This piece is written by Shankar Iyer. It first appeared as part of the Guzra Hua Zamana series on Sangeet Ke Sitare, a music group on Facebook.
Many of us brought up on radio listening would have often heard the song “Maine chand aur sitaron ki tamanna” in our young days. I do not know if it is true with the others, but the soft romantic Rafi number has remained in my heart ever since I first heard it......though sadly without knowing for many years who its composer was.
Thanks to our lovely Sangeet Ke Sitare (SKS) FB group and dear friend Aditya Pant who offered me this opportunity to write on the song’s creator, I began the journey of discovering N Dutta and his forgotten music. Well, I always knew his genius and ability to create simple heart-touching tunes, but this unearthing trip has made that conviction much stronger.
N Dutta (Dutta Naik) was born in 1930 in Oroba village in Goa. The lure of music got him to run away from family and come to Bombay at the young age of 12. He learnt classical music in Bombay and started his music career as assistant to veteran composer Ghulam Haider when the latter worked for Bombay Talkies and Filmistan. As Haider saab moved to Pakistan after partition, N Dutta joined as assistant to composer S D Burman.
It is believed that senior Burman spotted his talent at the various street music programs that Dutta played in. The films Dutta assisted Burman in the music making were in the early 50s: “Bahaar”, “Buzdil”, “Ek Nazar”, “Sazaa”, “Jaal”, “Lal Kunwar”, “Jeevan Jyoti”, “Shahenshah”, “Angaarey”, “Chalis Baba Ek Chor” and “Radhakrishna”. With this vast range of experience and association with a knowledgeable stalwart, the protégé surely benefitted as producers working with senior Burman began to notice his flair and talent.
N Dutta’s foray as an independent composer was with the Punjabi movie “Baalo” in 1951. His first Hindi movie was “Milap” in 1955 under the Film Arts banner. The film’s producer T R Fatehchand who earlier produced “Jaal” (directed by Guru Dutt) in 1952 was impressed the way N Dutta handled and contributed to the movie’s Goan - based story and background while assisting S D Burman. That is what clinched this assignment in Dutta’s favour. And coincidentally, the film’s director was Raj Khosla, who hailed from the Guru Dutt School of film-making!
Dutta showed his class right away on debut with some memorable songs involving Lata Mangeshkar (“Yeh bahaaron ka sama” & “Dard ka saaz bhi hai”), Geeta Dutt (“Hum se bhi kar lo”, “Jaate ho toh jaao”, “chahe bhi jo dil jaana” and her duet with Rafi “Bachna zara ye zamana hai bura”) and Hemant Kumar (haunting tandem version of “Yeh bahaaron ka sama” with a descending end to the mukhda). The vibes clearly showed how gifted N Dutta was. The film’s music lent a purposefully powerful feel to suit the mystery tale. N Dutta, the composer, had arrived!
The next two movies happened reasonably quickly thanks to G P Sippy who had produced “Shahenshah” (53) and “Radhakrishna” (54) with S D Burman’s music. They were “Marine Drive” with actors Bina Rai and Ajit in the lead, released in 1955 and “Chandrakaanta” with Bina Rai (again!) and Bharat Bhushan, released in 1956. The spark that N Dutta showed in “Milap” continued with some extremely melodious tunes in these movies. “Marine Drive” had some stunning Asha Bhosle solos like “Aji hum aur tum”, “Raat sunsaan hai zindagi veeran hai” and “Dil bhi mit jaaye”. The singer -composer affiliation had begun to build and a long partnership was in the offing.
The score’s brownie points were, however, its bewitching Lata and Rafi solos. “Apne khayalaon ko samjha dijiye, kyon raaton ko neend churane aate hain” picturised on the attractive Bina Rai saw Lata in vintage form. The subtle acceleration of percussion done at the point of “churane aate hain” spoke volumes of N Dutta’s ability to get to the nuances. And it seemed perfect foil to Sahir’s romantic writing that sounded all the more aesthetic and elegant. Rafi’s “Ab wo karam karein ke sitam main nashe mein hoon” so minutely and precisely brought out the frustration of a forlorn lover. The gentle composition and the almost-muted, though evocative, Accordion playing and singing continue to stay in our mind forever.
“Chandrakaanta” in 1956 had Rafi’s “Maine chand aur sitaron ki tamanna” that I mentioned at the start of this article. The lovingly created tune ensures to radiate through every syllable uttered (Rafi) and every word written (Sahir). A couple of solos by Asha in the movie : “Mast hokar zara jhoom le” and “Qismat agar hai saath tumhare” too remained in public memory for some time as did her duet with Rafi “Jee chahta hai aaj kahin door”. The same year (1956) also saw another Dutta score “Dassehra” that had the soulful Pradeep written and sung “Doosron ka dukhda door karne waale”.
Year 1957 was noteworthy for two films : “Hum Panchhi Ek Daal Ke” that won the Prime Minister’s award for the best Children’s film with the P L Santoshi written “Ek se bhale do, do se bhale char” (Asha, chorus) and the memorable “Mr. X” (another G P Sippy production). “Laal laal gaal jaan pe hain laagu” (Rafi), an out-and-out rock and roll number with its key instruments the Drums and Accordion, made real waves during the times. Though it is said to have been inspired from Elvis Presley’s “Rock rock rock pretty baby rock”, the rhythm-based composition lent another colour and shine to Dutta’s music. Legend goes that Ashok Kumar, the movie’s actor, while watching the movie’s first trial show, had predicted the movie’s success to this rollicking Rafi number. And the forecast did come true when crowds thronged to see the Johnny Walker picturised song on the movie’s release.
A perfect contrast to the racy “Laal laal gaal” in “Mr.X” was Asha’s “Kitna haseen hai sama”, sung in a dreamy voice and pleasantly magical mood. The song remains one of my utter favourites. Last but not the least, how can one forget the bubbly “Sadqe teri chaal ke, kajra vajra daal ke” (Rafi, Geeta) picturised on Johnny Walker and Sheila Vaz. It is another matter that, in fact, it so much reminds you of the one-year later released “O dilwale ab teri gali taka a pahunche” (“Kaala Pani”, S D Burman)!
The next year (1958) saw N Dutta teaming up with B R Chopra for “Sadhna”. The score remains a landmark in Hindi films, especially for its hard-hitting Sahir poetry “Aurat ne janam diya mardon ko, mardon ne use bazaar diya”. The tune and singing are so very poignant that one can’t avoid getting moved. Every other song of the film too has its own charm. Vyjayanthimala plays a courtesan in the film and that obviously meant some great dance sequences and great music. In Lata’s “Kahoji Tum Kya Kya Kharidoge” the mujra flavour emphatically comes out, what with the deftly played Tabla and accompanying rhythm changes. “Aaj Kyon Hamse Parda Hai” by Rafi and Balbir is a milestone Hindi Film Music (HFM) Qawwali that has inspired many. And one can feel the S D phrasing style and flavour in “Sambhal aye dil” (Asha, Rafi) and “Tora manva kyon ghabraye” (fascinating voice of Geeta Dutt).
“Light House” in 1958 (again a G P Sippy movie) had Asha Bhosle further blossoming in the Dutta camp with gems like “Tang aa chuke”, “Kis jagah jaayein”, and “Nainon se naina laage”. The pain as she sings “Tang aa chuke hain kashmakash-e-zindagi se ham, thukraa na den jahaan ko kahin bedili se ham” comes out so vehemently that one is able to easily relate to the anguish deep inside. Sure triumph for the singer, song-writer Sahir and of course the special baton of N Dutta.
“Light House”, for me, cannot go without the mention of the peppy “Gumba rumba gumba rumba gumba rumba ghelo” by Suman and Rafi. While the energy and singing are overpowering, Sahir adds real meat with words like “Custom, vustom, culture, vulture sab ko goli maaro”. And cleverly blended with it are the sensuously rendered Suman Kalyanpur preludes to the antaras: “Aa tujhe kasam hai, tujhe kasam hai, pyaar jahaan ka gham hai” and “Aa nazarein hai jawaan, nazarein hai jawaan, toh hum hai kahaan”. Though the pleasurable rendering reminds you of Lata’s “Aa palkon pe aa” (“Madbhare Nain”, 1955), the composer’s sheer genius in creating it cannot be overstated.
Year 1959 perhaps saw N Dutta peaking as a composer. We talk of B R Chopra’s “Dhool Ka Phool” first, easily rated as one of N Dutta’s best by music lovers and critics. Dutta touched new highs, shouldered as he was mostly, by Sahir’s terrific poetry. “Tere pyaar ka aasra chahta hoon” (Lata, Mahendra Kapoor), “Dhadakne lagi dil ke taaron ki duniya” (Asha, Mahendra Kapoor) and my super favourite “Jhukti ghata gaati hawa sapne jagaaye” (Asha) can all race together for the number one romantic song spot! Rafi’s high octave winner “Daman mein daag laga baithe” and sensitively rendered national integrity hit “Tu hindu banega na musalmaan banega” take the score to a different level altogether. And to nicely round off were the lady solos “Tu mere pyaar ka phool hai” (Lata) and “Kaase kahoon man ki baat” (Sudha). “Dhool Ka Phool” remains one of the highly regarded scores and a prized possession for HFM collectors and listeners.
G P Sippy’s “Black Cat”, released in the same year, featuring Balraj Sahni and Minoo Mumtaz is another one of Dutta’s feathers in his cap. Both the Lata versions of the song “Main tumhi se poochti hoon” are from another planet. While the faster version is romance to the core, the slower version with Lata’s extra-ordinary emoting to the eloquently played supportive Piano is the one I cherish more. The other Lata solo is brilliant too: “Sitare raah takte hain”. Its heart-rending Mandolin at the start gives me goose bumps every time I listen to it! Of course, adding variety to the score is “Nashe mein hum, nashe mein tum” (Rafi and Suman who does a Geeta Dutt!). Overall, a mind-blowing score!
Another G P Sippy film in the same year “Bhai bahen” gave a Sudha Malhotra sung, Sahir written beauty “Mere nadeem mere hamsafar udaas na ho” and the Asha song “Saare jahaan se achcha Hindustan hamara” (supported by chorus). “Jaalsaaz” in 1959 showed Dutta’s versatility with two lovely Kishore - Asha duets “Pyaar ka jahaan ho” and “Mere dil meri jaan” and the crazy “A be hakka, hakka bakka” and “A r r r todo na dil beqaraar ka”. The last two were likeable departures from the core N Dutta style of composing.
I cannot go ahead without mentioning these unforgettable 1959 creations: “Tum mujhe bhool bhi jaao” to (athough Sudha Malhotra composed this song, N Dutta composed other songs of the film “Didi”), “Aao hum pyaar karein” and the sugary- sweet “O mere bichde balam” (both Lata solos in “Mr. John”) and “Aye dil zubaan na khol” (Lata again in “Naach Ghar”)
The B R Chopra - Sahir - N Dutta association teamed up again in 1961 for another memorable score “Dharam Putra”. Asha Bhosle seemed to be back to her glory days with “Main jab bhi akeli hoti hoon tum chup ke se aa jaate ho” and “Kya dekha o naino wali naina kyon bhar aaye” (lovely use of Sarangi in this song is to be noted) and Mahendra Kapoor delivered some real knock-outs: “Aaj ki raat nahin shikwe shikayat ke liye”, “Bhool sakta hai bhala kaun yeh pyaari aankhen”, “Chahe yeh maano chahe woh maano” (with Balbir) and “Jai janani jai bharat ma” (with chorus).
“Gyarah Hazaar Ladkiyaan” (1962) seemed to be the last enriching N Dutta score after “Dharam Putra”. “Dil ki tammanna thi masti mein” (with 2 versions: Asha -Rafi duet and Rafi solo), “Pehchaano hum wohi hai” (Lata) and “Sab log jidhar woh hai” (Asha) from the movie are ones to die for. There were sure some memorable songs later: “Aapki baatein aapki kasmein” (Asha, “Kaala Samundar”, 1962), “Dhoonde nazar nazar” (Asha, Mahendra Kapoor, “Dilli Ka Dada”, 1962), “Tera aana bhi dhokha tha” (Rafi, “Mere Armaan Mere Sapne”, 1963), “Ashkon mein jo paaya hai woh geeton mein diya hai” (Talat, “Chandi Ki Deewar”, 1964) and “Chand bhi koi deewana hai” (Asha, Mahendra Kapoor, “Pyas” 1968) but it was not the same and Dutta-saab seemed to be going down-hill. There may have been a revival of sorts in year 1970 with “Jaan gayi main to jaan gayi” (Asha) and “Ponchhkar ashk apni aankhon se muskurao to koi baat bane” (Rafi), both from “Naya Raasta”, but the consistent early magic and appeal had by then deserted him. They had gone away, never to come back.
Lack of later commercial success and subsequently assignments in late 70s, forced him to play in the orchestra of other then successful music directors and reduced his wife to sing in chorus. He bacame a permanent fixture in Laxmikant Pyarelal’s team and LP would make sure he received his payment even for the recordings of the songs that he was not present for. His friendship with Sahir continued and they partnered one last time in “Chehre par Chehra” in 1980 which also turned out to be N.Dutta’s last outing as a composer.
The B or C grade film assignments in the 70s don’t take anything away from the hypnotic charm and aura N Dutta’s music has had on us. Sadly, his later years were spent fighting ill health and commercial failure. And when he breathed his last on December 30, 1987, a true classy composer, whose work will always be held in high esteem and remain worth its weight in 24-carat GOLD, had passed away in to permanent oblivion! He was felicitated posthumously by Government of Maharashtra and a street close to his house was named after him!
- Baalo (Punjabi) - 1951
- Marine Drive - 1955
- Milap - 1955
- Chandrakanta - 1956
- Dushehra - 1956
- Hum Panchhi Ek Daal Ke - 1957
- Mohini - 1957
- Mr. X - 1957
- Light House - 1958
- Miss - 1958 - 1958
- Sadhna - 1958
- Bhai Behen - 1959
- Black Cat - 1959
- Dhool Ka Phool - 1959
- Didi - 1959
- Jaalsaaz - 1959
- Mr. John - 1959
- Naach Ghar - 1959
- Doctor Shaitan – 1960
- Ek Don Teen (Marathi) - 1960
- Rikshawala - 1960
- Dharmaputra - 1961
- Do Bhai - 1961
- Dilli Ka Dada - 1962
- Gyarah Hazar Ladkiyan - 1962
- Kala Samundar - 1962
- Sachche Moti - 1962
- Akela - 1963
- Awaara Abdullah - 1963
- Holiday In Bombay - 1963
- Mere Armaan Mere Sapne - 1963
- Rustom-e-Baghdad - 1963
- Badshah - 1964
- Chandi Ki Deewar - 1964
- Hercules - 1964
- Gopal Krishna - 1965
- Khaakan - 1965
- Bahadur Daaku - 1966
- Dilavar - 1966
- Jawan Mard - 1966
- Albela Mastana - 1967
- Madhuchandra (Marathi) - 1967
- Apna Ghar Apni Kahani (Pyaas) – 1968
- Apradh (Marathi) - 1969
- Ek Masoom - 1969
- Patthar Ka Khwab - 1969
- Ustad 420 - 1969
- Aag Aur Daag - 1970
- Inspector - 1970
- Naya Rasta - 1970
- Badnaam Farishte - 1971
- Return of Johnny - 1972
- Do Juari - 1974
- Ganga - 1974
- Aag Aur Toofan - 1975
- Phanda - 1975
- Preet Tujhi Majhi (Marathi) - 1975
- Shantata Khoon Zhala Ahe (Marathi) - 1975
- Bala Gau Kashi Angai (Marathi) - 1977
- Mama Bhache (Marathi) - 1979
- Chehre Pe Chehra - 1981
- Film Hi Film (Includes songs from Unreleased Picnic) - 1983
- Suvarna Sangeetacha Suvarna Kaal - 1931 – 1960 by Isaak Mujawar
- Yesterday's Melodies, Today's Memories by Manek Premchand
- Lata - Voice of the Golden Era by Mandar Bichhu
- Hindi Film Geet Kosh by Harmandar Singh ‘Hamraz’
- Dhunon Ki Yatra by Pankaj Raag