The Almost Superstars: Geeta Dutt

Geeta (Roy) Dutt  was for a while in the late 1940’s one of the most sought after female voices in Indian cinema. She, a Bengali, and her contemporary and peer, the Maharashtrian, Lata Mangeshkar, were breathing down the neck of the grand lady of film song Shamshed Begum, who had held the top spot for most of the 40’s.

 

Geeta, who was blessed with charisma and vivacity, seemed to many to be the one destined for superstardom, not the dowdy Lata. They sang together in many films and Geeta had a large fistful of hits. But in 1950 Lata’s songs from the hit film Mahal rocketed her to the very top of the ladder. Composers, music directors and producers fell over themselves to sign her up for their films. You could arguably count 1950 as Year 0 which launched the Lata Mangeshkar ascendancy, and from which the sub-continent is probably never going to relinquish.

 

Geeta was still called upon by music directors but she tended to get scored for the fast, jazzy numbers. Songs that were deemed to be racy and were usually sung by ‘loose’ characters.  Lata took all the chaste and proper love songs, and indeed, for years refused to sing the ‘fast numbers’.  Still, Geeta could sing and her contributions to Indian popular music are vast. One of the earliest rock ‘n roll numbers (more jazz, really) Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo from the film Howrah Bridge is one of the touchstones of Indian film singing.  While the most prominent and famous musical directors and composers focused on crafting music for Lata, other minor composers worked with Geeta, who by 1953 had married the director Guru Dutt. Some of the greatest work was done for those minor films, though she was not completely excluded from the big pictures.

 

Being married (ever more unhappily) to one of India’s iconic directors had its advantages. Her hits didn’t dry up entirely but they came less frequently. But the inevitable slide into the dark shadow of bigger personalities (Lata and Waheeda Rehman, her husband’s starlet mistress) turned ugly. Guru Dutt took his own life in 1964, leaving Geeta the sole parent of three children and in a precarious financial position.  Drink came to control her life and she too passed away prematurely at the age of 41 in 1972.

 

Her voice is one of the nicest in Indian cinema history.  It is light and lively and ‘true whereas Lata’s was prefect’.  Like many other artists in many other countries and times, her own career was damned to ‘secondary’ levels, by the bad luck of being born at the same time as one of the greatest singers in history.  Geeta was a wonderful singer and is still beloved by millions but in a world and especially a country that thrives on superlatives, she was not the Greatest. No fault of her own.

Track Listing:

01 Babuji Dheere Chalna

02 Jata Kahan Hai Deewane

03 Jane Kahan Mera Jigar Gaya Ji

04 Jane Kya Tune Kahi

05 Suno Gajar Kya Gaaye

06 Raat Nashili

07 Mera Nam Chin Chin Chu

08 Muhabbat Kar Lo Jee Bhar Lo

09 Rimjhim Ke Tarane Leke Aai Barsat

10 Pyasa Aiso Jiya Mein Samaya Gayo

11 Koi Chupke Se Aake

12 Waqt Ne Kiya Koi Haseen Sitam

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