Andante and Allegro of

Geeta Dutt nee Roy

a tribute by Gautam Dasgupta

Jhiri jhiri choitali batashewindows95/SGI Mac/SGI NeXT/Sun

----lyric and melody by Sudhin Dasgupta

I sometimes wonder how much of our interest in the Bengali singers of the fifties and sixties is motivated by nostalgia alone. Though yearning for that long-ago era may play a large part in my mental return to the music of the past, I find myself hard-pressed to name a good song or singer since the golden period of Bengali Adhunik song. Adhunik Gaan, sometimes translated (incorrectly) as `modern song' can be more properly termed `contemporary song.' From a historical standpoint, Bengali Adhunik Gaan held its own against the more flamboyant and highly publicized the Bombay film hits of that period; ironically, many of the more successful music directors in the Bombay arena were themselves Bengali composers.

As the albums pile up in music stores and listeners are overwhelmed by the range of styles and artists on the market, I find it remarkable how many of these new releases are actually repackaged versions of my golden age favorites. My delight was unbounded when, perusing the offerings at one such place, I came across a collection of the much beloved Geeta Dutt. Rightfully called `the Immortal Geeta Dutt' on one karaoki album, she lives on in one Bengali and four Hindi CDs; I only wish that all of her Bengali songs were available on CD. The style of her song is such that it matters little whether the lyrics are in Bengali or Hindi. I have been told that her songs in Gujrati, Punjabi, and Marathi are equally beautiful.

I first heard Geeta Roy--as she was known then-- in the early fifties. By '53 or '54, I had heard the Puja record of Geeta Dutt singing Kanu Ghosh's compositions: "Ayere ayre chhute " and "Padma kohe." Since then, Geeta Dutt had one hit or the other almost every year. Sudhin Dasgupta, Anal Chatterjee, and Hemanta Mukherjee all wrote a number of melodies for her. In Bombay, Dutt's songs were composed by a number of notable Bengali music directors-- Sachin Dev Burman and Hemanta Mukherjee stand formost in my mind. Her brother, Mukul Roy, wrote very pleasant songs both in Hindi and Bengali. Kanu Roy, wrote some quiet and intense melodies that have been included within her top hit list.

At this point, it seems proper to step back and consider how many singers like Dutt have been lost to the new generation. The current dearth of Bengali radio stations has contributed to the virtual death of Adhunik Gaan. I found a number of Geeta Dutt's Hindi lyrics in the internet but I do not think there is any such archive site for Bengali lyrics. For Kanu Roy's composition of Kaifi Azmi's Aaj ki Kaalighata from Uski Kahani (1966) can be found on the web. I hope that someone will start it soon--perhaps someone old enough to remember golden era of fifties.

Here is a list of CD's I could find related to Geeta Dutt's music: (a) Best of Geeta Dutt, EMI, CD NF1 42050 (unfortunately the discography states wrong dates) --- eighteen Bengali songs; (b) Geeta Dutt --- The Golden Collection, EMI CDF 131019/20, two CD set forty three songs; (c) Geeta Dutt -- Duets to Remember, EMI, CDF 1.32159 --- fifteen Hindi duets (d) Hits of Geeta Dutt, singer: Alaka Shankar, T-Series, SVCD 1108, sixteen Hindi songs; (e) Immortal Geeta Dutt, J-Series, JSCDSA 54011, double CD set, --- seventeen songs and karaoke tracks.

An article like this is never complete without some words of appreciation for Geeta Dutt's songs. I will restrict myself to her Bengali numbers and not comment on Hindi, Marathi and Punjabi songs here. For the interested readers to probe deeper into her artistry I will select a few songs from what is readily available in the market. I must confess that it is very difficult for me to write these words with such a heavy heart when her tragic incidents (real life andante) flash in front of my eyes. Surprisingly enough her songs are very upbeat and bright (creates an aura of allegro in me), including her numbers on uncherished love. I credit that to her singing which is always a breath of fresh air. I categorize her Bengali songs in three segments: (a) bright and full of virtuosity; (b) deep emotional; and (c) melodic structure in focus.

For the first item I will select Sudhin Dasgupta's "Jhiri Jhiri Choitali Batashe" (ca. 1957). I bet very few Bengali singers would be able to accent the passages even if they try to imitate her. She sounds all through the bridge (Antara) very connected with admirable legato. Of course the accompaniment written by Sudhin Dasgupta is extremely appealing. On the other side of the 78RPM disc (I am not completely sure of it) appeared "Krishnachura Agun Tumi" --- Sudhin Dasgupta's melody and poet Batakrishna Dey's lyric --- which has very similar flavor. Her vocal passages are unique as reflected in "Ogo Amar Moner Chiro Udash Anmona" ca. 1960 (melody of Kanu Ghosh on Shyamal Gupta's words). "Sonay Dheke Anga" ca. 1967, falls in this class. Salil Choudhury's words brings a magic which Geeta Dutt renders with superb quality and Kanu Ghosh's music is exceptionally brilliant as it connects passages. This is very uncommon in Bengali compositions where mostly words in rhyme are assigned to notes in simple meters.

For Getta Dutt's emotional songs one of my favorite selections is "Sachi Mata Go" of ca. 1952 of Mukul Roy's melody predates the Hindi hit of Sailaab (1955). Basudeb wrote beautiful words which sounds very modern as it deals with women's issues dating back four thousand years. Towards the end of her career, ca. 1967, she performs one of her masterpieces, some what waltzy, "Jaak na Muchhe Jaak, melody by Kanu Ghosh on Salil Choudhury's words. These songs are real challenge to Indian singers. She blends her training in Classical Indian music with her imagination and contemporary feelings.

Geeta Dutt's melodic songs are mostly in slow waltz. The foremost is of Sudhirlal Chakraborty's music on Pabitra Mitra's words, "Brindabone Shyam Nai" ca. 1952. She hits the low notes in a superb manner which is rather unheard of from Indian singers. Passages dominated by minor keys are sung with full richness. Later, ca. 1960, Binod Chatterjees music on Pulak Bannerjee's lyric "Hridoy Amar Kichhu Jodi Bole" exposed a darker side of emotion.

Geeta Dutt is a singer of modern songs in the true sense of the word modern. Without Rabindra sangeet, Nazrul Geety, Atul Prasadi, and without much of Salil Choudhury, she has been able to make an everlasting impression. She is truly immortal.