Bollywood Legends - Geeta Dutt
Geeta Roy was born in Faridpur District in East Bengal in 1930. In 1942 when she was just twelve her parents shifted to Mumbai. Over there in their modest flat at Dadar music director Hanuman Prasad heard her singing casually. He gave her two lines to sing in the film Bhakt Prahlad ( 1946 ). Her rendering of those two lines stood out and astonished everybody in the recording studio. A minor incident became the genesis of a great musical career. Her major assignment come the following year, 1947, with Filmistan`s Do Bhai. S.D. Burman met her to use her voice in the film. The music of that film clicked in a big way particularly Mera sundar sapna beet gaya. 1947-1949 saw Geeta Roy rule as the number one playback singer.
By 1951, Geeta had become a singer well known for bhajans and weepy weepy sad songs. Jogan( 1950 ) in fact had 12 solo bhajans sung by her! But 1951 also saw the release of a film, Baazi. Directed by first time director Guru Dutt, the film, a crime thriller influenced by the film noir movement of Hollywood was a trend setter of sorts, leading to a spate of urban crime films that Bollywood churned out in the 1950s. The jazzy musical score revealed a new facet to Geeta`s singing. The sex appeal in her voice and the ease with which she went western was marvellous to behold. While every song in the film was a raging hit, one stood out for special appeal. Tadbir se bigdi hui taqdeer a ghazal that was occidentalized into a jazzy seductive song! From then on in the 1950s for a club dance or a seductive song, the first choice was Geeta. The song stood out for more reasons than one. During the recording of the song she met the young director of the film, Guru Dutt. Thus blossomed a romance which culminated in marriage on 26 May,1953. Geeta went on to sing some of her best songs in her husband`s films while continuing singing in various outside assignments as well. The couple had two sons Tarun and Arun and a daughter Nina.
However by 1957 the marriage had run into rough weather and was on the rocks. Guru Dutt had got involved with his new leading lady Waheeda Rehman. And it was ironic that Geeta the playback singer`s voice was used on Waheeda Rehman the actress as she `sang` sweet nothings to Guru Dutt. The breaking up of her marriage also began having repercussions on her career. To quieten things down Guru Dutt launched a film Gauri( 1957 ) with her in the lead. She was to be launched as a singing star and it was to be India`s first film in cinemascope but the film was shelved after just a few days shooting. This was the time when one heard complaints from music directors about her not being easily available for either rehearsals or recordings. She neglected her riaz. And to make things worse she began finding solace in drinks.
On October 10, 1964 Guru Dutt passed away. Waheeda had gone out of his life. And Geeta and he could never really get back together. It is said his death due to an overdose of sleeping tablets in his drink was an accident but the cause of death remains a mystery. Geeta was a broken woman, shattered by his death. She now had neither her singing or her husband. Lata`s younger sister, Asha Bhonsle, had not only taken her place but had gone beyond her. Geeta suffered a nervous breakdown. When she recovered she found herself in a financial mess. She did try to resume singing again, cutting discs at Durga Puja and giving stage shows , even doing a Bengali film, Badhu Bharan ( 1967 ) as heroine! But her health kept failing as she drank herself to a point of no return. She died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1972. But not before she showed she still had it in her were she given a mike to sing. The songs of Basu Bhattacharya`s Anubhav ( 1971 ), Meri jaan mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan`, `Koichupke se aake` and `Mera dil jo mera hota` represent some of the finest work that Geeta Dutt ever did.
The first thing that strikes one when you hear Geeta Dutt sing was that she never sang. She just glided through a tune. Of all her contemporaries her musical training was perhaps the sketchiest but what she lacked in training and technique, she more than made it with her ability to breathe life and emotion into any song she was singing.