Before the great debate about who’s the better singer, Asha or Lata; there was a voice that reigned supreme in the world of Hindi cinema. This voice belonged to the incomparable Geeta Dutt, who gave us evergreen romantic hits like ‘Babuji Dheere Chalna’, ‘Tadbeer Se Bigdi Hui’, and ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo’. She is also the voice of soul-stirring numbers like ‘Na Jao Saiyyan’, and ‘Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam’.
Born Geeta Ghosh Roy Chowdhuri on November 23, 1930, Geeta Dutt went on to become one of the most prominent playback singers in Indian cinema. One of ten children born to a zamindar family in pre-partition India, Geeta’s family moved from Idilpur in nnow-Bangladesh to Calcutta in the early 1940s.
Geeta got her first break at the age of 16, when she sang two lines for the film ‘Bhakta Prahlad’. Her real break came a year later with the film ‘Do Bhai’. Over the next few years, Geeta’s versatility helped put her on the musical map even as Lata Mangeshkar was becoming a worthy contender in the field.
While recording songs for the film ‘Baazi’, Geeta met the young and upcoming director, Guru Dutt. Not too long after, they were married.
Geeta went on to work with music directors like Hemanta Kumar and Nachiketa Ghosh. Around this time, Guru Dutt’s was making his magnum opus, ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, which also has the distinction of featuring one of Geeta’s finest songs ever, ‘Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam’. Ironically, ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ was an unmitigated disaster and is believed to be the reason behind Guru Dutt’s descent into alcoholism and his eventual death some five years later.
Geeta Dutt suffered a nervous breakdown after Guru Dutt’s death, and ran into serious financial problems. She tried reviving her singing career, gave her final performance to the music of Kanu Roy, and died of liver cirrhosis in 1972, at the age of 41.
Like Guru Dutt’s ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, the lives of both Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt were proof of the transitory nature of fame, of how easily it comes and goes, and of everything that comes with it — name, fame, wealth.
Today, 86 years to the day she was born, we remember a remarkable artiste whose voice lives on to this day. Here’s to Geeta Dutt — for everything she was and all that she did. Salut!