THE artist’s first love… having put pen to paper with such enthusiasm, I now feel a slight pang of misgiving. Isn’t the subject too big?
Why did I think of it in the first place? Instead of keeping it a mystery till the end (or even beyond), let me confess at the outset that the idea first struck me when I began to plan the triple birthday celebrations which we hold every year on July 9—of my husband Guru Dutt and of our two sons.
I thought: Our sons are young enough to rejoice over the usual birthday presents— but what gift can I give Guru? It must be unusual, one which would evoke memories, touch chords, kindle new lights from the past.
And then I knew… This is it.
The artist’s first love is his work. It is as simple as that, really, when everything is boiled down to the essentials. It appears to be the final explanation of the mystery of all artistic and creative endeavour, be it painting, writing, film-making, dancing or singing.
Yet it is not as simple as that. From where does the inspiration come which causes those divine fires in the creator, fires which result in his frenzied seeking after artistic perfection? Where indeed? This question often strikes me when I watch my husband at work. I never cease to wonder at the devotion with which he works, his passion for perfection, the zeal which makes him forget people, circumstances, and the mundane, everyday realities. And I asked myself: “What is the secret of this frenzy? From where does it come?”
In my own life I have tried to find the answer. Ever since I was a little girl, I was restless to sing and dance. I remember when I was thirteen or fourteen, I attended school in the day, and in the evening gave singing and dancing lessons to other girls! It was not the money I got for teaching them (ten rupees from each) that counted so much as the fact that I was very enthusiastic about inspiring others with a passion for singing.
As for myself, I sang and sang, seeking to give expression to my inner self. At that time we were staying at Dadar (in Bombay). Beneath our apartment, there was a dance school which music director Hanuman Prasad occasionally visited.
There was a knock on our door one evening. It was a stranger asking for my father. He was ushered in and my father asked what he wanted.
“Every evening for the past several days,” he said, “I’ve been hearing a girl singing here. Who is it? She has a beautiful voice.”
“My daughter,” my father said.
The caller was Hanuman Prasad himself. Ultimately, he persuaded my father to seriously consider my taking up the career of a playback singer.
This led to my singing a duet or two in “Bhakta Prahlad.” Then I went on to Filmistan, where, after my singing in a couple of films, Mr. S. D. Burman took me up to sing in “Do Bhai.” The song was “Mera sunder sapna beet gaya,” and my rendering of it so pleased him that he made me sing all the songs of that film.
They say that fame and career, won after a hard struggle, are more satisfying than when they are acquired comparatively easily. I do not know. Personally, I have no tale of bitter struggles to tell. The “Do Bhai” songs became hits, and paved the way for me.
However, lasting satisfaction arises only from having done the work in hand well, to the best of one’s ability. So I have more of a sentimental attachment to some songs than to others, irrespective of whether they become hits or not.
And that brings me to the most important phase of my life, the day one artist met another.
Mr. Burman had been signed to compose the music for “Baazi,” and he sent word to me that morning to report for rehearsal at the Famous Cine Laboratory and Studios at Mahalaxmi.
My father and I drove to the studio and parked the car in the compound. He got out, saying he would inquire where the rehearsals were being held, while I sat in the car. A few minutes later, a young man came up and said:. “Come. I’ll take you to the rehearsal room.”
He spoke Bengali, and I took him for one. Not knowing who he was, however, I was a little reluctant to go until his manner-reassured me.
We went upstairs to where Mr. Burman was rehearsing, and at the first available opportunity, pointing out the young man, I asked, “Who is the Bengali gentleman?”
“He’s not a Bengali!” Mr. Burman laughed. “But his name is Guru Dutt. He is the director of ‘Baazi’. Don’t you know him?”
We were introduced.
Subsequently, I sang all the songs of “Baazi” and after that of “Jaal,” both of which were directed by Guru Dutt. Then he launched into film production: “Baaz,” “Aar Paar,” “Mr. and Mrs. 55,” “C.I.D.” and “Pyaasa”—I sang in all of them.
We met for the first time during the making of “Baazi” and it was three years later, during the making of “Baaz,” that we were married. From “Baazi” to “Baaz” it was just a matter of dropping the “I”—and converting it into “We”…
Which brings the discussion full circle, and perhaps much closer to the mysterious force which lies behind artistic inspiration. It comes, I think, from the deep, hidden springs of the emotions, from the inner depths of the heart and soul, from the shedding of the “I” and merging it with the larger “We.”
It comes, finally, from life—and love (By Geeta Dutt – 1958).