Yaad karoge yaad karoge, ek din humko yaad karoge (you will remember, one day you will remember me). I wonder if Geeta Dutt ever realised how prophetic these words from her first big hit album (Do Bhai, 1947) would prove to be. She’s left such a wealth of lovely songs, sung in that rich, fluid, and incredibly beautiful voice of hers, that it is hard not to remember her, every time you think of songs of yore. She started her playback career at the age of sixteen when she sang two lines in a song for the movie Bhakta Prahlad (1946). Success came just a year later, with Mera sundar sapna beet gaya (Do Bhai, 1947). The rest, as they say, is history. Geeta Dutt was soon one of Hindi film’s leading singers, and ruled the Hindi song-waves through the 40s and 50s. She lent her lovely voice to an incredibly wide range of songs and sang everything from ballads to bhajans, club songs to ghazals, sad songs to frothy, fun numbers…
My childhood memories of Geeta Dutt songs are mostly of her serious and/or soulful numbers like Waqt ne kiya, Piya aiso jiya mein and Mera sundar sapna – songs that struck me as incredibly weepy and oppressive, then. Naturally, as a grown up, I recognise that they are deservedly famous, and in fact Waqt ne kiya is a big favourite of mine. But when it comes to drawing up a favourites list, I try to apply the Desert Island Rule, i.e., would I want to be marooned on a desert island with just one kind of Geeta Dutt songs when I could have a wide variety of her songs instead? The answer is a resounding NAHIIIN!!! That decided, I just had to pick ten songs out of her vast repertoire of several hundred songs. A very easy task, if I could spend a few decades making my choices. Since I’ve already had a couple of decades to decide, and come no closer to a final list, some limiting factors clearly needed to be introduced. Enter random rule #1 – sadness was out and the list would only include happy duets. When that did not help to narrow down the selection, out came random rule #2 – only one song per singing partner. After that, it was first come first serve – the first duet with each singer that I felt I could not do without on a desert island. Since I started last week, I’ve changed my mind several times already! Before I change it yet again, here’s my current list of 10 favourite Geeta Dutt songs, on the occasion of her 81st birth anniversary…
10. Na main dhan chahoon (Kala Bazaar, 1960) with Sudha Malhotra Music Director: S D Burman, Lyricist: Shailendra
Geeta Dutt is in a devotional mood, and Sudha Malhotra seems equally affected by divine love. Leela Chitnis and Nanda are singing of their devotion to the Almighty and how they are content to serve Him and need no jewels or riches. The sentiments make Dev Anand very thoughtful. Is he thinking about the pink Cadillac he could’ve bought with all the money these ladies do not want? Dev Saab, with those voices, the ladies will be rich enough to buy you several Cadillacs in all the colors of the rainbow!
9. Ankhiyaan bhool gayi hain sona (Goonj Uthi Shehnai, 1959) with Lata Mangeshkar
Music Director : Vasant Desai, Lyricist: Bharat Vyas
Geeta Dutt in a teasing, playful mood is a joy to hear. A shehnai player seems to be responsible for mass-scale insomnia in this delightful number. His playing has led the bashful heroine (Ameeta)’s eyes to forget sleep, or so avers her friend! The afflicted insomniac counters (in Lata’s voice) that her friends do not understand since they haven’t met their true loves, yet. Naturally, her friends are rather sceptical. I wonder if they suspect her insomnia is caused more by the prospect of living with the mournful shehnai music, than the charms of her shehnai player.
8. O bedardi kyon tadpaye (Godaan, 1963) with Mahendra Kapoor
Music Director : Ravi Shankar, Lyricist: Anjaan
Geeta Dutt once again in a playful mood, this time with an equally playful Mahendra Kapoor. “O cruel one, why torture me thus after capturing my heart?” asks the clearly happy dancer (Ragini). Instead of answering her accusation, her companion counters with another question, "Why captivate me with your beautiful song and lovely eyes?" 'Torture', 'captivity'? Worry not. They’re speaking of LOVE, not about being carted off to the Bastille! While the lyrics are unusual enough (they are in pure Hindi, with nary a hint of Urdu), what makes this song even more remarkable is that it was composed by sitar maestro Pt. Ravi Shankar – one of the few Hindi films he ever scored music for!
7. Keh rahi hain dhadkane pukar kar (Lal Pari, 1954) with Talat Mahmood
Music Director : Hansraj Bahl, Lyricist: Asad Bhopali
I heard this for the first time in a compilation of lesser known Talat Mahmood songs, and it was an instant favourite. When Geeta Dutt’s smoky rich voice glides along with Talat’s velvety smooth tones, you can be forgiven for not noticing either the lyrics or the music! It took several replays before I paid any attention to what they were singing. Her heartbeats are calling out for them to love, and he is anxious that she may disappear with his heart! Listen you two, you are here in these sound bytes, and my heartbeats are calling for you to never stop singing!
6. Woh dekho udhar chand (Roop Kumari, 1956) with Manna Dey
Music Director : S N Tripathi, Lyricist: B D Mishra
Another soft romantic number, this time with Manna Dey, now the grand old man of playback singing. They’ve just discovered that the moon has risen in the sky, and that has brought great joy in their lives. I’d hardly call a moon-rise a Eureka! moment, but perhaps tonight the moonlight is brighter after they cleaned their windows? Whatever the reason, I’m just thankful that they’re singing out their joy in these smooth-as-satin and rich-as-chocolate-cream-liqueur voices. May the moon rise every day!
5. Tumse hi meri zindagi (Apna Ghar, 1960) with Mukesh
Music Director: Ravi, Lyricist: Prem Dhawan
Mukesh has always struck me as something of a rough diamond in the voice department – his voice lacks the polished smoothness of a Rafi or the well-cut edges of a Lata. So when Geeta Dutt sings with him, you’d expect some discord between her rich silky voice and his more craggy tones. But Geetaji just ups the smokiness and ruggedness in her voice, and lets it blend right in! The result is a half playful, half earnest, and completely delightful romantic number. She (Shyama) is his (Prem Nath) life, his spring, while she thinks he must ask his heart whose love he is. I wonder why Prem Nath looks drunk - is it love, or alcohol?
4. Ankhon mein tum (Half Ticket, 1962) with Kishore Kumar
Music Director: Salil Chowdhury, Lyricist: Shailendra
A wacky, foot-tapping romantic number, this time with the King Of Wack himself – Kishore Kumar. When Kishore da is one half of a romantic duo, anything may happen. A normally sedate Madhubala may decide to lasso her beau, just to tell him how much she loves him "You are in my eyes, my heart, believe it or not". I believe you, Madhubala. Kishore Kumar has a strange effect on everybody around him. Just listen to Geeta Dutt – she sounds like she is having the time of her life, singing with him. It’s like she never had to watch Pyaasa or Kaagaz Ke Phool!
3. Jaanu jaanu ri (Insaan Jaag Utha, 1959) with Asha Bhosle
Music Director: S D Burman, Lyricist: Shailendra
Madhubala has obtained highly classified information about Meenu Mumtaz – she’s found out why Meenu’s bangles jingle so. Meenu is unfazed. Madhubala isn’t the only one with secret information. She (Meenu) knows who came to meet Madhubala secretly. And so it goes on, both revealing secrets with a gusto that would give even the humblest of secret agents a massive coronary. But are these women worried about revealing all? Nope, they’re too busy having fun to worry about who knows what! As a kid, I often had trouble telling Geeta and Asha apart in their peppy numbers, which is amazing considering how different their voices really are. Can you tell who is singing for whom in this number?
2. Mujhko tum jo mile (Detective, 1958) with Hemant Kumar
Music Director: Mukul Roy, Lyricist: Shailendra
Back to soft romantic numbers, this one with Hemant Kumar, he of the soulful, haunting, smooth-as-aged-Brandy voice. He (Pradeep Kumar) has won her (Mala Sinha) and feels like he has the world. She thinks that his smile brings out the flowers in her heart. Ma’am, I hate to interrupt the romantic séance, but flowers growing in your heart can only mean one thing – that a massive heart attack caused by clogged arteries is on it’s way. Just make sure you finish this lovely duet before it strikes.
1. Ankhon hi ankhon mein (CID, 1958) with Mohammad Rafi
Music Director: O P Nayyar, Lyricist: Majrooh
He (Dev Anand) explains how two pairs of eyes signalled each other and one heart found a life-line for life. She (Shakila) is puzzled why he sings with his hand on his heart! Lady, don’t you understand, his muscular dystrophy has affected his heart muscles? Every time he hears Geeta Dutt sing, his heart muscles go haywire and he must put his hand over his heart to keep it in place. By the way, I am very impressed by Shakila/Geeta Dutt’s ability to hold out against Rafi’s intoxicating voice and Dev Saab’s beauty for almost an entire song!
So these are my favourite Geeta Dutt songs (at the moment). What are yours?