The wafting of the Kashmir breeze over the Dal Lake and scenic Gulmarg is the stuff of Bollywood in the 1960s and even the 1970s. To the late composer OP Nayyar goes the credit — if somewhat dubious — of aiding this fantasy world for middle-class India. His music romanticised and glorified a valley that later became notorious for the sound of machine guns and grenades.
Nayyar scored the music for Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962), a love story set in the backdrop of the first Kashmir war after Independence in 1947. The roadie movie starring Joy Mukherjee and Sadhana produced classic songs that — even in a black and white format — triggered the romantic urge amid the conflict. Was it not Main pyaar ka rahin hoon from the film that made a trademark expression of love and longing?
Later, in Kashmir Ki Kali (1964), Sharmila Tagore played a dainty Kashmiri damsel to Shammi Kapoor’s pranks, the music complementing his effusive energy (Yeh chand sa roshan chehra) and Sharmila’s coy and soulful persona (Isharon isharon mein...) Nayyar also made the music for another Kashmir teen-flick, Mere Sanam, famous for its track Pukarta chala hoon main set amid Kashmir’s pine trees and meadows.
Nayyar’s contribution to the creation of a romantic image of a troubled land is significant, even if he shares the honours with Shankar Jaikishen, who composed for other Kashmir romances such as Arzoo (1965). But there is little doubt that Nayyar’s lilting tunes that symbolise Kashmir will hang like ghosts in the Indian consciousness, which was later infiltrated by rat-a-tat noises of gunfire encounters on prime-time television.