My Friend Geeta: by Meena Kapoor Biswas
- Dinesh Ghate ‘Jain’ | firstname.lastname@example.org
“The best thing about memories is making them”. Geetaji had a sweet resonating soulful voice, amazing breath control, transparent pronunciation, strong emotion delivery, and most of all, captivating vocals. Her songs, poetry, and melodies give a feeling of tenderness as if dew drops are stuck on the strings of Sitar or the moisture of the night is gathering on the green leaves or the face of an angel is visible in the fog. All her songs awaken the tenderness and decency hidden in us and wipe them clean and take us in a surreal moment. I feel elated to share this melodious memory shared by eminent playback singer Meena Kapoor Biswas with you all. I can’t express my feelings of how happy I am to serve you. This is a must-read!
(Meena Kapoor Biswas, renowned playback artiste of yesteryears picks up her pen to jot down her favorite memories of close friend and confidante, Geeta Roy-Dutt. Little, otherwise is known about the great singer Geetaji’s personal life).
- Meena Kapoor Biswas
Yes, I am writing about none other than the renowned playback singer Geeta Dutt who enthralled the world of music lovers with her fascinating mellifluent voice from the year 1946 to 1972. Born in Faridpur, East Bengal (now Bangladesh), she migrated to Bombay in 1942. Sang 1400 songs for Hindi movies plus around another 400 songs in Gujrati and Bengali. Discovered by music composer Late Hanuman Prasad, who gave her an opportunity to lend her voice in a movie named ‘Bhakta Prahlad’ 46. But actually, it was the song Mera sunder Sapna beet Gaya for the film ‘Do Bhai’ 1947 which brought her into the limelight.
Then came ‘Jogan’ 1950. All the songs, though bhajans, including Jogi mat Jaa became all-time favorites with music lovers. While in ‘Jogan’ she sounded like a true devotee, in ‘Baazi’ 1950 she sounded totally different as she sang emulating cabaret singers. Tadbeer se bigdi hui, Suno gajar kya gaaye, movie was directed by Guru Dutt and produced by Navketan in 1951.
Her Babuji Dheere Chalna, a seductive number in ‘Aar Paar’ 1952 was again a contrast to Na yeh Chand hoga in ‘Shart’ 1954 where she sounded innocently romantic. Then she sounded very mischievous when she sang for Geeta Bali in ‘Jaal’ 1952, a duet with Kishore Kumar De bhi chuke hum. All this proves her versatility though she did not have any formal training in classical music.
Around this period – a movie named ‘Ghayal’, music by Late Gyan Dutt in which I have to sing a duet with Geeta. While we are having a rehearsal of the song Tera kis pe aaya dil, I suddenly stopped singing and asked in Bengali, “Gyan kaka, aami ki second ta gaibo?” Immediately, a very surprising moment, Geeta asked me “Are you a Bengali?” Me: No, Geeta: Then how could you speak such fluent Bengali? Me: (Very shyly) Just like that. Geeta was very impressed with my Bengali. By the time the rehearsal was over, we had already become very friendly with each other. So much so, that she used to send my car back home with the driver and make me sit in her car to drop me home and vice versa.
She was a very affable and gregarious person, full of zeal and indefatigable energy. While not recording often she would appear at my door and plan for an impromptu picnic. Me: Picnic? Only the two of us? Geeta: Oh, don’t be silly! I have already gathered all our chorus girls Renu, Kavita, Shailaja… Me: Bas bas, and where we are going? Geeta: Well, anywhere, Powai, Vihar Lake, National Park- Borivali. Me: And what do we eat? Geeta: Errr… Oh Meenu Darling, please ask one of your boys to catch hold of that man selling guavas. Then not waiting for the boy to come we both ran down and started shouting in duet Ehh….. Ohh…. Are bhai…. Oh Amrudwale…, and both of us bought lots of guavas! Looking at the huge number of guavas, my surprised mother asked us, what are you going to do with so many guavas? “Mashima! (auntie) This is going to be our lunch for the picnic.” Answered Geeta. “Chalo chalo, sab koi gaadi mein baith jao, Koi meena ki gaadi mein, koi meri gaadi mein baith jao”.
Packed like sardines, all of us managed to fit into the two automobiles. Both the cars started and Geeta with her full enthuse shouted. “Bolo Durga Mai Ki Jai”, Chorus: “Durga Mai Ki Jai”! Now, how did Durga Mai come into the picture? That was a subject for research!
However, the chauvinistic Maharashtrian girls were not happy only with Durga Mai. They shouted angrily “Kya Geeta Didi aapne khali durga Mai ka naam liya! Apna Ganpati bappa kahaan gaya?” To save the precarious situation I promptly started shouting “Ganpati Bappa Moriya”. And everyone shouted, “Purchya varshi lavker ya”. And we reached our destination peacefully. We did have a very sumptuous lunch sent by my mummy and papa comprising of halwa, puri, sabzi, and lots and lots of mangoes. The poor guavas were completely neglected by all of us!
That was Geeta, full of life! Alas, we did not realize then, that life is ephemeral, not eternal! Geeta had also sung for some Bengali movies. ‘Shaatihara’, ‘Swarlipi’, Music by Hemant Kumar and many more. Her Taalio na taale in ‘Mangal Phera’ 1949 and Tame Thoda Thoda thaav varnagi from the movie ‘Gun Sundari’ (Music by Avinash Vyas) were great hits with the Gujarati audience.
Another afternoon, I heard someone ringing the doorbell frantically, I ran to the door to open it. I found Geeta again who just pushed me aside to come in and said “You lazy bone, kab se bell baja rahi hoon, Ek dam buddhu!” Me: Phir tune mujhe buddhu kaha! Geeta: Sorry, sorry (she always used to insist that I call her Didi, which I flatly refused).
Geeta: Don’t you remember? We have to attend the meeting of the Playback Singer’s Association where it will be decided how to raise some funds for the old singing artists in distress. And we did stage a grand show at Bombay’s Liberty cinema. Where both of us had to perform a dance on the song Madhu gandha bhare by Tagore, sung live by Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar. And a small play in which Talat Mahmood, GM Durrani, Geeta and I had to take part. The last item was a medley of songs in which right from Amirbai Karnataki, Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta Roy, Mukesh, Talat Mahmood, Kishore Kumar, Hemant Kumar and yours truly had taken part. Each of us had to sing a few lines from one of our popular numbers accompanied by funny gesticulation. All of us had to stand in a line on stage and one by one had to come forward to the center of the stage, sing his/her part and go back and join the line again.
Amirbai Karnataki came first, holding a dagger in her hand, singing one of her very famous numbers Maar Katari Mar Jaana from ‘Shehnai’, Music by C Ramchandra. Geeta came in a white saree making a very sad face, almost sobbing, singing her very popular number from ‘Do Bhai’, Mera Sunder Sapna Beet Gaya. Mukesh came hitting his chest and lit a matchstick, singing Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De. Kishore did some yodeling, jumped all over the stage, and came back to join the line, as those days he used to feel very nervous, singing on stage. Lata Mangeshkar sang Aayega aanewala from ‘Mahal’. Talat Mahmood again with a very sad face Aye Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal from ‘Aarzoo’. I sang Mori Atariya Pe Kaaga Bole from ‘Aankhen’, with some very funny movements. Oh, it was hilarious! That year was 1953.
Immediately after ‘Baazi’ in 1951, one fine morning, Geeta drags me down to where her car was parked. A very suave gentleman came out of the car, smilingly looked at me, and asked Geeta “So this is your friend Meena?” I looked at Geeta with raised eyebrows, she just winked at me. “I am Guru Dutt”, “Nice meeting you”, I stammered. And after that, I had to accompany both of them while Guru Dutt was courting Geeta. Going all the way to Khandala just to have coffee, to Powai Lake for fishing, to China Creek, a favorite spot of Guru Dutt for outdoor shooting. And then the day came when Geeta got married to Guru Dutt ceremoniously. I had to stay with Geeta at her place, seven days ahead of the marriage ceremony! Eating a lot of Maacher Jhol and singing away till midnight to Main to dilli se dulhan laya re with many others including one time actress Smriti Biswas. Geeta looked like a very beautiful bride and Guru Dutt looked like a typical Bengali groom on the 26th of May 1953.
Guru Dutt met Geeta Roy, an already established playback singer at the recording of the song Tadbeer se bigdi hui from ‘Baazi’ directed by him in 1951. Music was given by SD Burman. She continued her flourishing music career even after marriage, only now she was known as Geeta Dutt instead of Geeta Roy.
In Sujata came the very soporific lullaby Nanhi Kalai Sone Chali and a scintillating duet with Asha Bachpan ke din bhi kya din the. The very sweet Jaane Kya Tune Kahi from ‘Pyaasa’ 1955. And the piece de resistance, my most favorite and also in my eyes, her best-sung song Waqt ne Kiya Kyaa Haseen Sitam from ‘Kagaz Ke Phool’ 1959. Both ‘Pyaasa’ and ‘Kagaz Ke Phool’ had music by SD Burman and were directed by Guru Dutt. After the movie ‘Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam’, Na jaao saiyan, Koi Door Se Awaaz De (Music by Hemant Kumar), in 1962, her career started going down.
And in 1963, I left Bombay with Anil Biswas, my husband as he was called by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in Delhi to work as the Director, Indian Music, All India Radio. I was given a choice to stay back in Bombay, but I preferred moving to Delhi with my husband even though my career as a playback singer was still on.
One morning, in Delhi, when I opened the newspaper to my shock, I read Guru Dutt Dead! That was 1964. I was even more pained to learn that the death was not normal but suspected suicide. A few years later, I met Geeta as she had come to sing for some music concert. I was shocked to see her! She was a completely changed person! 1964 onwards, she also had a gap in her career. In 1966 she perhaps sang only for ‘Uski Kahani’ (Music by Kanu Roy). In 1971 ‘Anubhav’ Mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan was directed by Basu Bhattacharya and Music by Kanu Roy.
And then suffering from Cirrhosis of liver she died on 20th of July 1972. I hate to add the word ‘Late’. For me, it was “My friend Geeta” who was no more. Even now I can hear her singing on the radio Jaayenge kahan soojhta nahin, Chal pade magar raasta nahin. The soul never dies and my friend Geeta‘s voice will never die.