Khayyam: Music maestro of classical allure
New Delhi: When living legend Lata Mangeshkar tweeted to describe music maestro Khayyams demise as the "end of an era", she said it all. Khayyams music, soaked in the spirit of rich classical allure, represents the sort of melody unthinkable in Bollywood mainstream nowadays.
He was one of the last bastions of an era of Hindi film music that has all but ended - one that was defined by inherently Indian melody that celebrated the sounds and culture of the soil.
Come to think of it, even in the era when he created music in Bollywood, his adherence to classicism made Khayyam an exception. Through the sixties, seventies and eighties – his busy years – Bollywood was discovering the sound of music coming from the West.
Ever the puritan, and never inclined to filch a note from western influences, Khayyam's oeuvre had to be restricted to films that offered the scope for Indian notes.
Not surprisingly, the first film that comes to mind when you talk Khayyam is Umrao Jaan, Muzaffar Ali's lavish costume drama of 1981, which won the composer a National Award for Best Music Direction.
Ghazals, thumris, dadras and other genres of Hindustani classical music were Khayyam's forte. In an era when orchestra pop reigned, Khayyam was what many in Bollywood referred to as an artiste of refined expertise. He was a creative genius who left his mark quietly, much like the subtle art he created in the recording studio. Clearly, his contribution mattered more than just as music composer in Bollywood. His initiative to take essentially Indian music to the masses saw him being conferred with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and a Padma Bhushan in his lifetime.
The mild-mannered genius may have breathed his last in Mumbai, but his body of work will continue to resonate.
Indeed, if his filmography looks like the legacy left behind by a master today, his early start as a musician probably accounts for as much.