On his 15th death anniversary, O.P. Nayyar’s Top 10 scores

O.P. Nayyar, whose 15th death anniversary falls January 28, was honored with a postage stamp in 2013. Photo: India Post

Music composer extraordinaire. O.P. Nayyar, who achieved immortality on January 28, 15 years ago, was one of a kind.

And why do I say that? Let us see!

Born January 16, 1926 in Lahore in a rich family of professionals, he was an All-India Radio artiste there and cut some records as well. When he landed in Mumbai, he would teach poor children music in his struggling days. For someone thus untrained in music, he not only did the background scores of all his films, but began his musical innings with Kaneez (1949) as a background music director only, because song composer Ghulam Haider had migrated to Pakistan after Independence.

His music career began with Aasmaan (1952) and ended with Zid (1994). However, Nayyar also did some private albums, before and during his film innings. He was also involved in the 1980s in Malayalam cinema.

Nayyar remains the only major composer who never worked with Lata Mangeshkar (multiple, unconfirmed reasons are given for this). His favourite singers were Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum initially, to be replaced by Asha Bhosle, with whom he was in a long personal relationship that ended in 1973.

Mohammed Rafi was his pet male singer, but when he reported late for a recording, he threw him out of his studios for some years. The disciplinarian, who lived life on his own terms, then gave Mahendra Kapoor some of the singer’s cream.

When his wife and children threw him out, self-admittedly for his own womanizing habits (this writer met him in 1999), he began to live with a fan family in Mumbai’s satellite town Thane, instructing them to close his room door should his song be played on radio, TV or tape! Towards his last decade and more, he learnt Homeopathy, which he said had cured him of a “terrible disease”, and practiced it with immense success.

Nayyar was the first composer to have his picture put up on the record inlays as well as on film posters and hoardings. Among his 70-plus scores (five films never released), here are my Top Ten.

C.I.D. (Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri & Jan Nissar Akhtar)

The 1956 Raj Khosla blockbuster produced by Guru Dutt had evergreen hits like Leke pehla pehla pyar (Rafi-Asha-Shamshad), Aankhon hi aankhon mein (Rafi-Geeta), Ae dil hai mushkil (Rafi) and Shamshad’s two aces, Kahin pe nigahen and Bujh mera kya naam re. The unusual Geeta Dutt solo, Jaata kahaan hai deewane was recognized later. The music contributed in a huge way to make the film India’s first to make Rs.1 lakh per territory when ticket rates were less than Rs. 2!

Ek Baar Mooskura Do (Indeevar, S.H. Bihari & Shevan Rizvi)

This was OPN’s qualitative swan song. Directed by Ram Mukerji (father to Rani Mukerji) in 1972, the atypical but brilliant score was a Kishore Kumar-fest (Savere ka suraj, Kitne atal they tere iraade, Roop tera aisa, Ek baar mooskura do). There were also the Mukesh-Asha duets Chehre se zaraa aanchal and Yeh dil lekar nazrana and the haunting Rafi masterpiece, Zamane ki aankhon ne.

Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (Raja Mehndi Ali Khan, S.H. Bihari & Shevan Rizvi)

Asha and Rafi had three standout duets, Bahut shukriya badi meherbaani, Aap yun hi agar and Main pyar ka rahi hoon. Rafi also had Mujhe dekh kar aap ka muskurana and Humko tumhare ishq mein in this 10-song extravaganza. Raj Khosla and Sadhana had wagers on which would be the most popular songs, and according to the musical director, Sadhana’s assessment came true!

Humsaya (S.H. Bihari, Shevan Rizvi & Hasrat Jaipuri)

Joy Mukerji’s debut as a producer-director was no hit, but the music was! Not only were the songs popular, but they have survived to this day. The espionage-backed romance was a lovely package with Asha’s Woh haseen dard, Aaja mere pyar ke sahare and O Kanhaiya Kanhaiya and Rafi’s classic, Dil ki awaaz bhi sun. There was also the underdog song— Asha-Mahendra’s qawwali-like Badi mushkil se and Asha-Rafi’s persistently lovelorn Mujhe mera pyar to do.

Shammi Kapoor and Sharmla Tagore in a song sequence in Kashmir Ki Kali Photo: Song Video Grab

Kashmir Ki Kali (S.H. Bihari)

Legend has it that Shakti Samanta wove the story of this romance after selecting 9 of the 52 tunes offered by Nayyar. Sharmila Tagore’s debut featuring Shammi Kapoor was an all-popular soundtrack led by Rafi’s Yeh chand sa roshan chehera and Hai duniya ussiki, Rafi-Asha’s Deewana hua badal and Ishaaron ishaaron mein and Asha’s Balma khuli hawa mein.

Kismat (S.H. Bihari & Noor Dewasi)

Best known today for Kajra mohabbatwala (Asha and Shamshad Begum, which was imaginatively used in Tanu Weds Manu Returns in 2015), the only film of Manmohan Desai with Nayyar was also known for Asha’s Aao huzoor tumko and Mahendra Kapoor’s Aankhon mein qayamat ka kaajal and Laakhon hain yahaan dilwale.

Mere Sanam (Majrooh Sultanpuri)

This was a score where almost every song was a heavyweight. Rafi’s Pukarta chala hoon main, Humdum mere and Tukde hain mere dil ke, Asha’s Jaaiye aap kahaan jaayenge and Yeh hai reshmi zulfon and the Asha-Rafi duet Roka kayee baar maine headed the illustrious roster. The 1965 Biswajeet-Asha Parekh film was a musical hit.

Naya Daur (Sahir Ludhianvi)

O.P. Nayyar was termed the “real hero” of the film by The Times of India then, and this put off filmmaker B.R. Chopra. The film was released after Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa, and Nayyar, in turn, was infuriated when common lyricist Sahir claimed the lion’s share of the credit for the success of Guru Dutt’s songs, and threw him out of six films! Nevertheless, the trio unleashed a deadly cocktail of music in an all-hit album dominated by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle, led by Rafi-Asha’s Maang ke saath tumhara, Saathi haath badhana and Ude jab jab zulfen teri, Asha-Shamshad’s Reshmi salwar kurta jaali ka, Rafi’s Main Bambai ka babu and the song the maestro chose among his 10 best ever—Rafi’s Aana hai to aa.

Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (Majrooh Sultanpuri)

According to filmmaker Nasir Husain (Aamir Khan’s uncle), Nayyar himself pleaded for this film on the strength of their work together in Tumsa Nahin Dekha. Rafi’s Aanchal mein sajaa lena kaliyan, Lakhon hai nigah mein and the title-track, Asha’s Aankhon se utri hai and the Asha-Usha raag-based Dekho bijli dole were frontrunners.

Tumsa Nahin Dekha (Majrooh & Sahir)

So effervescent were the compositions that Shammi Kapoor, then a flop hero, told me that he danced to the songs on his terrace! The tour-de-force was Jawaniyan yeh mast mast, but the title-track by Rafi, his Chhupnewale saamne aa and Aaye hain door se, and the Asha-Rafi duets Sar par topi lal and Dekho kasam se made up for a delectable ensemble of melody and rhythm. Little wonder then the film was Shammi’s big career breakthrough.




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