Geeta Dutt was born in 1930 into a rich zamindār's family as Geeta Ghosh Roy Chowdhuri in Faridpur, (then in Bengal, India; now in Banglādesh). In 1942, her parents shifted to an apartment in Dādar, Bombay (now Mumbai) when she was twelve. There, composer/music director Hanumān Prasād once overheard her singing casually, and, feeling impressed, he offered to impart her training in singing. He launched her in a chorus song in Bhakta Prahlād (1946), where she sang only two lines. But her rendering of those two lines stood out. The following year, she got a major assignment as a playback singer for Do Bhāi, and her renderings in that movie brought Geeta to the forefront as a top playback singer.
Initially, Geeta was a singer known for singing bhajans and sad songs, but her renderings of composer S. D. Burman's jazzy musical scores in Bāzi in 1951 demonstrated a new facet of Geeta's singing: The sexiness in her voice and her easy adaptation to "western" tunes. From then on in the 1950s, Geeta was people's first choice for singing seductive songs and providing song accompaniments in dance clubs.
S.D. Burman recognized the magic in Geeta's voice through her songs in "Do Bhāi". He effectively used the Bengali lilt in her voice in movies like Devdās (1955) and Pyāsā (1957). The song "Āj Sājan Mohe Ang Lagā Lo" in "Pyāsā" is a prime example of a Bengali keertan being presented in its Hindi version.
Under composer O.P. Nayyar's direction, Geeta further developed into a singer who could sing almost any kind of song, be it soft, snappy, teasing, or sad. She and Lata Mangeshkar were the premier female playback singers in the 1950s.
During Geeta's recording of songs for a movie, she met the movie's young and upcoming director, Guru Dutt. Their romance culminated in marriage on May 26, 1953. Geeta went on to sing some of her best songs in his movies while continuing to sing in various other assignments as well.
Geeta and Guru Dutt had three children: Tarun (b. 1954), Arun (b. 1956), and Ninā (b. 1962).
In 1957, Guru Dutt launched a movie, "Gauri",' with Geeta as its singing star. It was to be India's first movie in Cinemascope, but the project was shelved after only a few days of shooting. By then, their marriage was on the rocks, Guru Dutt had got romantically involved with Waheedā Rehmān, and Geeta had taken to drinking. The breakup of their marriage affected Geeta's singing career.
In 1958, S.D. Burman had developed discord with Lata Mangeshkar as a playback singer, and he attempted to work with Geeta as the main singer of his compositions rather than the upcoming Asha Bhosle, who, he felt, was relatively raw. However, out of her personal problems, Geeta would not practice her art sufficiently, and failed to meet Burman's demanding standards. (He, and O.P. Nayyar too, then started to work with Asha and helped her blossom as a singer.)
In 1964, Guru Dutt died from a combination of alcohol and an overdose of sleeping pills. (His death was widely perceived as a suicide following two earlier attempts.) Geeta then suffered a serious nervous breakdown, and also ran into financial problems. She tried to resume her singing career, cutting discs at Durgā Pujā, and giving stage shows. She also performed in a leading role in a Bengali movie, Bhadu Bharan (1967), and sang admirably for a movie, Anubhav (1971), which turned out to her final performance to the music of Kanu Roy.
Geeta died of cirrhosis of the liver on July 20, 1972.
Some of the memorable songs sung under O.P. Nayyar's direction:
Some memorable Bengali songs: