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Rhythm King OP Nayyar turns 80

Arnab Banerjee does a musical recap on the maestro's birthday. Wish him

entertainment Updated: Jan 16, 2006 17:55 IST

Indian film music lovers need not be formally educated to appreciate the haunting evergreen pieces of music of some of the great masters. Some composers with their unique distinguishing features in their styles have left an indelible impression on our minds. While melody rules for some composers, some other music directors' dependence on instruments is clearly evident.

But then music can never be the same-sounding notations of various combinations and permutations, though technically, aren't we all structuring the seven notes - Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni (or Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti in western music ) together? It's merely seven notes making all the difference. But nevertheless, despite the best of efforts, some musical pieces enchant while others turn pedestrian. Or less inspiring.

OP Nayyar's magical songs
Jawaniya yeh mast mast…

Babuji dheere chalna

Maang ke saath tumhara

Yeh lo main hari piya

Ude jab jab zulfen teri

Aankhon hi aankhon mein ishara

Leke pehla pehla pyar

Tumsa nahin dekha

Since music has always been an integral part of Indian cinema, particularly Hindi films, composers of the past to the present give it their all as they compose songs to cater to the demands of innumerable listeners across the country or make tailor-made numbers to suit the situational settings in films. The 50s and the 60s saw many stalwarts sway the popularity charts in their favour with SD Burman, Naushad, Shankar Jaikishen, Roshan, Salil Choudhury, Hemant Kumar, Madan Mohan and others ruling the film music scene in Mumbai.

One composer, who stood out for his distinctive style and instinctive melody, was OP Nayyar. The clip-clop sound created by the hooves of horses galloping is typical of his characteristic music used to great advantage in films. He also brought the folk and the lilt of modernity in perfect sync with each other and created what could perhaps be called the foremost to have a distinct and identifiable individuality. His mode and technique to this date, have not been replicated. He earned himself the epithet 'Rhythm King' for his inimitable and exclusive brand of music. And remains unparalleled.

Born Onkar Prasad Nayyar in Lahore in 1926, he moved to Patiala soon and started his journey as an assistant with the All India Radio in Jalandhar. His love for music was so ardently passionate that he dropped out of college to compose music. His family shifted from Lahore to Amritsar after partition and in the year 1949, he came to Mumbai and met the producer-director Krishan Kewal, who was impressed with his talent and offered him his first break. Thus his career started with scoring the background music for Kaneez. The same year the music company, HMV, also released his compositionsPritam aan milo and Kaun nagar tera door thikana.

In Delhi Nayyar was introduced to director Dalsukh M. Pancholi by a close friend, who gave him his break as an independent composer in the film Aasmaan. It was followed by films like Chham Chhama Chham and Guru Dutt's Baaz. Lady Luck smiled on him when Santoshi dropped the then most sought-after music director Naushad and signed him instead. Around the same time, Guru Dutt too opted for him. But the films flopped badly and he was ready to pack his bags and leave for Amritsar where his parents lived. Fortunately for him, Guru Dutt's Aar Paar was a major hit and later on they worked together in Mr and Mrs.55.

Thereafter there was no looking back.

In the late 50s, his songs from films include Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Miss Coca Cola, Baap Re Baap, C.I.D, Aarpaar, Sone Ki Chidiya, Phagun, Howrah Bridge etc. created sensation with their strong western influence and yet original melodies. Any music aficionado would recall Mera naam Chin Chin Choo in Geet Dutt's velvety, sexy voice as the ultimate siren tone from Howrah Bridge. Or Piya piya na lage mora jiya and Ek pardesi mera dil le gaya from Phagun. He also scored the music for Shammi Kapoor's hit film, Kashmir Ki Kali, the songs of which are still a rage. Deewana hua badal or Isharon isharon mein or Balma khuli hawa are evergreen numbers.

Nayyar's music for many 1950's films like Baaz, Aar Paar, Mr and Mrs 55 and P.L.Santoshi 's Cham Chama Cham and Kardar's Baap Re Baap have earned him the status of a legend in the industry. Another of his bar songs Aaiye meherbaan… from Howrah Bridge is an all-time favorite among all generations and is played at discotheques as numerous remixes are circulating in the market.

If Nayyar is immortal, so are his personal favorites - Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhosle. As playback singers they delivered whatever was expected of them – particularly Asha Bhosle. His glory would perhaps have been incomplete without her lilting rendition of his compositions, though he did compose some of his best works with two of the most naturally gifted singers - Shamshad Begum and Geeta Dutt, who were not trained the way Bhosle is but remained his favorite for long till he diverted all his focus on Bhosle. Since she was emotionally involved with him she did become his muse. Their personal close relationship resulted in a strong professional bonding as well. Some of her sensuous numbers composed by him are Aaiye meherbaan and Yeh hai reshmi zulfon ka andhera from Mere Sanam.

Rafi too poured his heart out and walked away with his pulsating energy in the songs with rare aplomb and charisma.

Nayyar is also spoken of as 'the man' who never worked with the 'nightingale – Lata Mangeshkar. By his own admission, he thought Mangeshkar's voice didn't suit his style although rumors were rife about Lataji's infamous grouse against her sibling's love interest those days. Whatever be the reason, fans of both lost an opportunity forever of listening their musical union.

In Asha's repertoire there are many songs that have been marked in history as everlasting. And more than 50 of her career best have been Nayyar's compositions.Maang ke saath tumhara, Aao huzoor tumko, Aaj koi pyar se, Woh haseen dard de do, Aaja mere pyar ke sahare, Zara haule haule chalo mere saajna,, Jaiye aap kahan jayenge, Chain se humko kabhi are some of the rare gems that have become immortal over the years and even after repeated listening, one doesn't tire of playing them again. He scaled an unprecedented high whenever he teamed with her. The last of the Asha - Nayyar combinations were Sambandh, Ek Baar Muskura Do and Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye.

Just like the way he became Asha's mentor, who can ever forget Rafi's Banda parvar, Aap ke haseen rukh pe, Tariff karoon kya uski, Lakhon hai nigahon nein, to name a few that have the stamp of Nayyar's brilliance and Rafi's incomparable range?

He once fell out with Rafi but managed to conjure memorable songs even with Mukesh who sang Chal akela in Sambandh, Mahendra Kapoor who sang one of his best, Lakhon hai yahan dilwale and Kishore Kumar in Ek Baar Muskura Do - Tu auron ki kyon ho gayee.

Surprisingly, Nayyar was not formally trained in classical music but his sense of rhythm and special ability to blend melody with the regularity of beat and tempo was more than incidental. It was perhaps innate too. He did study music for a while but most of it was imbibed as a natural talent. He combined Punjabi folk tunes with peppy popular tunes in the classical meter to create a comprehensible feel among music lovers. And music buffs reveled in his compositions. He also created some of the most remembered classical tunes and made good use of classical talents - Jogiya Mere Ghar Aaye from the film Raagini in Ustad Aamir Khan's voice. Ustad Raeez Khan enchants us with his sitar in Jayiye Aap Kahaan Jaayenge in the film Mere Sanam, Manohari Singh played the saxophone in Hai Duniya Usiki from the film Kashmir Ki Kali, Sardar Hazaara Singh played the electric guitar in Lakhon Hai Yaha Dilwale from the film Kismat.. And in another classic moment, an enjoyable sarangi interlude by Pandit Ram Narain graces the songs Aana Hai To Aa from the film Naya Daur and Bekasi Had Se Jab Guzar Jaye from the film Kalpana.

After his break up with Asha, he was shattered, it is believed, and he could not recreate the same magic with other singers. He did make a comeback with Krishna Kalle in a few films, and later with Runa Laila in a private album but the results were not the same. In fact they were disastrous. He also used Kavita Krishnamurthy and Anuradha Paudwal's voices in a few films Nishchay and Zid which he did at the fag end of his career, but they too earned a lukewarm response.

Evidently it was the master without his muse in a creative vacuum.

Nayyar is still active though not as a musician anymore. His rare appearances on television shows as a judge or a special invitee is something viewers cherish.

We pray to God to grant him many more years of health and wish him all the best for a peaceful and happy life.

First Published: Jan 16, 2006 15:43 IST