Millennium Post

OP Nayyar: The Hit Parade Composer

Omkar Prasad Nayyar was not only one of the greatest music composers in the Bollywood industry, but with a wide range of hobbies including Astrology and Homeopathy, he amazed people with his predictions and cured many incurable diseases, writes Sharad Dutt.

It is so very rare that a renowned classical singer would acknowledge a film composer. It did happen when India's ace vocalist Ustad Amir Khan patted and complimented one such composer for his compositions set in Raga Pilu. The composer humbly accepted the gesture and replied politely, "Khan Saab, I don't know anything about Raag Pilu. In fact, I don't know the ABC of music." He further requested the venerable Ustad, "If you have, indeed, liked my music, please record a song for my next film." The composer was OP Nayyar and film was Phagun. Khan Saab conceded to record for Nayyar's number, 'Jogia mere ghar aaye,' for film Ragini.

Omkar Prasad Nayyar, popularly known as OP Nayyar and OP to his fans, was born on January 16, 1926, to Madan Gopal Nayyar and Laxmi in Lahore. Inclined towards music from his early childhood, he had a knack for recognising sur-tala.
Making his debut in children's programme at Radio Lahore, he also sang in a Punjabi film, Dulha Bhatti. Naturally, music scored over studies. At 17, he had composed Kabir Bani for HMV in his own voice and started singing for other music directors, too. Two of his Punjabi songs, 'Dil vich yaar di tasveer' and 'Kaudi kaudi haar ke' became immensely popular. Nayyar also recorded some private compositions for HMV among which 'Preetam aan milo' in CH Atma's voice became super hit. The movie mogul Dalsukh Pancholi was so impressed by Nayyar's talent that he offered him to compose for one of his films, but due to Partition the film never went on the floor.
Nayyar came to Patiala after the Partition and took up a job as a music teacher. But his destination was Bombay, and given his handsome looks, Nayyar tried his luck in films as singer-actor. Shyam was a superstar of that era and he had known Nayyar in Lahore. He accompanied Nayyar to meet S Mukherjee, who outright rejected Nayyar after a screen test. A disheartened Nayyar told Shyam that he should intimate Mukherjee about his singing talent. But Mukherjee was not impressed by his singing either.
During this intense struggle in Bombay, his friend, the noted lyricist Prem Dhawan introduced Nayyar in the cine world, and this gave him an opportunity to score background music for film Kaneez. Soon after, Nayyar became an independent music director with film Aasman in 1952, and he recorded CH Atma for his composition 'Is bewafa jahan mein,' which topped the charts. The same year, in his next film, Chham Chhamma Chham, Asha Bhosle sang for the first time with Nayyar, 'Aa perdesi balma.' They had a long inning in the industry for almost two decades. It was Nayyar who groomed Asha, and her first hit song, 'Zara si baat ka hazoor ne afsana kar diya,' was for the film Musafir Khana. With this song, Asha became Nayyar's first choice. As it is, he was the only composer who never offered Lata Mangeshkar to sing in his films.
Geeta Dutt had also sung for Aasman. It was in 1953 that Geeta brought Nayyar to see Guru Dutt, who was directing Baaz and was also the hero of the film. Nayyar was signed for Baaz to compose the music and Geeta sang all the songs. And when Guru Dutt launched his independent banner, Nayyar did the first three films for Guru Dutt Films, Aar Paar, Mr and Mrs 55, and CID. Music of all these films became super-duper hits. Nayyar also came into contact with lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri and this duo gave unforgettable numbers to the music lovers.
In Aar Paar, Geeta Dutt's solo numbers, and title track, 'Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar' in Shamshad Begum's voice were based on Nayyar's composition. Again, in Mr and Mrs 55, Nayyar, Majhrooh Sultanpuri, Geeta Dutt and Mohammad Rafi gave memorable chartbusters: 'Neeley aasmani,' 'Thandi hawa kali ghata,' 'Pritam aan milo' in Geeta's voice, Mohammad Rafi's solo, 'Ae ji dil par hua kaisa jaadu,' and duets, 'Udhar tum hansi ho idhar dil jawan hai' and 'Jaaney kahan mera jigar gaya ji'. Even CID had such catchy numbers, and the only song by Jan Nissar Akhtar was 'Aankhon hi aankhon me ishara ho gaya'.
In 1957, when Guru Dutt signed SD Burman for his film Pyaasa, Nayyar felt sidelined and signed BR Chopra's Naya Daur. And he created a musical spell with hits like, 'Udey jab jab zulfein teri' (Mohammad Rafi-Asha), 'Reshmi salwar kurta jaali ka' (Shamshad Begum-Asha) and duets with Mohammad Rafi-Asha, 'Maang ke saath tumhara maine maang liya sansar,' 'Saathi haath badhana'; a patriotic fervour song, 'Ye desh hai veer jawano ka' (Mohammad Rafi-S Balbir and chorus); 'Aana hai to aa raah mein'; and a light number picturised on Johney Walker, 'Main Bambai ka babu' (Mohammad Rafi). Lyrics were written Sahir Ludhanvi. Nayyar also gave a memorable number in 'Dhake ki Malmal,' sung by Asha, Jadugar Saanwariya.
Again in 1957, Nayyar gave music for Tum Sa Nahin Dekha for Filmistan with a chartbuster, 'Sar pe topi laal haath mein resham ka rumal'; as also 'Aayein hain door se,' 'Dekho kasam se dekho kasam se,' all rendered by Asha; and 'Jawaniyan ye mast mast bin piye,' besides the title song, 'Yoon to humne lakh haseen dekhein hain tum sa nahin dekha' (Mohammad Rafi). Only the title song had been penned by Sahir Ludhianvi, rest all lyrics had been written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.
1958 was the year of Nayyar, as he composed music for Howrah Bridge, Kabhi Andhera Kabhi Ujala, Mujrim, Phagun, Ragini, Do Ustad and Sone Ki Chidya. Howrah Bridge had very intoxicating numbers, but the song which created a record was 'Mera naam chin chin choo,' the only song by Geeta Dutt in this film. Kishore Kumar sang, 'Surma mera nirala aankhon mein jisne dala,' and a romantic duet, 'Baahon ko zara lehra de' (Manna Dey/Asha) in Kabhi Andhera Kabhi Ujala. In Ragini, Nayyar took Mohammad Rafi for Kishore Kumar's playback, 'Man mora baavra'. In Do Ustad, Nayyar again used Mohammad Rafi for Raj Kapoor's playback, 'Main ladka tu ladki' with Asha. In Soney Ki Chidya, Nayyar gave such a poignant duet, 'Pyaar par bas to nahi mera', rendered so movingly by Talat Mehmood and Asha.
Naya Andaz was a remake of K Amarnath's own film Bazaar, which had heart-winning songs. Nayyar took it as a challenge and composed all-time great numbers, 'Apna to zamane mein itna hi fasana hai' (Kishore Kumar), 'Bach ke balam kahan jaoge,' 'Raat rangeeli gaaye re' (Shamshad Begum), and a duet, 'Meri neenndo mein tum mere khwaabon mein tum' (Kishore-Shamshad) in which Nayyar put piano to best use.
In 1960, film Kalpana was remembered for its classical number, 'Tu hai mera prem devta' in Raga Lalit (Mohammad Rafi-Manna Dey) and a ghazal in Raga Des in Asha's voice, 'Beqasi hadd se jab guzar jaaye'; and 'Puccho na hamein hum unke liye kya kya nazraane layein hain' for film, Mitti Mein Sona, by Asha, was immensely liked by the audience.
In 1962, producer S Mukherjee set-up his own banner Filmalaya. Its first musical hit was 'EK Musafir Ek Haseena'. The trio of Nayyar, Asha and Mohammad Rafi created a musical sensation with 'Bahut shukriya badi meharbani,' 'Tumhe mohabbat hai humse mana,' 'Main pyaar ka raahi hoon,' 'Zaban-e-yaar man turkee' (Mohammad Rafi-Asha), and solos of Mohammad Rafi, 'Mujhe dekh kar aapka muskurana,' 'Phir tere shahar mein' and 'Humko tumhare ishq ne kya kya bana diya'. Quite ironic that S Mukherjee had once rejected Nayyar upfront. That's how the wheel of fortune moves.
The Sixties, too, was dominated by Nayyar with musical hits, Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon, Kashmir Ki Kali, Mere Sanam, Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi, Sawan Ki Ghata and Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi. Asha sang, 'Aankhon se jo utri hai dil mein' and 'Mujhe pyaar mein tum'; Rafi's solos were, 'Ajee qibla mohatarma,' 'Aanchal mein saja lena kaliyan,' the title track, 'Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon,' and duets like 'Door bahut mat jaaiye zulf ki chhaon mein' (Mohammad Rafi-Asha), and 'Dekho bijali doley bin badal ke' (Asha-Usha Mangeshkar) in Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon.
And, of course, Kashmir Ki Kali had soulful Asha and Mohammad Rafi's solos and duets that rocked the charts.
The original composer of Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi was SD Burman but he had differences with Guru Dutt over a song, 'Ye dil na hota bechara'. On being disapproved, Burman left the film (he later used this song in Jewel Thief), and Nayyar was recalled. He composed outstanding numbers, 'Koi keh de zamane se ja ke' and 'Wo hans ke miley hum se' (Asha); 'Aapke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai' (Mohammad Rafi); and duets, 'Suno suno Miss Chatterjee' (Mohammad Rafi/Asha). The title song, 'Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi' was sung by Mahendra Kapoor.
Also, the songs 'Raaton ko chori chori' (Asha) and 'Na jaane kyun hamare dil ko' (Mohammad Rafi) of the film, Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, were lapped up by music lovers. Sawan ki Ghata, too, had a variety of hit songs. 'Yeh Raat Phir Na Ayyegi' had romantic duets, 'Aapse maine meri jaan mohabbat ki,' 'Phir milogee kabhi is baat ka wada kar lo' (Mohammad Rafi-Asha) besides a fast foot-tapping number, 'Hazoore wala jo ho ijaazat' (Asha-Minoo Purshottam).
When S Mukherjee's son Joy Mukherjee set-up his own banner, he invited Nayyar for his directorial debut, Hum Saya. Asha sang, 'Wo haseen dard de do', but Nayyar's own favourite was, 'Dil ki aawaz bhi sun mere fasaane pe na jaa' (Mohammad Rafi). In Sambandh, Nayyar changed track and innovated with different compositions. Asha's solo, 'Akelee hoon main piya aa,' 'Andhere mein jo baithe hain' (Mahendra Kapoor), and a spiritual song, 'Hey jagat pitah parmatma' (Hemant kumar), but the song which scored over all else was, 'Chal akela chal akela' (Mukesh-chorus).
Thereafter, Ek Baar Muskara Do was known for its two numbers, 'Savere ka suraj tumhare liye hai' (Kishore kumar) and 'Ek baar muskara do' (Asha-Kishore). Asha sang for the last time under Nayyar's baton in Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye. The seductive number of Asha, 'Haaye, aa ke dard jawan hai,' was representative of her versatile singing as also reflected in 'Bikaner ki chunri odhee,' 'Chain se hum ko kabhi aap ne jeeney na diya,' and title track, 'Raghukul reet sada chali aayi, pran jaaye par vachan na jaaye' (Mohammad Rafi). Asha won a Filmfare award for her resplendent renditions in this film.
It was often said that after this break-up with Asha, Nayyar seemed to have lost his touch. Though he dismissed any such supposition, it's true that he did not essay any significant film, and gave music in a Telugu film, Neera Janam, in 1992.
Nayyar reigned supreme in the world of film music for four decades and even fetched the highest professional fee as music director. More so, because he never compromised, and even lost out on some assignments because of his perfectionism! Once, Prakash Mehra wanted Nayyar for his film, Namak Halal, and tried to bargain with him saying, "Hum aapko Amitabh Bachchan ki film de rahe hain, wajib daam lijye." Nayyar's prompt reply was, "Aap OP Nayyar ka music le rahey hain, wazib daam dijye." Well, he was replaced by Bappi Lahiri.
Nayyar had 73 released films and five unreleased films to his credit. But he had also brought out many private albums of CH Atma, Manmohan Kishan, Peenaz Masani and Runa Laila. A humanitarian to the core, Nayyar was very particular about the payment of his musicians (his chief assistant GS Kohli and Sebastian D'Suza looked after rhythm and arranging orchestra). He made it mandatory for the producers to make on the spot payments. Sebastian was gifted a Rolex as a trophy by a composer who was so pleased with his work. Nayyar also promoted new voices like Dilraj Kaur, Vani Jairam, Krishna Kalle, Kavita Krishnamurthi, Amit Kumar and Mohammad Aziz.
Living life king size, Nayyar indulged in all the luxuries he possibly could. But turbulence in his domestic life made him renounce everything and follow the path of spirituality. With a wide range of hobbies that included reading classics and pursuing Astrology and Homeopathy, he amazed people with his predictions and cured many incurable diseases. It earned him the sobriquet as Dr Nayyar.
In the sunset years, he lived as a paying guest with a family in Thane, relishing his beer with boiled eggs, and watching DVD of his old films. This 'hit parade composer' breathed his last on January 28 of 2007 after a cardiac arrest. I paid tribute to his memory with a documentary, aptly named, 'OP Nayyar - Tum Sa Nahin Dekha.'

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