Ahead of times: Gyan Dutt
A behemoth in the formative days of the Indian film industry, Gyan Dutt was pushed aside by the changing landscape of the music industry that went hand-in-hand but remains a potent musical icon with an evergreen appeal
Composers hailing from Bengal have typically been known to make enormous contributions to the industry of film music. Rai Chand Boral, Pankaj Mullick, Timir Bran, Sachin Dev Burman, Salil Chaudhary, Rahul Dev Burman and Bappi Lahiri are the few names that bear mentioning in this category. While Rai Chand Boral, Pankaj Mullick and Timir Baran remained in Kolkata; Sachin Dev Burman, Salil Chasudhary, Rahul Dev Burman and Bappi Lahiri contributed and enriched Bollywood music. Gyan Dutt was one such composer who made his mark in the 1940s.
Gyan Dutt belonged to Bengal but was born in Bangalore as Janan Dutt. He was advised by his friends and well-wishers to change his name and so he did, changing it to Gyan Dutt and giving music under this name. He was on the staff of Ranjit Movietone. Gyan Dutt made his debut with Ranjit's Toofani Toli in 1937. Jayant Desai directed this film and would work with Gyan Dutt in several other film projects. In his debut film, Dutt made a masterpiece composition: Kyun naino se neer bahayein which was sung by Waheedan.
Gyan Dutt did eleven films for Ranjit Movietone between 1938 and 1939. He gave music in films of all genres – social, costume drama, stunt as well as mythological. In 1939, he got an offer from Sudama Productions to do the film Aapki Ki Marzi, starring Savita Devi, Motilal, Khursheed and Waheedan. The film was directed by the ace director, Sarvottam Badami. Gyan Dutt himself sang three solos in the film. He sang Kaun bataye kya hai raaz-e-zindgi and two duets with Khursheed and Savita Devi – Gayein chara ke banke bihari and Premlata lipti jaye daron se.
Sant Tulsi Das (1939) was another hit of his career. Its numbers, Ban chale ram raghu rai and Ram se koi mile de were smashing hits. 1939 was overall, a lucky year for Gyan Dutt.
In the 1940s, Gyan Dutt gave music in Achhut with Motilal and Gauhar in the lead. Chandulal Shah directed the film. The film was made with the blessings of Mahatma Gandhi. Gyan Dutt majestic compositions were: Di dukhi ko daan diya, Koi bajaye na prem ki veena and Nahi bolu nahi bolu. Gandhi's favourite bhajan, Raghupati raghav raja ram was also included in this film. His music in Musafir and Sajani for Ranjit was also appreciated.
Gyan Dutt was the most prominent composer of the 1940s. His music was known to almost guarantee a hit film. In 1941, he provided the score for Jayant Desai's Beti. His favourite singer Khursheed sang the popular numbers, Ghir ghir ghan mein ghor ghata chhaiye, Armaan kuch to dil mein tadap ke hi rah gaye and Naino se nain milake nayari chhabi dikhla ke.
In 1942, he gave music in Aankh Micholi, with Nalni Jaywant in the lead who sang under the baton of Gyan Dutt. He sang four solos: Jag mein kiska prem bada hai, Ae re maiye maiye re mere babul se, Dekho ji na cheedo and Main to bade baap ki beti re. In Aarman, two of his compositions were noted, Dil ki duniya jo luta di and Wo kaun hai jo leta hai chutkiyan jigar mein.
Gyan Dutt's biggest hit, Bhakt Surdas was released in 1942 and saw the involvement of legendary singer KL Saigal and Khursheed. Gyan Dutt scored fifteen numbers for the film. Most of these songs became major hits. Saigal sang his best numbers during this film – Nis din barshat nain hamare, Nain heen ko raah dikha prabhu and Maiya mori mai nahi makhan khayo. He also sang memorable duets with Khursheed, Chandni raat aour tare khile ho and Jis jogi ko jog liya. Another hit duet was Sar pe kadam ki chhaiyan muraliya baaj rahi. Other releases of 1942 that involved Gyan Dutt were Armaan, Return of Toofan Mail, Savera and Dhiraj.
In 1943, he gave music in Adab Arz which starred Nalni Jaywant, Karan Deewan and singer Mukesh, who also acted in the movie. Nalni sang Haryala banna, ho bhai matwala bana and Kehta hai ye dil baar baar. His other releases of 1943 were Insaan, Chamiya, Ghazal and Bansari. Another hit film of 1943 was Nurse, starring Khursheed and Arun. Nurse had numerous popular numbers in Khursheed's voice – Koliya khahe bole re, Kahani ban gai mori, Mere dil ki suno pukar and Aankhon ka kheel kheel ke.
With the arrival of C Ramchandra, Naushad and SD Burman, Gyan Dutt started getting a fewer number of films but he never lost his magic touch. He gave music in Panna Dai in 1945 in which he recorded two Ghazals in Begun Akhtar's voice – Fasl-e-Gul aayi and Main raja ko apne rijha ke rahungi. Khan Mastana also sang a song, Main to charan kamal per wari.
In 1946, he gave music in Dulha and Kamla. In 1947, he gave hit music in Geet Govind which was based on the work of poet Jaidev. In Dukhiyari, Lata sang one of her greats: Ab kisko sunao main katha krishna murari. This was the only number which Lata sang for Gyan Dutt. Another of his musical hits was Sunhare Din (1949), starring Raj Kapoor, Rehana and Nigar. Its chartbuster numbers were: Baharon ne jise chheda hai, wo saaz-e-jawani hai, Dil do naino mein kho gaya and Maine dekhi jag ki reet meet sab jhoothe pad gaye.
He gave another hit, Dilruba in 1950, starring Rehana, Dev Anand and Yakoob. Its hit number was Hamne khayee hai mohabbat mein jawani ki kasam (Geeta Roy/GM Durrani). Other hits for the film were Fariyad ko lab per and O preet nibhane wale bata. Then the music industry was totally transformed as it entered the 50s.
Gyan Dutt didn't get much work at this point but he nevertheless, gave good music in Ghayal (1951). It's prominent numbers were Aaj hamein lage chand payara (Veenapani Mukharjee), Dil toot gaya (Meena Kapoor) and Armaan mere dil ke. He composed pahari-based Ghazal of Mirza Ghalib: Hazaron khawaishen aisi, which became immensely popular. In that decade, he also gave music in Daryai Lutera and Gul Bakawali in which Asha sang for the first time for Gyan Dutt. Janam Janam Ke Saathi (1965) was his last film.
He died unsung on December 3, 1974. He has left behind a veritable treasure of evergreen melodies from a forgotten time.