Sunday, July 20, 2008

List : The Definitive Geeta Dutt

The List Series is a category of posts which contain, yes you are right…. a list! The list could comprise of anything – a list of songs, films, books, desserts, travel spots, pet peeves or even my version of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. In a nutshell, anything that catches my fancy.
20th July 2008 marks the 36th Death Anniversary of Geeta Dutt. A small tribute to the memory of this enchanting songstress.
It is difficult, almost unsettling to think of Geeta Dutt as a shriveled septuagenarian(what she would have been if she were alive). Time stopped aging her voice long before she actually passed away in 1972. Even today her voice represents a youthful joie-de-vivre that can lift anyone out of the bluest of blue moods. Her sad songs have an aching vulnerability that makes one want to weep for her and with her. And her richly-layered bhajans are strangely soothing. No other singer could traverse such a complex range of emotions with the ease and spontaneity that Geeta Dutt did. In addition to the richness in expression, her was voice was rich in tonal quality, robust and sweet quite like a juicy Dasheheri mango!

Despite all these qualities, today she is merely an also ran in the history of Indian film music. Slotted early in her career as a 'club song' singer, Geeta unfortunately got stuck in the very mould that she created for herself with such blazing individuality. Couple this with her own battles with the bottle, failing marriage to film-maker Guru Dutt and a lacklustre approach to her career, Geeta Dutt faded away, much before her times.
Yet, her small repertoire is dazzling to say the least. Here is an attempt to hand-pick ten celebrated songs that can define the magic of Geeta Dutt. This list more than amply strengthens the belief that God sends all good things in limited editions.

Note : Click on the link to view the video of the song

1. Tadbeer se Bigdi hui Taqdeer Banale (Film : Baazi(1951); Composer: SD Burman; Lyrics : Sahir Ludhianvi) 
The seductive and persuasive strains of the guitar, SD Burman's path-breaking western treatment of Sahir Ludhianvi's ghazal, Geeta Bali's energetic screen presence and Geeta Dutt's vibrant singing, the dice had no option but to roll in favour of this 'Baazi'.
Baazi is a milestone film in Hindi film history, it was a career defining film for most of the artists associated with it. Burmanda, Geeta's mentor who gave her the big break with 'Mera sundar sapna beet gaya', gave her singing a new facet, by tapping the latent sensuality in her voice for this song. 'Tadbeer se Bigdi' was the greatest attraction of Baazi and the audience went to see the film in repeat mode to witness the magic of the two Geetas.
This moment of glory was ironically, also the beginning of the end for Geeta Dutt. Professionally her super success with the 'club song' genre saw her being typecast into the mould of which she became a prisoner in her later years, so much so that even SD Burman summoned her services for many films (like Nau Do Gyarah) purely for this genre. It was also during the recording of this song that she met Guru Dutt, her future husband and director of the film. It is now the stuff of filmi lore that it was Geeta Dutt's tempestuous marriage that drove her onto the one-way road to self-destruction.

2. Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata (Film : Mr and Mrs 55(1955); Composer: OP Nayyer; Lyrics : Majrooh Sultanpuri) 
Raju Bharatan, the much maligned film music critic, summed up the effect of Geeta Dutt's voice in a rare moment of clarity- "'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"
What more can one say to recommend the joie-de-vivre in this song other than to say that the effect on yours truly is without fail '....naache jiya ghoom ke' .

3. Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Lagalo (Film : Pyaasa(1957); Composer: SD Burman; Lyrics : Sahir Ludhianvi) 
Guru Dutt's innovative idea of using a vaishnav bhajan to depict the purity of the romantic situation in the film, was ably supported by his wife's singing. Geeta brings a very human yearning to her rendition and yet keeps it sublime and other worldly like a true bhajan. Geeta Dutt's interpretation of bhajans was very distinctive. Whether it is 'Tora manwa kyon ghabraaye' or 'Na mein dhan chahun' or our chosen 'Aaj sajan mohe ang lagalo', she blends the sensual with the sublime seamlessly. This is true to the sufi tradition whose texts abound in erotica that couples with spiritual fervour. It can be argued that if Meerabai made a time-travel trip to the 50s and 60s she would have sung in the voice of Geeta Dutt!

4. Ankhiyan Bhool Gayi Hain Sona (Film : Goonj Uthi Shehnai(1959); Composer: Vasant Desai; Lyrics : Bharat Vyas) 
The classic Geeta chutzpah brims over in this duet with Lata Mangeshkar. The coy and docile heroine being teased mercilessly (or praised to the heavens) by a bunch of giggling sahelis is one the staple daal-roti situations done to death in hindi film songs. Yet, Geeta's sweet and wicked take of the situation makes this song a standout. Note the way she sings 'Sona' in the first line. This song also represents the female-female genre of songs of which Geeta has many memorable examples like Bachpan ke din, Jaanu Jaanu Ri, Thandi Thandi Hawa , under her belt.

5. Koi Chupke Se Aake (Film : Anubhav(1971); Composer: Kanu Roy; Lyrics : Kapil Kumar) 
The soft, romantic type of songs flowered in Geeta's melodious and expressive voice. The most compelling example from that genre is undoubtedly the dreamy slow waltz of Mujhko tum jo mile with Hemant Kumar. Hemantda's rich bartitone and Geeta's tinkling bell-like tonal quality complimented each other beautifully and together they spun a web of swooning romance in many songs such as this one, Ghumsum sa yeh jahan etc.. But since we are keeping off the rare song route, here is the song from the 'Golden Collection' kind of fare. The film is Anubhav, Geeta's last film, the composer, her brother and the poet Kapil Kumar (yes, you heard it right, it is not Gulzar). Geeta's singing in Anubhav demonstrates how much she still had to offer even at the fag-end of her life. In the chosen song, she is soft, teasing, whimsical, romantic all at once and the ever so slight tinge of pathos in her voice highlights the enigma that was Geeta Dutt.

6. Babuji Dheere Chalna (Film : Aar Paar(1954); Composer: OP Nayyer; Lyrics : Majrooh Sultanpuri) 
The slow and sensual club song is Geeta's comfort zone. She could sleep-walk through those kind of songs. Yet, this one stands out for hitting all the right notes at once. The measured sensuality, a hint of vibrancy, a slight edge in the voice and a full throated bass-heavy tone all combine to make this OP Nayyer composition into a classic club song. OP Nayyer composed a slew of such songs for Geeta and later Asha Bhosle. Aayie meherban could be considered the successor to his body of work with Geeta.

7. Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo (Film : Howarah Bridge(1958); Composer: OP Nayyer; Lyrics : Qamar Jalalabadi) 
This irrepressible upper is arguably Geeta's signature song. The swing in her voice can get even the most languid of people out there up and jiving. It is high energy, peppy and brimming with the joie-de-vivre that is the quintessential Geeta Dutt.

8. Nanhi Kali Sone Chali (Film : Sujata(1959); Composer: SD Burman; Lyrics : Majrooh Sultanpuri) From the seductive to the soothing - the transition is as smooth as butter. The synergy of the Majrooh-SD Burman combination and the nurturing vocals of Geeta Dutt make this lullaby from Sujata as one of the most memorable loris created for Hindi films.

9. Waqt Ne Kiya (Film : Kagaz Ke Phool(1959); Composer: SD Burman; Lyrics : Kaifi Azmi)
A brooding film-maker, his honey voiced wife, the beautiful actress and the inextricable mess of their liason - Life was a pre-scripted tragedy for the Dutt couple. Kagaz Ke Phool was Guru Dutt's semi-autobiographical magnum opus that immortalised his personal situation. Kaifi Azmi's lyrics are poignant, SD Burman's tune wistful, but it is Geeta's singing that stirs up the storm of emotions. The song aches with nostalgia. The travesty of time and the indelible stain that it leaves on the soul is universal. Rare is the person who looks back at his life and does not wistfully discover.... 'hum rahe na hum' . Yet the interesting thing is that this song was not concieved to be this way. In reality it was written as an ode to the complete union of two souls. So complete is this union that the signs of their individual personalities have all but vanished. Tum bhi kho gaye, hum bhi kho gaye, ek rah par chal ke do quadam. The song is not about the irony of loss but the irony of a union!

10. Na Jao Saiyan (Film : Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam(1962); Composer: Hemant Kumar; Lyrics : Shakeel Badayuni)
The character of Chhoti Bahu in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam is undoubtedly one of the greatest written for mainstream Indian cinema. Meena Kumari immortalised the tragic Chhoti Bahu with a stellar performance. Anguish, devotion, desire, self-disgust, rebellion and a repressed sexuality every little facet that constituted the complex character of Chhoti Bahu comes to life in this song. When Geeta Dutt poignantly mentioned (in her jaimala program) that this song represented her own emotions rather than that of the film's character, Chhoti Bahu, Meena Kumari and she all fused into the same person. This song is a fitting finale to the list.

Footnote: For a music lover who has explored the jungle, climbed up every rare tree and tasted the exotic fruits in a singer's repertoire, it is a difficult and also rewarding exercise to step back, put the trees in soft focus and and view the forest in it's entirety again. The choice of ten celebrated songs that define the range of a singer and also highlight those little nuances that we now know singer is capable of, has been a far more a head scratching exercise than to simply pick a list including rare songs.

See Also
Upperstall Profile : Geeta Dutt
Raaga : Geeta Dutt songs
Geeta Dutt : Biography

Some Pictures (More will be added soon)

Acknowledgements :
Amir Malik -
Note : Since these pictures have been collected over a period of time from different resources, I have lost track of where they came from. If these pictures are on the internet from your personal collection, please do write to me for I would like to acknowledge you/your website.


  1. Nice writeup Ritu. Just a correction Anubhav was 1972 release and not 1957.

  2. Thanks Ramaswamy, I jsut corrected it.

  3. Nice list, and wonderful pictures. One more correction. Qamar Jalalabadi and not Majrooh wrote Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo.

  4. Thanks Asad,

    I have never bothered to look up this one because I have been convinced it is Majrooh. 'Babuji mein cheen se aayi cheeni jaisa dil layi' seems to be the typically Majrooh.

    This one teaches one to not slot things so simply :)

  5. nice write up.
    loved that.
    गीता रॉय की आवाज़ का जादू हमेशा बरक़रार रहेगा ।

  6. Great. Would you like to make your list Ten plus One by including Geeta's 'Son of India' song - "Mujhe Huzoor Tum Se Pyar Hai" ?

  7. Very nice writeup Miss Ritu. However, something is
    missing. You should include atleast one of her bhajan / devotional song (from Film: Jogan. Har Har Mahadev -
    Kankar Kankar Se Main Poochoon, Kala Bazaar or
    Sadhna - were mentioned in your article) and cover it
    in detail, specially Na Main Dan Chahon

    Sudhir Kakar

  8. @ Yunus : Thank you very much. Yes, you are right Geeta Dutt is awaaaz ka jaadu sahi mein barkaraar rahega.

    @ MediaGuru : Thanks for the suggestion. Yes, the Naushad song is surely pleasant, but the purpose of this list is to define Geeta Dutt through those songs that count in her most celebrated output. This song is not such a popular song hence was not included. Would welcome other suggestions.

    @ Sudhir : I agree Na Mein Dhan Chahun could have been included instead of 'aaj sajan mohe', but I chose the latter because of the unusual nature of the bhajan. I wanted to highlight, the expression in this bhajan.

  9. ''It can be argued that if Meerabai made a time-travel trip to the 50s and 60s she would have sung in the voice of Geeta Dutt!''

    great writeup ritu.
    can never exclude ''har raz kaha ,har roz suna'' and ''jogi mat jaa'' from my list of favourites.

  10. Putting a link to the feedback on RMIM

  11. @ Mahesh : Thanks! I agree, Jogan is a stellar soundtrack. It definitely counts in one of my desert island tracks. Another Geeta song that I really like is 'Yeh rituen badi suhani'

  12. I want to hear All Geeta Dutt" Bhajan if they are avaialable?
    My favourite is Kankar Kankar Se Main Poochoon
    If somebody can email me at

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. Very nice and informative blog, Ritu Ji!! I especially liked the post on 'Phaili huyi hai sapnon ki bahen' - that was one song that floored me the moment I listened to it for the first time!

    Among Geeta Dutt's songs, the list here is obviously well-chosen; I'd also recommend 'Ai dil mujhe bata de' from Bhai Bhai. It's a wonderful song by Madan Mohan - one of the very few MM-GD combinations!

  15. Geeta Dutt also song a large number of Bengali songs as Gita Dutta. Notice the "a" at the end of "Dutt". Her most popular bengali song was "Tumi je Amar" in "Harano Sur" starring Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. Some other popular songs are "Jhir Jhir Choytali" (1957), "Otho Otho maa Gauri" (1956). "Oi Sur Bhora" (1959) etc.