Monday, July 20, 2009

Geeta Roy, Off The Beaten Track

A lot of feedback to the List of definitive Geeta Dutt songs has rued the exclusion of her equally delightful but lesser known songs. Since the purpose of the earlier exercise was to profile Geeta Dutt through her known output, a lot of good songs did not get the space they more than deserved. So, here is another list. This time the endeavour is to commemorate Geeta Dutt with the help of her lesser known gems. Let me confess, after all the 'danda-maroing' on the figure of ten, I have fallen prey to the temptation to choose a dozen instead of ten songs. Also, this time it is a solo-only list. That leaves us with the tingling anticipation of doing a duet list sometime in the future.

Let me admit to another little quirk that went into the selection of the list - The first list tilted heavily in the favour of Geeta Dutt - the uninhibited sensuality, passionate love, bone cracking pathos, deep despondency and the sharp mix of emotions that came to be her lot as Mrs Dutt. Intensity was the key-word to her latter day renditions. This list celebrates Geeta Roy - Young, bright-eyed, innocent, naughty, joyous, full of what were
'chhoti chhoti khushi aur chhote chhote gham'. Her singing from his period is completely oblivious of the complexity of her later singing life.

Many music lovers are of the opinion that the best of Geeta Dutt came when she was Geeta Roy. Her singing after her marriage got focused on her husband's films and a handful of composers who worked with the legendary film-maker. This stifled her range considerably. Almost all of her singing for outside banners got limited to two-bit club songs (the glorified item numbers of the era) . Rarely did she sing for the heroine outside Guru Dutt's films.

However, it is also interesting to note, her 'Golden Collection' kind of songs all come from her Mrs Dutt period. They are the most high-profile songs in her kitty. This could be attributed to the fact that Guru Dutt's cinema has developed a legendary status over the years giving the songs of his films far more air-space than other very good songs that unfortunately got buried in the soundtracks of films that did not pass the test of time. This selection is a minuscule attempt to dig out those gems and put them in spotlight.

If we pause to reflect for a moment, it is this contrast between Geeta Roy and Geeta Dutt that makes her life story so poignant. The girl who sang
Chanda khele aankh micholi, brimmed over with optimism and joie-de-vivre. The woman who ultimately sang Na jao saiyyan was tired, despondent, bitter and forsaken by the capricious world. Her life and the 'candle in the wind' kind of end bears striking similarity to Guru Dutt's own in Kagaz Ke Phool - Dekhi Zamaane Ki Yaari - Bichhde sabhi baari baari.

Both Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt were supremely talented artists and cursed with the cross of genius. They were both temperamental, sensitive and easy to hurt. And unknown to themselves, they harboured a strong self-destructive streak. When such people come together in matrimony, the doom is inevitable. Had Guru Dutt not fallen victim to his own demons, it is likely that he would have fallen victim to the bottle just like his wife. There was no Sanjay Dutt like rehabilitation in the world of cinema those days.. just painful ends. Artist after artist fell prey to the opium of the lights and glamour, a world that ate the innards of their soul and then discarded them to waste away in obscurity. KL Saigal, Madhubala, Guru Dutt, Geeta Dutt, Meena Kumari, the list is illustrious. One sort of gets de-sensitised reading the the same story over and over again.

Yet, Geeta's waste somehow, is very poignant. It hits home. Her spirit was not tailored for tragedy. It was joyous, resplendent and luminous . When such a spirit breaks down and withers away it is difficult even for the most cynical to remain untouched. But the brighter side of things is that what will never wither away is the immortal art that came out of this suffering. And at the end of the day whichever angle we look at it - famous or rare, club song or cabaret, Roy or Dutt, Geeta's voice remains as enticing and magical as ever.

So without any further babbling, here is the list.

Hamen chhod piya kis des gaye (Film : Do Bhai(1947); Composer: SD Burman; Lyrics : Raja Mehndi Ali Khan): While Mera Sundar Sapna and Yaad Karoge are the well known songs from this track, this one is a hidden gem. A lilting tune in vintage Burman mode is adorned by some very nice word play by Raja Mehndi Ali Khan. To sample

hum aankh se ojhal hote the
tum sau sau aansuu rote the
hum sau sau aanson rote hain
tum mukh dikhlaana bhul gaye

The rustic manner in which 'bhool' is pronounced as 'bhull' is particularly charming. While the expression is a little immature and slightly over the top, the magnetism and richness in the voice quality is inescapable. SD Burman sure knew what he was doing when he locked horns with the studio bosses to make the then unknown Geeta Roy his leader singer for the film. The rest as the cliche says is history.
2. Tumhe saajan manaaye tum rooth jaana (Film : Milan(1946); Composer: Anil Biswas; Lyrics : ?) A bright and innocent song which never fails to bring a smile to the face. Beautiful music by Anil Biswas and a charming rendition by Geeta. Particularly sweet is the childlike innocence with which she sings kaho na na. It shouldn't be surprising if you knew how old she was when she sang the song... sweet sixteen!
(Note : I strongly suggest you close your eyes when you 'watch' the song lest the bovine actress on screen ends up in making you
'kaho na na na' to the magic of the song)

Haule haule hawaye dole (Non-Film; Composer: Nikhil Ghosh; Lyrics : Bharat Vyas) This is a breezy song that showcases the rich bass in Geeta Dutt's voice. The song has a very strong Bengali flavour to it. For minute if you don't concentrate on the lyrics you could easily mistake it for a Bengali song!. It is upbeat, melodious and easy flowing. . The composer was Nikhil Ghosh, brother of flute maestro Pannalal Ghosh. This is 3 minutes of not-to-be-missed savoury delight.

Kuke ambua pe koyalia (Non-Film; Composer: ?; Lyrics : ?) This song of unknown origin is a traditional phagun song. Geeta renders it with characteristic simplicity. The choral singing and the spontaneity of the folk form makes it a charming representation of an era and tradition long gone.

5. Mein toh girdhar ke ghar jaun (Film :Jogan, Composer: Bulo C Rani, Lyrics :Kabirdas) Jogan was such a stellar Geeta track that it is difficult to pick any one song from the ensemble. This kabir bhajan has been chosen because it showcases the devotional genre for which she was celebrated in her early career. This is a good example of the 'happy bhajan' that became a rarity in her later years. It has been sung by many before her and many after her but Geeta Roy's version still stands out. What attracts me to this song, apart from the rich tonal timbre of Geeta's youthful voice, is the way she lays a slight emphasis on 'Girdhar'.
6. Daro re rang daro re : (Film :Jogan, Composer: Bulo C Rani, Lyrics ?) Another one from Jogan. I fought with my objective self(asking for more composers more variety) to include this song. I don't regret my choice for a second. This is such a captivating song. It transports the listener to a breezy field at the edge of a idyllic village lined with red Semal trees, where a group of happy people are enjoying the festivities of Holi. It's very nostalgic and evocative of spring. One of my all time favourite Holi songs. Almost every time I hear this song I wish I was born hundred years ago!

Jhoome re kali (Film :Naukri, Composer:Salil Chowdhury, Lyrics : Shailendra) This is such a bright-eyed song. It revels in the joy of first love. That very secret celebration with the self, the spring in the step and the stars in the eyes, they all spill over in this charmer from the Salil Chowdhury stable. The tune is lilting to begin with but flowers under Shailendra's simple poetry. Typical to him, that goes beyond the immediate - "lagan kahe jeevan ka chain chhupa kaanton mein". Salilda makes Geeta sing in the lower octaves and she hits those notes in a deep and sonorous tone. It is a well known fact that Salil Chowdhury was a card carrying Lata Bhakt. He used all other female singers including Geeta sparingly. But on the few occasions that he did look elsewhere, the result was compelling enough to make one wish there were more such sojourns. This song bears witness to that could-have-been magic.

8. Dekho jaadu bhare more nain (Film :Aasman, Composer:OP Nayyer, Lyrics : Prem Dhawan) This film marked the beginning of the legendary OPN-Geeta partnership. Aasman saw a completely different OP Nayyer, in a pre-ghoda gaadi avtaar. The tune based off Gaud Sarang is in a genre that is rare to find in OPN's repertoire and is probably the only example with Geeta. Even though her classical training was minimal, Geeta carries this song with characteristic aplomb. The breezy sitar and tabla accompaniment accentuates the fluidity in Geeta's voice. The two remind me of fast-flowing mountain streams that rush towards an exhilarating confluence. The racy sitar interludes in this song could be considered fore-runners to Nayyar's strings fest in the Rafi-Asha duet 'Aap yu hi agar humse' from 'Ek musafir ek hasina'. This is probably a 'Golden Collection' kind of song, but simply had to be included for the genre it represents. All in all a sure-fire 'patel point' in Geeta's musical landscape.

9. Chand hai wohi (Film : Parineeta, Composer: Arun Mukherjee, Lyrics : Bharat Vyas)
This pick is from the 1953 film Parineeta. Meena Kumari and Geeta Roy team up for an exquisite beauty. The song is mellow and soothing and carries just a whiff of melancholy. It is beautiful and delicate. The music direction is by Arun Kumar Mukherjee, a former Bombay Talkies singer, Ashok Kumar's ghost voice and also a cousin of the Ganguly brothers. The lyrics by Bharat Vyas in a sanskrit leaning Hindi add a unique appeal to the song.

raag hai wohi, parag hai, wohi pavan
phir bhi kyon udaas hai udaas mera man

To pause and reflect for a moment, Meena Kumari and Geeta Dutt shared a lot in common. They were both celebrated as tragedy queens owing to the melancholy in their artistic identities which spilled over to their personal lives as well. Their ends too, were chillingly similar. Both succumbed to cirrhosis of liver within months of each other. Like a dying flame they both gave a short burst of incandescence before the eternal darkness - Meena Kumari with her performance in 'Pakeezah' and Geeta Dutt with her singing in 'Anubhav'. 'Na jao saiyyan', their last association came to immortalize the poetic tragedy that became their life. But this song tells us that many many years before, they were bubbly and innocent young women pre-occupied with the little joys and little sorrows that define the wonder years in life. The whole effect is of transient sorrow, one that does not take root but lightly touches you and then floats away. It leaves you with lingering sense of sweet restlessness. This is truly a rare gem from a rare genre.

10. Rut phire par dine hamare (Film :Pyaasa, Composer: SD Burman, Lyrics : Sahir) The soft strains of the flute that start streaming in the prelude seem to have travelled a great distance from a land, far faraway. On the wings of this Pied Piper like flute follows a beautiful voice, floating on sails of timelessness. A melancholic voice - disembodied and ethereal, it seems to have drifted across the seven seas of time. Slowly and gently it beckons us beyond the clouds into its secret magical world...

OK, I need to snap out of the fairy tale mode and get back to reality. But that, vaguely, is the aura of 'Rut phire par din hamare'. The song does not seem to belong to this world. (which might be the reason Guru Dutt decided to chop it from the film). I don't know what the lyrics of 'Rut phire par din hamare' really are, I vaguely register them to be outright sad. But that's not the way my heart reacts to it. It is more wistful than sad. There is a sense of mystery, enigma and infinity. ..apne liye siwaaye majhdhaar kuch nahin hai..'. I am actually quite glad this song never got picturized. Somethings are best left to imagination.

11. Zor lagake - Aangan mein baithi (Film : Jaal, Composer: SD Burman, Lyrics : Sahir) Geeta Bali and Geeta Roy were made for each other. The bubbly effervescence that defined the actress was matched in equal measure by the singer. Together they brought a bright bright smile to the face. Tadbeer se bigdi hui, De bhi chuke hum, Dil chura loon, Jaate ho to jao are just some of the songs that define this chemistry. Aangan mein baithi hai machheran is one of those songs. Geeta Bali on screen, Geeta Roy on the mike, hubby-to-be wielding the megaphone and Sahir and Dada Burman in the music-room. End result - a sure-fire winner.

12. Aaj nahin to kal (Film : Naagmani , Composer: Avinash Vyas, Lyrics : Pradeep) This song is like a homing call for the ravaged soul. It is deeply inspirational and gives you the courage to stand up and face life. Zindagani se door bhaagana hai man ki kamzori, Kavi Pradeep wrote his lyrics in a simple, lucid and hitting straight to the point style. There is no poetic playing around with the thought, just to-the-point truths. It is Geeta's voice that provides comfort and applies the balm that eases the pain. It is like burying your tired self in the mother's caress. The tune is based off 'Om Jai Jagdish Hare'. It gives the energy and strength to carry on.

The music director is Avinash Vyas who used Geeta Roy with some memorable results in the early 50s. Vyas also used Geeta's voice extensively for Gujarati films.

I end off with a song that is like a non-competitive entry. That is because in truth it is not a full fledged song, but just a little songlet. But these couple of lines are so captivating that they simply have to be showcased here. Geeta Roy singing for SN Tripathi for the film Kavi Kalidas.

Footnote: As usual, the list has been very difficult to compile. For each song chosen, there were so many left behind. Here are some songs that almost made it but got chopped off in the final list. On another day in another list they are sure to take place of pride!

1. Do chamakti aakhon mein (Detective)
2. Chanda khele micholi (Jogan)
3. Gun gun gun gun gunjan karta bhanwara (Har har mahadev)
4. Jhanan jhanan mora bichua (Mangla)
5. Chanda dhale pankha jhale maiyya tumhari (Pyar ki pyaas)
6. Dil chura loon chura loon dil mein chhupi baat (Faraar)
7. Ayi re ghir ghir pehli pehli baadariya (Miss Mary)
8. Dekh ke akeli mohe barkha sataaye (Baazi)
9. Tune khoob racha bhagwan khilona maati ka (Naagmani)
10. Rangili chhabili rani nindiya (Ferry)
11. Jaate ho to jao (Milap)
12. Manjhi albele chalo re haule haule(Baaz)

See Also


Thanks to everyone who has provided me with rare Geeta songs that I could upload on youTube. In particular I thank Dr Mahesh Sagar. And ofcourse thanks to the wonderful effort on youTube to archive her songs.

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.