Geeta Dutt, nee Roy, breathed her last on July 20, 1972. She was 41. Her famous filmmaker husband, Guru Dutt (born July 9,1925) had died eight years before, on October 10, 1964, at age 39. It is indeed a great tragedy that Indian cinema lost two of its brightest artists so early. These two famous and enormously talented film personalities have, in their short but brilliant careers, left behind so many treasures, that they will be remembered for ever and ever by their fans, with love and gratitude.
Geeta Dutt had always been choosy about singing in films; when she did sing, she breathed life into the creations of music directors like SD Burman, Hemant Kumar, Madan Mohan and OP Nayyar. Her repertoire was amazing-one moment she could be the voice of the bubbly Geeta Bali singing ‘Tadbeer say bigdee huyee taqdeer bana le’ (Baazi, 1951), and the next, the lovelorn Waheeda Rehman singing ‘Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo’ (Pyaasa,1957).
Watch: Aye dil mujhe bata de song
The versatility of Geeta Dutt showed up in songs which could be picturized in a cabaret joint — ‘Babujee dheere chalna’ (Aar Paar, 1954) on one hand, and devotional songs set in an ashram — ‘Jai Jagdeesh hare’ (Anand Math, 1952), on the other. Her voice singing ‘Koyi door say aawaz de’ haunts you long after you have watched Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam(1962 ).
Her songs from Jogan(1950), Baazi (1951), Aar Paar(1954), Mr and Mrs 55(1955), CID(1956), Pyaasa(1957), Kaagaz ke Phool(1959), and Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam (1962) arguably rate among the finest songs ever sung by a female playback singer in Indian cinema.
Geeta Dutt was already an established singer before she got married; in fact she delayed marrying Guru Dutt because she had a family of her own to support. Guru Dutt was an admirer of his wife’s singing, and she sang for all of his home productions. While being greatly talented, Guru Dutt suffered from frequent bouts of depression and was emotionally insecure. During his brief career, he faced some vicious film reviews and disappointing box office results, which he couldn’t handle.
Work, his and hers, kept them apart physically and mentally, and was the root cause of misunderstandings between the couple. In her book, “Yours, Guru Dutt”, Nasreen Munni Kabir sought to set at rest the speculation surrounding the relationship of Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt. The intimate letters written by Guru Dutt to Geeta published in the book, reveal that despite their tempestuous marriage and subsequent estrangement, theirs was a deep, enduring and passionate relationship. By all accounts, Geeta Dutt never got over her husband’s death. Her singing career saw a sudden decline, and years of loneliness and struggle followed.
Towards the last few years of her life, the heartbroken and lonely Geeta Dutt did very few singing assignments, in Hindi and Bengali films. Her last Hindi film was Anubhav(1971). Ironically, Geeta Dutt’s last film is about a couple coming closer together after a misunderstanding; in real life, Geeta and her husband could never find closure.
Watch: Babujee dheere chalna song
Anubhav is part of the trilogy on marital life directed by Basu Bhattacharya, set in a time when Indians were beginning to embrace consumerism. The music for Anubhav was composed by Kanu Roy, who also composed the music for the other two films in Basu Bhattacharya’s trilogy-Aavishkar and Grih Pravesh.
Aavishkar(1975) is the story of a passionate couple (played by Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore) who have grown apart over the years. The last film in the trilogy was Grih Pravesh(1979), starring Sanjeev Kumar, Sharmila Tagore and Sarika in a touching saga of infidelity set against a backdrop of the wife’s aspirations for a bigger, better house.
Anubhav is the story of Amar Sen (Sanjeev Kumar), a wealthy, successful newspaper baron, and his lonely wife, Meeta (Tanuja). Amar’s life revolves completely around work. One morning, after a night of meaningless partying, Meeta decides that enough is enough. She is determined to bring back joy into her married life. She takes steps to rejuvenate her marriage. She meets with some success, but her happiness is interrupted by the appearance of her ex- lover on the scene. The film is about how Meeta and Amar ride the rough waves of the sea of marriage, with its ups and downs, and emerge triumphant in the end.
Anubhav has what count among Geeta Dutt’s finest melodies. Geeta Dutt’s very last film reminds us of her why her voice was considered incomparable. Quivering with emotion, sweet and saucy, always enchanting. Kanu Roy delivers 4 masterpieces in this film, with lyrics written by Gulzar(assisted by Kapil Kumar). Each song has a soft, haunting melody, with minimum orchestration, allowing the singer full freedom to dominate and own the song — Mujhe jaan na kaho –Arguably a song with top recall value among songs of amour picturised on married couples in Indian cinema, ‘Mujhe jaan na kaho’ has Geeta Dutt at her seductive best. Her voice implores and teases, melting the hardest of hearts.
Tanuja has never looked more beautiful on screen. Sanjeev Kumar plays the slightly bewildered husband, who, in the course of the song, re-discovers his gorgeous wife. Basu Bhattacharya lets the music dominate, avoiding unnecessary camera movements, and allows only one more element, the rain, to add to the passionate, romantic atmosphere.
Koyi chupke se aake –This song reflects the momentary fickleness of a woman’s heart, when she is confronted by the vision of the ex-lover who suddenly materialises at her doorstep. Tanuja’s expressions speak volumes-confused, slightly annoyed, perplexed,unable to fathom her own emotions. Dinesh Thakur plays the ex-paramour. Geeta Dutt’s intoxicating voice leaves music lovers begging for more.
Mera dil jo mera hota –Fresh and glowing from a happy, intimate encounter with her husband, Tanuja reflects upon how her life has changed for the better. Geeta Dutt’s voice makes your spirits soar, with her notes evocative of the soft tinkling of a piano. The song is a celebration of womanhood, love, marriage and life itself.
Manna Dey sings the 4 th song in the album, the lovely Phir kahin koyi phool khila, which is picturized on a pensive Amar (Sanjeev Kumar), who is recuperating at home after a mild illness. Oscar Wilde famously said “All art is immortal. For emotion for the sake of emotion is the aim of art, and emotion for the sake of action is the aim of life.”
The Dutts, Geeta and Guru, may have died young, but their art lives on.
(Nirupama Kotru is a civil servant. Views are her own)