Guru Dutt’s Marriage: The Untimely Death Of The Two Soulmates

By Rohit GarooRohit Garoo  • 

The story of Guru Dutt’s marriage, and it’s tragic ending is how most oldies remember the legendary filmmaker. Guru Dutt is often regarded as a one of the few Indian filmmakers who would make films to appease his boundless love for filmmaking. His films often tugged the poignant strings of heart by delving deep into the emotional realms of human psyche making them a considerable reflection of the prevalent social trends. He is known to be equally adept at churning out commercially successful potboilers, and most of them are considered classics, even at the stage of world cinema.

While Guru Dutt the actor, was known for his exceptionally disciplined work ethics, Guru Dutt’s marriage and his personal life bear little resemblance to it. It was a known fact of that era, that Dutt had intense dependance on alcohol and sleeping pills. He was even known to slip into bouts of depression, which was aggravated by his separation with his wife, the singer Geeta Dutt. Many say it was his harmful habits that drove her out, but many cite his brief fling with actress Waheeda Rehman as the source cause. So what exactly was the reason for the discord? We take a look at Geeta and Guru Dutt’s marriage here.

Guru Dutt – A Class Apart

Guru Dutt was born Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone at Bangalore, Karnataka on 9th July 1925. His family originally belonged to Karwar, Karnataka but later relocated to Bhowanipore, West Bengal, which is where he changed his name to Guru Dutt for unknown reasons. His family later moved to Mumbai. Dutt’s career in show business started in the year 1944 as a choreographer under a three-year contract with the Prabhat Film Company. It is at the studio of this prestigious company that he met the actors Rehman and Dev Anand and sealed a friendship of a lifetime. It was during his tenure at the Prabhat Film Company that he made his debut as an actor with a small role in a film named Chand (1944). After the film company shut down in late 1940s, he moved back to Mumbai, and was one day approached by close friend Dev Anand to direct the first film of his company Navketan. The film was Baazi (1951), and went on to become a massive hit. It immediately sealed Guru Dutt’s name as a talented director and filmmaker. Baazi marked the beginning of Guru Dutt’s formal career as a filmmaker and then came a slew of films, along the same time Guru Dutt’s marriage to Geeta began, notable of them are Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), which are considered outright classics.

Guru Dutt was found lifeless on 10th October 1964 at his rented apartment where he was living alone after his separation from wife Geeta Dutt; the papers spoke of Guru Dutt’s marriage and his failed relationship. The news came as a shock to the industry and his fans everywhere. The cause of the death was later stated to be an overdose of sleeping pills in combination with alcohol. While it was an accidental death, many contemplated it to be a suicide since Dutt was known for his chronic depression owing to which he had made two suicide attempts in the past. Dutt left a lasting legacy unmatched by any till date. His films were known for their noir style, with heavy use of contrast, which made his black and white films stand apart. In 2005, his film Pyaasa (1957) was voted one of the 100 best films of all time by a poll conducted by the Time magazine.

Falling In Love With Geeta Roy

During the making his directorial debut Baazi, Dutt happened to meet the young versatile singer Geeta Roy. Geeta was born Geeta Ghosh Roy Chowdhuri in 1930, and is often regarded as the first pre-eminent playback singer of Hindi cinema. Dutt and Geeta had a brief meeting but the singer’s melodious vocals and ethereal looks left a lasting impact on Guru Dutt’s mind. By the end of the making of the film, Dutt made it a point to befriend Geeta, and after few weeks of friendship, started an amorous courtship.

Geeta’s parents were vehemently against her relationship with Guru Dutt. Dutt and Geeta had taken the decision to tie the knot within months of their courtship but their decision met stiff resistance at home. They did not lose hope though and kept investing in efforts to convince their families, and finally Geeta’s mother caved in.

Guru Dutt’s Marriage To Geeta Roy

Geeta Roy and Guru Dutt’s marriage took place on 26th May 1953 at Geeta’s residence in Mumbai in the presence of family members who had given their consent to the relationship. The couple were blessed with three children, two sons, Tarun (b. 1954) and Arun (b. 1956) and a daughter, Nina (b. 1962). Things were smooth for the initial first years of their life but Dutt was said to be a workaholic, leading him to spend minimal time with his family. His lack of earnest interest in family life, led to cracks in his relationship with his wife, who herself slowly slipped into a distressful state that caused her to totally lose touch with her talent. By late 1950s, Geeta was soon ousted by the likes of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, since Geeta lost practice and could not meet their standards. And Guru Dutt’s marriage to Geeta Roy continued to sink.

The Beginning Of The End

In late 1950s, Guru Dutt got romantically involved with actress Waheeda Rehman, who was his co-star of many films. Their alleged affair reached its peak with Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), which ironically told the story of a director falling for an actress while his marriage gets estranged. As if that was not enough, the film also had the heart-rendering song Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam sung by Geeta Dutt, in which Geeta poured out every pain of her real life through her poignant vocals. Guru Dutt’s fling with Waheeda Rehman fizzled out by 1961 but not before taking a permanent toll on Guru Dutt’s marriage.

After the birth of their third child in 1962, the couple separated owing to a mix of numerous factors viz. Dutt’s previous fling with actress Waheeda Rehman, his alcoholism, his bouts of depression, Geeta’s dipping career and the piling financial problems. Guru Dutt’s marriage was at it’s end, and they moved out of their home together, having had to give it up, owing to financial issues. Dutt rented a posh flat at the Peddar Road vicinity of Mumbai. Geeta returned to her mother’s place with the children, and lived there permanently.

The Tragic End To The Tale

Dutt and Geeta had entitled themselves to separation and never considered divorce because it is said they always wanted to keep the option of a reconciliation open. Another reason Geeta and Guru Dutt’s marriage was not dissolved was their children. By 1964, Geeta and Dutt were like two strangers, who perhaps once knew each other. In fact, Dutt was now an absolutely lonely man since even Waheeda had forsaken Guru Dutt to have a career beyond the realm of his films. Apparently, she even declined some of his films owing to prior commitment to other producers- something that did not go down well with Dutt who was already plunging deep into the world of alcoholism. He also made two attempts at committing suicide, which were both said to be foiled by his valet Ratan and cook Ibrahim, who lived with him. But little can be done if an individual is tenaciously determined to resolve problems in a suicidal manner. By mid-1964, Guru Dutt’s marriage had grown cold, and Dutt’s condition had worsened to the point that he could not even sleep without having a heavy dose of sleeping pills. Needless to say alcohol and sleeping pills make a deadly combination- which is a generally well-known fact.

On 9th October 1964, a day before his death, Dutt asked his cook to call Geeta Dutt and request her to send his children over to a shooting location. Geeta obliged, and Dutt later sent his car to pick his children with whom he spent the rest of the day. After they were dropped off in early evening, Dutt started missing them again, and requested Geeta to let his children to come over for some hours to his place. This time Geeta refused, aware that Dutt had started drinking earlier than his usual time, prior to his call. Dutt was upset about this and continued his drinking. It was later, at 1 AM at night, that he asked his cook for another bottle of alcohol that he took to his bedroom, whose door he used to lock from inside. The next morning when he did not open the door till 10 AM the cook and valet got a bit concerned, and rang up Geeta Dutt, who fretted the worst and instructed them to break the door, which they did. The moment the door broke open, Dutts aide’s were shocked to see the sight of their master lying lifeless on his bed with a open book in his hand. It was later learnt that Dutt had consumed a heavy dose of sleeping pill, that he washed down with some large gulps of alcohol that lead to a cardiac arrest between 5 AM to 6 AM in the morning. Whether it was an accident, or a deliberate attempt to end one’s life, one may never know. But keeping in mind his suicidal tendencies, his drunken tantrums, the sad state of Guru Dutt’s marriage, and the previous day’s events, it is quite likely he might have taken the extreme step.

A Shock Too Much To Handle

His death sent ripples down the Indian film industry. Geeta was the first one to rush to his place after she was informed that he is no more. Even Waheeda arrived soon, and that was followed by Dutt’s best friend Dev Anand, and the music director O.P. Nayyar. Dutt died young at just 39. Dev Anand is said to have slipped into a state of shock for many days. Raj Kapoor, who was also a friend of Dutt, fulfilled all the coroner’s responsibilities. Dutt’s alleged suicide was news that was on the front page of every newspaper in India, and was also a major news in the Gulf and Europe, where his films were popular. While everyone had lost a friend and good filmmaker, for Geeta, it was a loss of a life partner, that perhaps she would never be able to replace.

After Dutt’s death Geeta slipped into depression herself, and the next thing we know she took to alcohol exactly like her husband. She was no longer in touch with her talent, and no music director was keen on signing Geeta who had lost all the melody of her voice. Invariably it led to a financial crisis. She later got some music directors to give her work, and the Bengali film Badhu Baran (1967), and the Hindi film Anubhav (1971) were her last works. By late 1971, Geeta’s alcohol dependence had become acute and in 1972, her health took a hit. She was eventually diagnosed with liver cirrhosis caused by excessive alcohol consumption, which sadly led to her death on 20th July 1972. She was just 41 years old. Geeta and Guru Dutt’s marriage was considered a ‘Romeo-Juilet’ tale of the era.

The Lasting Legacy

The story of Geeta and Guru Dutt’s marriage is a painful one- a tragic tale of two soulmates separated by a cocktail of external agents and internal factors, which ultimately led them to their untimely death. The couple left a legacy though, which is undeniably mammoth, and can be seldom surmounted by anyone. Their contribution to Indian cinema has been distinctive, and surely will stay alive through the enormous amount of exceptional work they have left behind for this world.

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