it make it a superb example of what an inspiration should be!
5. Jaane kahan mera jigar gaya ji (Mr. and Mrs. 55, 1955) : This song is such a fresh breath of air. An all time favourite of mine. Beautiful and mischievious at the same time with the right amount of teasing flirtatiousness. Rafi and Geeta Dutt’s rendition for Johnny and Yasmin is so perfect. I love everything about this song. Saw the video after quite a long time today and this reminds me that I had wanted a dress like Yasmin’s when I had first seen this video. By the way, long ago I had heard on tv/radio that Johnny Walker married the girl in this song. But Yasmin and Noor are two different people, right? He was married to Noor (Shakeela’s sister).
6. Aaj saajan mohe ang laga lo (Pyaasa, 1957) : An amazing movie with lovely songs. We have discussed quite a lot about the movie and the song when harvey reviewed the film followed by the musings on the film. As he rightly puts – “The song itself evokes memories of “Aan milo, aan milo shyam saanware” from Devdas. Common to both songs is the origin in the Bhakti. In Bengal and Orissa it is heavily influenced by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The ‘aim’ is to be in love with God so much that one dissolves in the divine. This is the emotion in the song as well. When the song begins placidly Waheeda is shown downstairs. She listens to the song with suspicion and wariness. As the song moves ahead she is shown climbing the stairs symbolising her slow transition and moving to higher levels. She is so overcome with love for Guru Dutt that tears well up in her eyes. And as the mridangs beats rise to a crescendo the emotions swell and she is about to hug him. She raises her arm up and then she moves back and runs to her room. And in this moment there is such clarity as if everything dissolves in the present.” - truly fantastic and mindblowing! Be it Jaane kya tune kahi or hum aap ki aankhon mein, each song is a beauty (am only talking about the songs that have Geeta’s rendition) but Aaj saajan mohe is not just beautiful, it’s divine.
7. Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam ( Kaagaz Ke Phool, 1959) : This song is a result of Kaifi Azmi’s lyrics, Burmanda’s music, V. K Murthy’s cinematography, Guru Dutt’s direction, Geeta Dutt’s voice and Waheeda’s onscreen presence. It’s such a haunting melody – a heart-touching rendition, which has left an indelible impression in my memory. I first heard it on radio and it was only after few years that I actually saw the picturisation. And it took my breath away! I usually prefer playful and romantic numbers but this is one of those few sad songs that I simply adore. Geeta Dutt’s voice lingers in my heart long after the song is played. She makes every word throb with meaning – what an intensity of expression!
8. Piya aiso jiya mein (Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, 1962) : A gem of a song! It just can’t get any better than this. Marvelous singing and incredible performance. When Geeta sings the lines more angan me jub purvaiyya chale, the windows in your brain will open to admit the air full of love. This is a very beautiful & happy song, with traces of a subtle pain, floating deep within the heart….Both Geeta and Meena have no match – they are stupendofantabulouslyfantastic!!! While each of the performances are spot on, if there is one person who is the heart and soul of the film, it is Meena Kumari. Her portrayal of Chhoti Bahu is perhaps the greatest performance ever seen on the Indian Screen. The sequence where Chhoti Bahu dresses for her husband singing Piya Aiso Jiya Main is a poignant exploration of a woman’s expectations.
9. Mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan (Anubhav, 1971) : This is probably the last recorded song of Geeta Dutt. It’s such a great song, something mystically romantic about it. Exotically crafted - be it Gulzar’s lyrics, Kanu Roy’s haunting music, Geeta Dutt’s seductive voice, Tanuja’s performance or the cinematography (esp the raindrops sliding through the window and the plants outside dancing to the breeze and trying to hold the raindrops on their leaves – amazing piece of work!), it’s simply mindblowing – An unmatched classic! It has that lingering effect too….tugs at my heart strings every time I listen to it and it stays with me long after I have heard it. Honth jhuke jab honthon par, saans uljhi ho saanson mein (note the way she breaks the flow and takes a breath while singing saans uljhi ho) and that laughter while singing Meri jaan at the end!
10. Nanhi kali sone chali hawa dheere aana (Sujata, 1959) : A lovely lullaby – what a soothing rendition! This song speaks a volume about the movie – a mother putting her baby to sleep and an adopted girl child sleeping in another room. A very well written and executed tale, not to forget absolutely fabulous music by SD Burman. It’s raining outside and there’s a cool breeze coming in from the window…how I wish my mom was here too, I would have asked her to sing this for me. I’m going to play this song to put myself to sleep tonight.
Geeta Dutt, with no formal training in singing of the type of songs that were in vogue at that time, introduced her own brand of appealingly fresh and free flowing style of singing. Her singing was based on instincts and spontaneity, guts and feelings, and love and pensiveness that resulted in breathing life and emotion into each song she sang.
To quote Raju Bharathan, Music Critic…
“Geeta Dutt was thandi hawa and kaali ghata rolled into one. The moment she came, you got the refreshing feeling of aa hi gayi jhoom ke. There was a rare swing in her voice. She hit you like a thunderclap……….This made Geeta Dutt the one singer that Lata Mangeshkar really feared. In training and technique Lata was way ahead but neither training nor technique was of much use when pitted against Geeta in the recording room……..
Truly love her. She will always remain alive through her songs!
May her soul rest in peace!