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Five memorable Bengali film songs of Geeta Dutt

The talented and versatile singer, who died on this day in 1972, delivered some evergreen hits not just in Hindi cinema but also in her native Bengali.

Roushni Sarkar

Sometimes called a skylark, Geeta Dutt was the reigning queen of melody in Hindi and Bengali cinema for two decades from 1947.

Born Geeta Ghosh Roy Chowdhury in 1930, she married one of the most talented filmmakers of Indian cinema, Guru Dutt, after a three-year courtship in 1953.

Geeta Dutt worked with some of the top music composers of the time like SD Burman, OP Nayyar, Hemant Kumar, Madan Mohan, Sudhin Dasgupta, Nachiketa Ghosh and Kanu Ghosh and lent her voice for timeless classics such as Devdas (1955), CID (1956), Pyaasa (1957), Howrah Bridge (1958), Harano Sur (1957), Indrani (1958) and Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962).

She was a versatile vocalist who could breathe life into upbeat songs such as 'Babuji Dheere Chalna' (Aar-Paar, 1954) or 'Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo' (Howrah Bridge, 1958) as well as mesmerize the listener with her ethereal rendition of melancholic compositions like 'Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam' (Kaagaz Ke Phool, 1959) and 'Na Jaao Saiyaan Chhura Ke Baiyan' (Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam).

Even in an age when Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle were becoming the favourites of many film composers, Geeta Dutt held her own with her charming voice and effortless singing.

According to records, Geeta Roy was not a classically trained singer, but her talent was recognized by K Hanuman Prasad early in 1946. She got her first break in the mythological film Bhakta Prahlad (1946) where she sang for Hanuman Prasad. That brought her to the notice of the great SD Burman and she lent her voice for Do Bhai (1947) under his baton.

In no time, Geeta Roy's career took an upswing and despite the intense competition with rising star Lata Mangeshkar, she recorded the maximum number of songs in 1950.

Geeta Dutt delivered some evergreen numbers not just in Hindi cinema, but in her native Bengali as well. She also recorded non-film songs in Bengali, composed by Nachiketa Ghosh, Kanu Ghosh and other noted composers.

Guru Dutt, the light that burned twice as brightly: Birth anniversary special

On the 47th anniversary of Geeta Dutt's tragic death from cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcoholism after the early death (believed to be suicide) of Guru Dutt, with whom she shared a stormy relationship, we revisit some of her Bengali film songs that have been winning the hearts of music lovers and inspiring singers till date.

'Nishiraat Banka Chand Akashe' — Prithibi Amare Chai (1957)

This exceptionally melodious composition is from Niren Lahiri’s star-studded film Prithibi Amare Chai featuring Uttam Kumar, Mala Sinha, Chhabi Biswas, Pahari Sanyal, Tulsi Chakravarty, Sandhya Rani and many other distinguished artistes. The romantic number by Nachiketa Ghosh is set in the backdrop of a moonlit night, a perfect ambience for new lovers Tapas (Uttam Kumar) and Rina (Sinha).

Pranob Roy’s lyrics welcome the blossoming romance with picturesque imageries of the night. Geeta Dutt voices the quivering emotions of Rina before she officially commits to love, keeping up with Roy’s words that speak of the fears and gratitude for the little joys amidst all the worries of life.

'Nishiraat Banka Chand Akashe' is not only a thoroughly romantic number but also a realistic expression of a lover stepping into a new world. Geeta Dutt’s rendition of the song is commanding yet mellifluous and brings out the nuances to the fullest.

'Tumi Je Aamar' — Harano Sur (1957)

This song is not only one of the best Bengali songs of Geeta Dutt, but also an iconic song for many other reasons. The song from Ajoy Kar’s classic Harano Sur (1957) is one of the foremost testimonials of modern-day romance enacted by one of the most popular on-screen pairs of all time, Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen.

Composed by Hemanta Kumar Mukherjee and written by Gouri Prasanna Majumdar, the song is in every way an ode to love. Geeta Dutt does full justice as she pronounces the devotion, the dedication, and the all-encompassing nature of the love that Roma (Sen) offers to Alok (Uttam Kumar). Her voice languidly glides through while bringing the surroundings of the lovers alive. The leisurely song also goes perfectly with the visuals, featuring the lovers with garlands around their necks in a moonlit night, celebrating their emotions.

'Kancher Churir Chhata' — Dak Harkara (1958)

Geeta Dutt proves her versatility as she brings out the playfulness of this fast number composed by Sudhin Dasgupta from Agragami’s Dak Harkara (1958). Written by the eminent Bengali writer Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, the song is a coded invitation to fall in love. The lyrics that apparently make the song sound like Bengali rhyme are full of metaphors that talk about the deep philosophies of life and love. The writer brings out the differences between illusions and authenticity with the imageries of the glitter in bangles and the shine of burning fire.

Dasgupta played with rhythm patterns to magnify the meaning of the words and Geeta Dutt’s voice rises and falls effortlessly, bringing out the right mood of the song in every beat. The song is a brilliant example of synchronization among the singer, the composer and the lyricist.

'Ei Mayabi Tithi' — Sonar Harin (1959)

Perhaps no one else could have done justice to one of the earliest and best club songs of Bengali cinema. Composer Hemanta Kumar Mukherjee chose the 'Babuji Dheere Chalna' singer for this number for good reason and Geeta Dutt subtly brought out the sensuousness inherent in the song. The lyrics by Gouri Prasanna Majumdar describe an intoxicating night and are addressed to a guest who has arrived at the club for the first time.

The song features the flamboyant Kali Banerjee and a hesitant Uttam Kumar sitting at the club with anticipation as a singer performs the song. Geeta Dutt’s rendition not only blossoms with the change of rhythmic patterns, but also hints at the mystery lurking in the background.

'Ei Sundar Swarnali Sandhyay' — Hospital (1960)

Geeta Dutt pours her soul into this romantic number composed by Amal Mukherjee from Sushil Majumdar’s Hospital. Ei Sundar Swarnali Sandhyay is another eternal romantic song that features Suchitra Sen and Ashok Kumar enjoying the bliss at the dawn of their romance in a lake.

The song begins as Saibal (Ashok Kumar) slides a ring into Sarbari’s (Sen's) finger as a symbol of his commitment to her and the latter sings the song expressing her gratitude for accepting her into such a beautiful bond. Geeta Dutt brings Indranil Sen’s words, that narrate the countless dreams and promises of the lovers, alive with her perfect voice modulations and compact expressions.