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Eternal Wait: The Story Of The Dark Girl By The Meghna (Geeta Dutt)

July 20, 2015 | By

“A dark girl sits by the river – she misses the tunes of the boatmen. The birds don’t give her accompaniment. Yet she sits. Hums – tunes of an era she wishes to visit – tunes that stir her soul, the rhythm that arouses her nerves.”
Geeta Dutt’s matchless melodies in her native Bangla have never ceased to move listeners. Sounak Gupta lyrically traces the rise of the skylark from the banks of the Meghna, who continues to enthrall music lovers with her dulcet voice, long after dusk has settled and the river has broken its banks.

Geeta Dutt

An unending urge to dive into the magical ocean of the tunes, would rise in her soul, time and time again.

Chhilo sonar dnar paboner boitha,
Moyurponkhi naokhana –
Ore chondro suruj golay bhori,
Phul chhorato jochhona!

(There was the golden oar of the wind, the dream-boat. Filling my storehouse with the light of the Sun, the Full Moon, would rain flowers!) 

The story began at the banks of the Meghna – while a dark little girl sat, her back resting against a tree, humming to the tunes of the songs the boatmen sang past. Hers was definitely not an age to understand the meaning of the songs – nevertheless, the touching tunes would linger. The rhythm would flow through her veins. An unending urge to dive into the magical ocean of the tunes, would rise in her soul, time and time again.

A picturesque niche, the girl had built for herself amidst the greens beside the Meghna – drinking in the rhythm the breeze would greet her with, enjoying the musical accompaniment the birds would give as she hummed, and running home to answer to her mother’s affectionate call! Then there came a storm, which carried the little girl away from her niche! The boatmen, the greens, the river, the birds, were all gone!

That was how the early life of a little child was destined to be!

Kothay amar sujon neye,
Sadher dingi tar?
Ghomta-pora kalo meye,
Kothay se bahar,
Bolo – ruper bahar?

(Where’s Sujan – the ferryman and his ferry? Where’s my dark girl, who would veil her beautiful face?)

The river wept. Her ‘Kalo meye’ (dark girl) assured,

Ogo amar sadher padma,
Shunyo hridoy tor,
Uthhbe bhore kanay-kanay,
Hobe nishi bhor!

(O my loved river, Padma, your empty heart would soon be filled up to the brim! The bad days would soon be gone!)

The ever-so-gracious ‘artiste’ had finally spoken through her!

‘Geeta Roy’ was born!

The girl of Faridpur, who loved to hum the tunes of the boatmen

The girl of Faridpur, who loved to hum the tunes of the boatmen

The pre-partition political storms that kept affecting East Bengal in the late 1930s were too much for a peaceful living. The Roy Choudhurys left their ancestral home (which was beside the Meghna, in Faridpur) and came to Calcutta. Geeta Roy, the eldest daughter of the Roy Choudhury couple, Devendranath and Amiya Devi – found scope for getting trained in music. It was in Calcutta, that her inherent flair in music, which had been enriched by the musical niche she had made for herself in Faridpur – got scope for being nurtured through formal training.

Harendranath Nandi, a regular composer of the then famous ‘Radha Films’ started giving a seven-year-old Geeta, lessons in light music. That was 1937. Soon, Geeta’s time for standing first in various music competitions came in! However, destiny had planned yet another change in her life! The Roy Choudhurys shifted to Bombay, in 1942, leaving no more scope for getting lessons in music! Geeta Roy was left in an environment, which was nowhere close to Faridpur or Calcutta – no one (but her family and relatives) to speak to her in Bengali – no boatman to sing a tune for her to hum, no teacher to teach her Bengali songs!

Let’s not forget, the rose spreads its scent irrespective of where it grows!

‘When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited!’

In no time young Geeta’s passion for music bore fruits. She was called in for playback singing and earned huge fame among her listeners. 

Creating History with Sachin Karta

There was but one person, who Geeta could relate to, easily. The son of Comilla – Sachin Dev Burman! The unfamiliar environment of Bombay seemed soon a home!

There was but one person, who Geeta could relate to, easily. The son of Comilla – Sachin Dev Burman! The unfamiliar environment of Bombay seemed soon a home!

Padmar dheu re!
Mor shunyo hridoy-padma niye ja ja re!

(O the waves of the river Padma, carry my empty heart with you!) 

There was but one person, who Geeta could relate to, easily. The son of Comilla – Sachin Dev Burman! The unfamiliar environment of Bombay seemed soon a home! The music of Bengal was in close reach! 1947 marked the beginning of a musical history, which the twosome from Bengal created!

After already having become a ‘mini-wonder’ in the playback industry of Bollywood, Geeta Roy got her first chance to sing for a Bengali film, in 1950. Bombay Talkies was making Samar, for which Sachin Dev Burman was appointed music director. Sachin Karta had already been an experienced music composer, having composed for many Bengali films during his decade-long career span in Calcutta, and for Hindi films, since 1946. He invited the twenty-year-old Geeta Roy to sing for him. It was definitely a wonderful feeling for the young singer, long detached from her native land, as she rehearsed the songs for her first Bengali film!

Samar had Geeta Roy singing two songs for the lead character, Sarala, played by Sumitra Devi – Gun gun sure and Khela bhangar khela. A third song too, had her singing with Kishore Kumar and Arun Kumar (picturised on a group of gypsies) – Sundari lo sundari. The two solos, which had Geeta singing for the lead character, were not much different from the songs of hope and despair in love, that she was accustomed to singing. However, her par excellent performance in Sundari lo sundari (a composition based on the folk music of Bengal) deserves mention. She rarely got such compositions, which bear the typical ‘rural smell’.

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9 thoughts on “Eternal Wait: The Story Of The Dark Girl By The Meghna (Geeta Dutt)

  • Jitu

    Beautiful, melancholic, ethereal, soothing, intriguing, poetic. Just like the dark beauty herself. She was god’s sweet child. Lived a short, memorable life… like a lamp that brightens our evenings and flickers out by morning.

    Thanks for writing this.

    I’ll never be able to fully grasp all the songs and their lyrics. But heyy, who says I need to understand the words to enjoy the music and an ethereal voice like Geeta’s. So aptly named… “Geeta”… she was a song to be remembered for ever.

    1. Sounak Gupta

      Many thanks for your appreciation. So true – one needs not to understand the words to enjoy Music. Being frank – even the listeners who understand the language, don’t keep noting the lyrics as the song goes on. One just wonders at the marvel the ethereal voice creates! 😀

    2. Antara

      Jitu

      Loved your comment, every bit of it!
      A life is remembered by not its length but by what it leaves behind. In her short and rather tumultuous career span, Geeta Dutt left behind a peerless legacy…. unmatchable indeed.

      If Jhiri jhiri chaitali batashe is my most favourite song for commute, Eyi sundoro swarnali sandhyay is my regular evening treat, Ghum maajhi oi haal dhorechhe and Nishiraat baanka chaand akashe are a must at bedtime… Koto gaan haralam is my companion as I go through my daily chores… Geeta Dutt remains an inseparable part of daily life. Each song a creates a mood, and we smile, laugh and cry with her.

      Even for those who don’t understand the intricacies of the Bangla language, the lilting rise and fall of her gayaki is enough to make them enjoy the music 🙂 200% agree with you!

      Sounak has very eloquently captured the bhaav behind the songs… and it was a deeply emotional journey for me, presenting this evocative essay 🙂 Loved every moment of it and kept humming all through!

  • Songs Of Yore

    Sounak,
    I couldn’t say it better than Jitu. It is a gold-mine of information, especially for non-Bengalis like me. Not many, including probably Bengalis too, would know that Khela bhangar gela embeds within itself a portion based on the tune of Mera sundar sapna beet gaya, which is based on Rabindrasangeet Rodono bhara ae basant.

    Looking at the way her life and career ended in shambles and destruction, how one wishes if it were possible to rewind the clock, she could have made different choices in life, and had a glorious career in Hindi, and especially Bengali films, out of the sight of the mighty Mangeshkars. I am saying this studiedly, based on my understanding of Guru Dutt’s personality from his letters to her, edited by NM Kabir.

    Thanks a lot Sounak for this treat. Thank you Antara for hosting it. You guys are doing impressive work.

    AK

    1. Sounak Gupta

      Rewinding the clock – only if that was possible! Misfortune of her admirers! She had been huge name in the Gujarati playback scene too, in the late 40s. So true. Geeta Dutt has always been an independent name – be it when the Mangeshkars were reigning supreme, or before! Many thanks for your appreciation! 🙂

    2. Antara

      Thank you AK for your great comments! We are indeed greatly humbled.

      Your observation about Khela bhangar khela and Mera sundar sapna is a new insight for me… I know both these songs Mera sundar sapna and Rodon bhara e boshonto by heart but never noticed the similarity… 🙂 Thanks for pointing it out!

      Yes, if only rewinding the clock had been possible. Geeta Dutt was the only one who gave the mighty Mangeshkar’s a solid challenge… racing ahead to a pre-eminent position. Her forte in Bhaav gayaki is peerless. The way she can evoke emotions in her listeners, to make them smile and laugh and cry with her, is simply remarkable!

      Your comment about making different choices in life reminds me of a favourite line from Robert Browning’s ‘The Last Ride Together’
      Had I said that, had I done this,
      So might I gain, so might I miss
      .

      Had Geeta Dutt been able to lead a less turbulent personal life, the canvas of Hindi and Bangla film and non-film music would have been different. She was the first choice for many a top music director and would have remained so. But then, as they say, destiny had something else in store for her.

      🙂

  • Learning and Creativity

    Some of the comments received on Facebook for this article:

    Antara Nanda Mondal · Editor/Creative Director at Wisitech InfoSolutions Pvt Ltd

    One of the most lyrical articles Learning And Creativity has received for our music and cinema section… Privileged to be able to publish it with pictures (many thanks to The magical voice of Geeta Dutt group for providing rare and stunning pics for this musical journey…. Thank you Sounak Gupta… We are eagerly awaiting your next articles.

    Peeyush Sharma – Business Development Manager at A Slice of Fried Gold

    A beautiful piece on the best heard voice in Indian cinema. Heard the songs and enjoyed them immensely. Thanks you from the bottom of my heart for this excellent write-up.

    Debasish Bhattacharya · Works at Self-Employed

    This piece is just moving……. loved the way the life of this versatile singer called Geeta Dutt has been porttrayed by Sounak Gupta. Got to know about many unknown aspects of this genius. It is a collector’s item for all Geeta fans…. Well done.

    Lakshmi Priya

    I am reading this after a long time since I came to know about this article . I get very emotional about my fave singer that I do take a break when I am overwhelmed. Now I read it with great interest not just because of the compelling prose by Sounak but also because I learn something new whenever he writes. The article is like a vast canvass on which he sketched an evocative picture of the life of this gifted singer starting from her roots. Many thanx Sounak for the info & the songs.

    Subhasis Gupta · Institute of Chartered Accountants of India

    Well researched still melancholic; poetic still informative..makes this a rare piece of writing, as being the hallmark of Sounak. Thank you for getting us there with the eternal Geeta Dutt’s melody.

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