Looking back at the six years this blog has been in existence, I find myself surprised that I’ve never done a post on Geeta Dutt. Geeta Dutt, née Geeta Ghosh Roy Chaudhury, the woman with that beautifully melodious, faintly nasal voice, who was known for singing bhajans and other songs with a classical or folk lilt to them—until SD Burman chose her to sing Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana de, and opened up to millions of listeners across the years the astounding versatility of this glorious voice. Geeta Dutt, who could sing with equal finesse everything from club songs to wandering minstrel ones. Geeta, who sang some of the most achingly beautiful songs in Hindi cinema.
I’d been thinking, for the past few months, of doing a post on songs that a person uses to introduce himself or herself in Hindi cinema. Not the “Awaara hoon” or “Main rangeela pyaar ka raahi” type, which actually use a set of adjectives to describe the singer, but an actual introduction: this is my name, this is where I live, stuff like that. I can think of a number of songs along those lines, and it seemed like a good idea to do a list.
When I watched Love in Bombay last weekend (and saw Kishore Kumar belting out Maazaa naav ahe Ganpat Rao), I was reminded of that long-pending list. So here it is: ten of my favourite songs, mostly from pre-70s films, where the singer introduces himself/herself by name. These are, as I usually stipulate for my lists, from films I’ve seen. Not all of them are necessarily good songs, music-wise, but they invariably have something or the other—lyrics, picturisation, situation, whatever—which sets them apart for me.
My sister gave me Ganesh Anantharaman’s Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song for Christmas. Yes, I know, my sister’s a gem: I adore her. I also adore a lot of the people Anantharaman writes about in his book. He admits he’s biased towards classical music, but then he does go on to acknowledge the worth of people like O P Nayyar, who’s a classic example of unclassical.
Omkar Prasad Nayyar was born on January 16, 1926 (now you know why this post today, of all days). He grew up in Lahore, and was composing music for All India Radio Lahore by the time he was fifteen (makes me feel utterly worthless. All these child prodigies do). When India was partitioned in 1947, Nayyar left Lahore and came to Bombay. Thank heavens. The rest, clichéd though it may sound, is history.