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09 December 2019

The Legends: Geeta Dutt - Part 2

23.11.1930 - 20.07.1972
Despite a glorious career cut short by her untimely demise, Geeta Dutt left behind an exhaustive body of work; her swansong(s) in the 70s showed us that – even ailing and amidst her personal tragedies – she had so much more to offer us. Compared to her contemporaries, Geeta was probably the least trained, musically. But what she had was an innate ability to ‘live’ her songs, to be the emotion in the song, to make us feel that emotion. Despite stiff competition from Lata Mangeshkar (who remained a close friend throughout Geeta’s life), Geeta held her own and for the next decade. 

In the ‘Duets’ section of singer profiles, I try to bring out as many of an artiste’s professional collaborations as I can. The songs I’ve chosen may not be considered among Geeta’s best (always a subjective choice) but they are reflective of the various phases of her career. I do not include triads in this list. 

Vaada karke kisise (Surendra)
Courtesy: National Film Archives of India
Meri Kahani (1948) / Music: K Dutta /Lyrics: Zia Sarhadi 
The success of Anmol Ghadi (1946) had catapulted Surendra to the pantheon of singing stars. By 1948, when Geeta was still a relative newcomer in films, Surendra was already an established actor-singer. However, the young singer more than managed to hold her own in this lovely romantic duet. Listen to how the tempo changes after the slow, almost pathos-ridden beginning. 

Another Geeta Dutt-Surendra duet that I love is Kehne ko hai taiyar  from Kamal (1949) with music by SD Burman and lyrics by GS Nepali. It showcases how Geeta effortlessly swings between moods to create two entirely different ‘voices’ in her renditions. 

Aankhon aankhon mein (Shamshad Begum) 
Actress (1948) / Music: Shyam Sundar /Lyrics:  Naqshab Jarchvi  
Shamshad Begum was already an established radio artiste before she entered films. By the time Geeta debuted, Shamshad had become a force to reckon with in the Hindi film music industry. She had lent her voice to compositions by Naushad, C Ramchandra, and even SD Burman. However, she had but a handful of duets with Geeta, one of which is this very unusual duet, where Geeta, singing for Meena Shorey, expresses happiness in her newfound love while Shamshad voices her sister, Rehana’s heartbreak. (They are both in love with the same man, and Rehana has just discovered her sister’s interest in him.)

Another song that has the two singers complementing each other is Mera dil tadpaakar kahan chala, the lovely contextual song from Shabnam (1949) (music by SD Burman and lyrics by Qamar Jalalabadi) with Shamshad giving playback for Paro who, along with Dilip Kumar is trying to get Kamini Kaushal to regain her memory. Obviously, their effort pays fruit when Kamini Kaushal joins in (in Geeta’s voice) in the last verse. 

Afsar (1950) / Music: SD Burman /Lyrics: Pandit Narendra Sharma
Geeta had earlier sung one song in the Suraiya-starrer Dillagi (1949)a ‘duet’ with Shyam Kumar, which was a shorter version of the beautiful Suraiya-Shyam Kumar duet, Tu mera chand main teri chandni. The next year, under SD Burman’s baton, Geeta would sing a duet with Suraiya for Nav Ketan’s debut film, Afsar. This was their only duet, picturised on Suraiya herself, and Ruma Guha Thakurta.

Bawre Nain (1950) / Music: Roshan / Lyrics: Kidar Sharma
This is probably considered the finest of Geeta-Mukesh duets; I have to admit that I have a very soft spot for this song myself. I find Geeta’s voice so teasingly sweet as she playbacks for Vijayalaxmi, expressing the emotions of a young woman who’s in love with a man whom she knows is lost in thoughts of another.

While both Geeta and Mukesh were known for their pathos-laden numbers, I came across this rather zany number, Mausam suhana hai door kahin chal (music composed by N Datta, also known as Datta Naik, and written by Jan Nisar Akhtar) from Dr. Shaitan (1960), a rather obscure film starring Premnath and Shakila.
Aayi milne ki raat (Meena Kapoor)  
Jalte Deep (1951) / Music: Sardul Kwatra / Lyrics: Aziz Kashmiri
Meena Kapoor and Geeta Dutt shared a deep personal friendship from their first duet together in Aadhi Raat (1950), but their professional relationship was restricted to but a handful of duets. This one is from an obscure film starring Nimmi and Randhir in the lead roles. It makes me curious who Meena Kapoor is singing for.

Sansar (1951) / Music: E Shankar Shastri/BS Kalla / Lyrics: Pandit Indra
A remake of a Telugu tear-jerker called Samsaram (starring NT Rama Rao and Lakshmirajyam), the film was remade in Tamil and Hindi simultaneously, and starred Pushpavalli and MK Radha in both versions. This teasing, romantic song, however, is picturised on Agha and Gulab, and is sung with verve by Geeta Dutt and GM Durrani.

Saqi (1952) / Music: C Ramchandra / Lyrics:
The composer, whose muse was admittedly Lata Mangeshkar, worked with Geeta in only a handful of films. One of which was the swashbuckling romantic fantasy, Saqi starring Premnath and Madhubala. This song, a light, peppy romantic number is picturised on Gope (who’s a genie) and Mohana (?).

Dharti se door (Asha Bhosle)
Sangdil (1952) / Music: Sajjad Hussain / Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
In the initial years of her career, Asha Bhosle modulated her voice like Geeta’s, ostensibly to sound different from her sister. Sangdil came along when Asha was beginning to find her feet in the industry, though her breakthrough was still some years away. Sangdil also had some of Sajjad’s best compositions, including the Geeta bhajanDarshan pyaasi aayi daasi’ and the wonderful Lata-Talat duet, ‘Dil mein sama gaye sajan’. Dharti se door, however, has earned itself a place among my favourites because of its sweet simplicity. There’s an innocence in the voices of the singers, complementing the children (Baby Roshni and Surendra Jr) on whom the song is picturised. I can close my eyes and feel myself wafted among the clouds of which they sing.

I also offer Kya ho phir jo din rangeela ho from Nau Do Gyarah (1957) (SD Burman/Majrooh Sultanpuri) to show you a different facet of both these singers. Asha’s playfulness complements the sensuousness of Geeta’s singing in this unique ‘one verse’ song – just listen to the laughter underlying her rendition of:
Aa-ha! phir toh bada maza hoga
Koi koi phisal raha hoga
Koi koi sambhal raha hoga
Koi koi sambhal raha hoga 

And now, pay attention to Geeta’s voice modulation in this song, especially in the two iterations of:
Kya ho phir jo duniya soti ho
Aur taaron bhari khaamoshi ho
Har aahat pe dhadkan hoti ho

Nazdeek na aana (SD Batish)
Courtesy: Osianama
Bahu Beti (1952) / Music: SD Batish / Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
Starring Geeta Bali and Amarnath, Bahu Beti is another film mired in obscurity. But this song, penned by Kaifi Azmi, is a wonderful teasing romantic song. While Geeta Dutt had sung with SD Batish earlier, this was the first film for which she would sing under the composer’s baton. It’s a simple song, no doubt, but one that remains in your memory.

Man mor machave shor (Lata Mangeshkar)
Ladki (1953) / Music: R Sudarshanam-Dhaniram / Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
Despite being contemporaries and the most popular female singers during a certain period, there aren’t very many duets that utilised the talents of Lata Mangeshkar and Geeta Dutt together. Partly, this was due to the fact that there weren’t very many opportunities for female duets in Hindi cinema. And while this film may have been a tedious watch (it was also remade in Tamil and Telugu simultaneously as Penn and Sangham), the film’s saving graces were its 11 songs and Vyjayanthimala’s dances. For all her lack of musical training, Geeta rendered the semi-classical Baat chalat with amazing skill. This song, a lighter composition, has her lending voice to Anjali Devi, while Lata playbacks for Vyjayanthimala.

The other Geeta-Lata duet that I really liked is the sweetly melodious SD Burman composition from 1954’s Radha Krishna - Tum bansi main hoon taan penned by Sahir Ludhianvi.  

Bechain hai betaab hai (Mubarak Begum)
Courtesy: Flickr
Haar Jeet (1954) / Music: SD Batish / Lyrics: Aziz Kashmiri
As with Suraiya, Geeta sung only one duet with Mubarak Begum though their careers overlapped for a decade and a half. Unfortunately, luck evaded the latter and despite a fine singing voice, she never managed to get a foothold in the industry. In this song, however, both singers complement each other as they sing of the experience of being in love. Geeta’s sultriness is met with Mubarak’s mischievous responses. Unfortunately, for Mubarak Begum, this Shyama-Suresh starrer was a box-office disaster.

Lal Pari (1954) / Music: Hansraj Behl / Lyrics: Asad Bhopali
This is, hands down, my favourite(-st) Geeta Dutt-Talat Mahmood duet. And while I absolutely love Geeta’s duets with Mohammed Rafi, with whom, in my opinion, she had an understanding that transcended the words they were singing, I have to admit that in this song, at least, I see a confluence of feeling and emotion that makes me believe – despite it being Mahipal on screen – that the characters  feel the emotion these singers have invested in the lyrics.

Ho jab se mile tose akhiya (Hemant Kumar) 
Amaanat (1955) / Music: Salil Choudhary / Lyrics: Shailendra
I love that while Hemant Kumar’s voice expresses a quiet exuberance, Geeta manages to sound both flirtatious and sensual at the same time. Salilda’s melody complements the voices, and reminds me of the river near which the song is picturised.

Geeta Dutt sang under Hemant Kumar’s baton in his Hindi debut, Anand Math. Together, they sang nearly 30 duets under various music directors, and it’s unfortunate that some of their best work languished in the hell-where-good-songs-from-bad-films-go-to-die. Ho jab se mile tose akhiya, however, is a Salilda composition from a lesser-known Bimal Roy production. While the film starred Bharat Bhushan, Chand Usmani and Pran, the song itself is picturised on Kammo and an actor I couldn’t identify.

The other Geeta-Hemantda duet I absolutely love is the quietly romantic Mujhko tum jo mile from Detective (1958), composed by Geeta’s brother, Mukul Roy.

Lobby Card - Courtesy: Osianama
Son of Alibaba (1955) / Music: Sardul Kwatra / Lyrics: Prem Dhawan
I first came across this song when I was researching Geeta Dutt’s duets. Not only had I not heard this before, I have no idea who the male singer, Shaminder, is, either. And ‘Son of Alibaba’ is so obscure that I doubt there’s a print available. All I could discover was that it starred Mahipal and Chitra, the former having the good fortune of having some of the most popular songs of the golden era picturised on him. Ye shokh ada ye mast fiza is a wonderfully romantic composition, and Shaminder has a warm, mellow voice that well suits the mood. But it’s Geeta and the way she modulates her voice that hold your attention in this song.

O mister mister (Manna Dey) 
Agra Road (1957) / Music: Roshan / Lyrics: Prem Dhawan
Poor Manna Dey always complained that his songs were picturised on itinerant mendicants, or beggars or street singers and the like. Here, for a change, he’s singing for the hero, Vijay Anand, while Geeta playbacks for Shakila. Roshan picked up the melody from Man and Woman by Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney (while Prem Dhawan Indianised the lyrics) but I must admit to a sneaking fondness for Roshan’s ‘reworked version’ which, instead of having separate woman and man’s versions as the original, interspersed the two within the song itself.

The other Geeta-Manna duet I absolutely love is Naya naya chand hai ji from Khuda ke Banda (1957) composed by SN Tripathi. (The only problem is watching Chandrashekhar.)
Sadak pyar ki (Sudha Malhotra) 
Lobby Card - Courtesy: Osianama
Fashionable Wife (1959) / Music: Suresh Talwar / Lyrics: Bharat Vyas
A funny song that has both singers at their peppiest best, I chose this over my initial choice Na main dhan chahoon from Kala Bazar (1959). Listening to both one after the other will give you an idea of the emotional range that Geeta was capable of – the latter is a devotional song, and her voice is yearningly committed to her faith and belief in God.

As an aside, have you even heard of a movie titled Fashionable Wife, let alone watched it? Just from the title, I can imagine how the fashionable wife will get her comeuppance in the end, because ‘traditional’ is always better when it comes to women. (I hope I’m wrong.) The film starred Jayamala (who?) in a double role with Abhi Bhattacharya and Anoop Kumar.

Shararat (1959) / Music: Shankar Jaikishan / Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
Like with many of her other contemporaries, Geeta seems to have but a bakers’ dozen of duets with Kishore Kumar, but every song was an effervescent rush of feelings and emotions, with nary a bit of pathos to be found. Dekh aasmaan mein chand muskuraye is the quintessential romantic, wooing song, with Kishore (being Kishore) wooing a reluctant Meena Kumari. What’s intriguing about this song is the affinity between Meena Kumari’s expressions and the expression of the same emotion in Geeta’s voice. Considering that the songs are usually recorded before they are shot, Geeta’s expressiveness is commendable. Like many other composers, SJ, too, didn’t use Geeta much, preferring Lata Mangeshkar as their main female voice, but there is another duet from this film Tune mera dil le liya, which can be seen as a complementary song to the earlier one.

Another Geeta-Kishore duet that is really endearing, given Geeta’s reputation as a singer of tragic songs is Kamata hoon bahut kuch from Adhikar (1954), composed by Avinash Vyas (who was more popular for his devotional numbers). Talk about breaking stereotypes with a vengeance. This gender-war number with a vivacious Usha Kiron and Kishore Kumar himself on screen, is a fabulous showcase of just how spirited and effervescent Geeta could be if given a chance. 

Phulwa ban mehke (Suman Kalyanpur)
Hum Bhi Insaan Hai (1959)/ Music: Hemant Kumar /Lyrics: Shailendra
Geeta and Suman Kalyanpur sang a mere half-a-dozen songs together and it says much for their collaboration that I especially love two of them. In particular, this song – Phulwa band mehke – harnesses the sweetness inherent in both singers to give us an all-female duet that’s one for the ages. Composer Hemant Kumar was surely inspired by Pratima Bannerjee’s Meghla bhanga rod utheche lagche bhari mishti?

Unfortunately, as is the case with many a good song, this too languished in obscurity along with the film which starred Lata Sinha and Abhi Bhattacharya.

The other Geeta-Suman duet I like comes towards the end of Geeta’s career – Mohe la de chunariya lal from Chandi ki Deewar (1964), penned by Sahir and set to tune by Datta Naik. It has an infectious beat that sets my feet tapping.

Manzil (1960) / Music: SD Burman / Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Ah. My favourite combination of singers – what can I say? Geeta sang the maximum number of duets with Mohammed Rafi, and I’m spoilt for choice. Do I pick Chupke se mile pyaase pyaase where Geeta recites the verses which Rafi then sings? Or do I go for the awesomely romantic Udhar tum haseen ho from Mr & Mrs 55 (1955) tuned by OP Nayyar who gave them some of their best-known duets? Or even the playfully ebullient Yahan hum wahan tum from the comparatively lesser-known Shrimati 420 (1956), also by OP Nayyar?

Geeta-Rafi duets deserve a post of their own, and I’ll get around to it soon, but in the meantime, let me ‘choose’ Chupke se mile pyaase pyaase for the sheer romance that it embodies. Listen to Geeta sigh Jhukti huyi aankhon me hai bechain si armaan kayi; rukti huyi saanson mein hai khamosh si toofan hai – and tell me you don’t feel the yearning.

Lobby Card - Courtesy: Osianama
Chhabili (1960) / Music: Snehal Bhatkar / Lyrics: S Ratan
Shobhana Samarth’s home production, Chhabili was made to launch her younger daughter, Tanuja. (Their first production, Hamari Beti, launched Nutan.) I came across this song while researching Geeta’s duets – and this is such an unusual combination that I’d to include this. Apart from the fact that, as a song, it’s a rather pleasant one. Geeta’s slow, sultry rendition is bookended by Nutan’s verses, which are in a faster tempo than hers. I’m not sure if Nutan was ever classically trained, but she has a lovely voice and she can hold a tune.

These, then, are my selections. What are yours?

Acknowledgement: I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the folks over at www.geetadutt.com  for the immense resources they have compiled with respect to the late singer, and for introducing me to some of Geeta’s songs of which I was unaware. 

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