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(1930 - 1972)

It was a closely-fought Gujarati antakshari and the competing teams were facing the tough "traditional compositions" round. One of the teams sang "raakh naa ramakaDaa" and the other objected. The first team vehemently maintained it was a traditional song until the judges intervened to point out it was a film song composed for Mangal Phera (1949, lyrics and music by Avinash Vyas). The song also features the voice of A.R.Oza, but it is a Geeta Dutt song all the way!

As I was turning the TV off, what struck me as amazing was that someone could mistake a Gujarati Geeta Dutt song for a traditional bhajan. Such is the power of her rendition, the amount of bhakti ras she has poured into the melody and the degree to which it has been imbibed by the Gujarati listener. It remains one of the finest Gujarati film bhajans. Incidentally, this tune was re-used by N.Dutta in "toraa manavaa kyuu.N ghabaraaye re" (Sadhana).

Gujarat's unlikely love affair with Geeta's voice began in late-1940s. I say unlikely because she was not a native Gujarati speaker. And she was not yet a star, having just opened the door of fame in Hindi filmdom with Do Bhai. But she found herself in Gujarati recording rooms repeatedly.

Her first was the Gujarati/Hindi bilingual Gunasundari with music for the Gujarati version by Avinash Vyas (Hindi version has 3 MDs, including AV). She sang for both the Hindi and the Gujarati versions. Almost simultaneously, she was pulled in for Karyavar, with music by Ajit Merchant. Vyas' Nanand Bhojai and Vaarasdar also featured songs by her. All four films were released in 1948!

The songs were an instant rage. In a single stroke, Geeta had sung her way into the Gujarati heart. Gunasundari (Guj) was a hit. The nanand-bhabhi pair of songs from the film ("have thoDaa thoDaa thaav varaNaagii o bhaabhii tame thoDaa thoDaa thaav varaNaagii" and "aaj maari naNadii e mheNuu.n maaryu.n") brought her voice into the living rooms. The playfulness of the nanand advising her bhabhi to be more modern (and modernism in those days was wearing Bengali sarees, high-heel shoes and avoiding a large bindi!) was beautifully portrayed by Geeta. The same bhabhi is sullen in Geeta's voice at the very same nanand for having criticized her - there is actually no equivalent of mheNuu.n in English. It is close to the Hindi "taanaa" but has the special connotation of coming from someone close. The Karyaavar romantic solo "mane maaryaa neNaa naa baaN re vaalamajii vaato maa.n" captured the coyness of first love and resonated with the then rather conservative young heart!

The success of her first year in Gujarati films brought more assignments. A pair of her non-film songs with lyrics and music by Ramesh Gupta came out the very next year. Both "haalii haalii govaalaNii aaj gokuLye ramavaa" and "kaanuDaa taari moralii e marru.n man mohyu.n" are folk tunes conveying Krishan-Gopi relationships as sung by the Gopi. These songs showcase the uncanny ability of Geeta to wrench the heart out with an amazing evocativeness in key words. The phrase "goras vechavaa chaalii..." in the first one and "dilaDu.n maruu.n khoyu.n...." in the second are truly the heart of the respective composition! These nonfilm songs, along the half a dozen films she sang for - including the celebrated Mangal Phera - completed the bouquet for 1949.

The following year (1950) was equally successful with 6 more films bearing Geeta's voice in a string of beautiful melodies. As an example, the slightly suppressed excitement in Geeta's voice while she belts out Jagdish Virani's "aana.nde naache maaru.n man naache" for Naseebdar is to die for. It is little wonder then that her popularity was at its peak and she was the top-billed playback singer in Gujarati films!

Around this time, the Gujarati film industry went through a (very) lean phase. Out of 6 films released in 1951, two films had Geeta Dutt songs. The energetic "vanare vagaDaa ne mojaar namaNii naanii naanii naar" (Parnetar, 1951, Avinash Vyas) has the best of folk and contemporary flavours. Only 2 films were released in 1952, one of which had a Geeta song. No films were released for the next two years. She did come back with a mini-bang with Naagdevta (1955, music by Avinash Vyas) where she sang 5 songs and Vidhata (1956,music by her brother Mukul Roy) where she had 4 songs. But her stint did not sustain. She did only a few more songs after this, ending a decade later with Mota Ghar Ni Dikri (a.k.a Sneh Bandhan) with music by Dilip Dholakia in 1967.

So what is Geeta's Gujarati oeuvre like? She has sung 80-odd songs for 25 Gujarati films between 1948 and 1967, plus a handful of non-film songs. While this is not a large body of work, it is larger than her total Bengali output! It is substantial enough to carve a place for her in the pantheon of Gujarati singers of the era. Like many other non-Gujaratis, her pronunciation is far from perfect (usually the retroflexes which are generously peppered in common Gujarati words tend to be tongue-twisters for non-native speakers from laguages which do not use these sounds extensively). But her hold on the sense of the words is perfect and she pours the right emotions into each song. That has immortalized her as one of the greats. It is no surprise that to this day, on Sharad Poonam nights, Gujaratis love to dance to her full-moon-like resplendent voice in "taaLiio naa taale gorii garabe ghuumii gaay re poonam ni raat ugii poonam nii raat".
List of Gujarati songs sung by Geeta Dutt
Year Song Co-Singer Movie Music Lyrics
1948 Gori Jhanjha Na Rahiye Gumnama Mukesh Kariyavar Ajit Merchant -
1948 Khovaine Kholva Prabhu - Gunsundari - -
1948 O Mazam Raat Ni Tarli - Gunsundari - -
1948 Aaj Mari Nandie Menu Maryu - Gunsundari - -r
1948 Unsaji Sole Shngar - Nanad Bhojai - S-
1948 Tame Thoda Thoda Thav Varanagi - Gunsundari - -
1948 Mane Marya Nenna Baan - Karyavar - -
1949 Gokulye Rang Ramva - Non Filmi Ramesh Gupta Ramesh Gupta
1949 Kanuda Tari Morliae - Non Filmi Ramesh Gupta Ramesh Gupta
1949 Talio Na Tale Chorus Mangal Fera - -
1949 Rakhna Ramakadane A R Oza Mangal Ferai - -
1949 Bhulun Bhutkal Toye - Mangal Frea - -
1950 Anande Naache - Naseebdaar - -
1950 Ene Jivava Dyo Ne Jari - Gada No Bel - -
1950 Jhoom Rahi Daadi Daadi Aaj Mukesh Naseebdaar Jagdeep Viraani -
1950 Ganjifa Nu Chhe Ghar - Gadano Bel - -
1951 Vanre Vagada Ne Mojar - Panetar - -
1955 Chham Chham Payal Dhire Dhire - Nag Devta - -
1956 Shamnao Vikhai Gamaan Mukesh Vidhata - -
1960 Laal Rangna Lehraniyaan Mukesh Kaadu Mkarani Avinash Vyas -
- Hali Hali Govaldi Aaj - - - -
- Mane Ker Kaato Vagayo - - - -
- Achko Machko Kareli - - Avinash Vyas -
- O Rang Rasiya - - Avinash Vyas -
- Ame Mumbai Na Rehavasi - - Avinash Vyas -
A more updated list of her Gujrati songs is available on our Database page here.
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