A tribute to OP Nayyar on his 10th death anniversary (16 January 1926 – 28 January 2007) by guest author Ravindra Kelkar
(After I had written on OP Nayyar’s best songs for Mahendra Kapoor, Rafi, Shamshad Begum and Asha Bhosle, I had no intention of writing any more on him. But the readers’ clamour for ‘Ye dil maange more’ put me in a spot. I didn’t want to disappoint them; yet, I felt inhibited because I do not relate to OPN’s music as passionately as many do. While I was in this state of dilemma, a most pleasant surprise came in my mail when, out of the blue, Ravindra Kelkar offered to write a series of articles on OPN.
Mr Kelkar has Master’s degrees in Statistics and Computer Science and is an IT professional in a Swedish multinational, based in Pune. He is passionately fond of film and classical music. He has known OPN closely and has met him a number of times. On SoY, we have already known him as an OPN-expert from his comments. He starts off the series on OPN with a broad overview of different phases of his career. We could not have asked for a better tribute to the genius composer on the occasion of his tenth death anniversary. Huge thanks to Mr Kelkar on my behalf and on behalf of all the readers. – AK)
The name OP Nayyar evokes mixed reactions from people. He had such a controversial career that many people react to his music with a coloured view, mixing his personal life with the musical life. The best way to enjoy OP’s music is to keep his personal quirks out of mind and listen to his music without thinking about OP the person. Then, one is likely to discover a treasure of wonderful melodies. Many of his songs have the quality to take you into a different world, which is full of life, zest, gaiety, energy and happiness. This post attempts to take a critical look at OP’s musical career, which can be divided very neatly into three time periods. You can discern three different musical styles of OP.
It was 19th May 1951, OP Nayyar was getting married to his lady love Saroj Arora. At about 4 pm on the same day, OP received a telegram, it stated, “You are signed as a music composer, please come immediately”. It was signed by Dalsukh Pancholi, a very well-known film producer. This is the story of OP’s first film, Aasman. This was followed by two more films, Baaz and Chham Chhama Chham . All the three films bombed at the box office. This marked the end of the first phase, in which he composed 27 songs. If one listens to the songs of these films, the influence of New Theaters is quite evident.
Due to the failure of these three films, OP had almost made up his mind to quit Bombay, when a prominent distributer, KK Kapoor, intervened. It resulted into OP getting Guru Dutt’s Aar Paar. Guru Dutt dumped at OP’s hotel room lots of western music records including Bing Crosby and asked him to listen to them and create music like that. The result was the music of Aar Paar, which was a major ingredient in the success of the film along with Guru Dutt’s slick direction. The success of Aar Paar helped OP to create his own distinct identity. Thus began the second and a highly successful phase of OP’s music career. It lasted till Do Ustaad released in 1959. During this phase he composed music for many commercially successful films like Mr. & Mrs. 55, CID, Choomantar, Hum Sub Chor Hain, Naya Daur, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Howra Bridge, Phagun, etc. In all these films OP’s music was a major contributor. In the highly popular, weekly Binaca Geetmaala programme broadcast on Radio Cyelon, at the height of OP’s popularity, it is claimed that, sometimes, out of 16 songs played, 14 were OP songs. During this period, OP composed music for 38 films, comprising 307 songs. His orchestration during this phase was based upon combination of clarinet/flute/violins, mandolin, electric guitar, double base, cello, harmonium, sarangi, and various rhythm instruments like dholak, castanet, bongo, Chinese box etc. The typical OP song would have breezy intro music and then mukhada in western beats. Tthe interlude music would mostly be based upon combination of clarinet/flute/violins and mandolin. The antara would have dholak beats, again shifting back to western beats on returning to mukhada. Also, another feature was having three stanzas, squeezed in the 78 RPM record of three minutes. The tune would also be easy to hum. This formula generally resulted into the songs enjoying instantaneous popularity amongst the public. Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum, Asha Bhosle and Rafi were the main singers.
After Do Ustad, OP was without work for more than a year. So, OP was forced to have a rethink about his old style of composing music, which had outlived its time span. So when OP was signed for Ek Musafir Ek Hasina by Shashadhar Mukherji, he came up with totally revamped musical style. His music now had a more melodious content; OP also put in more focus on the quality of lyrics. He metamorphosed his orchestration style by making profound use of sitar, sarod and taar shehnai along with sarangi to enhance the sweetness of melody. The western style based rhythm would have guitar chords and/ or drum beats and Spanish brush. Of course, dholak remained but tabla also came to be more frequently used. Since, Asha Bhosle had also matured as a singer by this time, he could experiment without being shackled by the ability of the singer. This resulted into top quality, memorable music compositions, which sounded very different from his earlier music. Also, many of the films enjoyed commercial success, resulting into revival of his career. This phase of OP lasted till his parting of the ways with Asha Bhosle after Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye in 1972. During this period, he composed music for 25 films, comprising 186 songs. In this phase, the female songs went exclusively to Asha Bhosle. Rafi always remained OP’s main male singer in the 2nd and 3rd phase, though due to differences with Rafi, Mahedra Kapoor got quite a few songs. After his break-up with Asha Bhosle, OP composed music for 12 films (80 songs) spanned over a period of 20 years, but I don’t think he changed his style as such. Thus in totality, he composed 600 songs for films, this includes 10 songs for a Telagu film Neerajanam and 29 songs from unreleased films.
OP was a born composer, he never worked as an assistant to any MD. This is quite remarkable, since he had no formal training in Indian Classical Music. The genius of OP lies in that he successfully could transform his music style twice, without diluting the quality. His music throughout remained breezy, peppy, lively and joyous. Let us listen to some of his iconic songs from these three eras. I have excluded all the songs posted by AK in his earlier blogs on OP.
1. Is bewafa jahan mein wafa – Aasman (1952) – CH Atma – (Prem Dhawan)
During his adolescence days, OP’s musical character was highly influenced by music from New Theatres and Ghulam Haider. He had the highest regard for singing abilities of KL Saigal and Kannan Devi. In this song, the influence of New Theatres music style as well as his love for KL Saigal is evident. CH Atma has sung this song in KL Saigal style very effectively. This song is the first song recorded by OP in his film music career. Aasman was the only film which DS Pancholi himself directed. Nasir Khan (DIlip Kumar’s brother) and Shyama were the main cast of the film. The film is not available in DVD.
2. Taare chandani – Baaz (1953) – Geeta Roy (Dutt) – (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
Geeta Dutt recommended OP to Guru Dutt for this film. Her love affair with Guru Dutt was in full swing, so Guru Dutt could not refuse her request. This was the first film Guru Dutt produced and is available on DVD. It’s a film depicting overthrowing of a kingdom which is proxy-ruled by Portuguese. Guru Dutt plays the kind hearted prince and Geeta Bali plays the role of the leader of the revolution. This song is enacted by Kuldeep Kaur who plays the role of a vamp, travelling on a ship, trying to enamour Guru Dutt. This song has a tranquil quality, and the soft orchestration very effectively reflects the serene atmosphere of ship movement in calm water on a starry night. The peaceful mood is very effectively captured by the song. Geeta Roy’s voice is sweet, fresh and melodious.
3. Dekho jadu bhare more nain – Aasman (1952) – Geeta Roy – (Prem Dhawan)
The words are a bit unusual, in the sense that the heroine herself is praising the quality of her eyes! Generally the hero showers such accolades on the heroine or vice versa. The mukhda is based upon Gaud Sarang, though it gets developed into Bihag, Tilang etc. One can safely bet that it happened on its own in a natural way, since OP had no knowledge of the classical ragaas. The intro piece is excellent and the overall impact of the song is to make you happy and joyful. Aasmaan was OP’s first film. DS Pancholi asked him, which female singer do you want, Lata or Geeta? OP replied, whichever that you select. It so happened that DS Pancholi called up Geeta. It was sheer providence that he didn’t go for Lata, otherwise OP’s career could have taken a different direction altogether. This was the only realistic occasion where Lata could have sung for OP.
4. Man more ga jhoom ke – Mangu (1954) – Asha Bhosle – (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
This was a Sheikh Mukhtar film. OP held that three producers helped him shaping his musical career, one of them was Sheikh Mukhtar, the other two being Guru Dutt and Shashdhar Mukherjee. This is a typical OP-style song, in western mood, with subtle changes in the rhythm pattern. Notice how the rhythm smoothly changes from bongo to dholak. Excellent throw of words in OP mould. Accordion, played by Goodi Sirwai, sets the mood of the song; interlude of the flute brings the antara back to the mukhda. This film is not available on DVD either, so not much is known except that Sheikh Mukhtar was the hero and Nigar Sultana, the heroine. For this film, one song sung by Suman Kalyanpur (her first independent song) was composed by MD Mohammad Shafi, after which OP replaced him, presumably due to the success of Aar Paar.
5. Ye lo main haari piya – Aar Paar (1954) – Geeta Dutt – (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
The success of this film was the launching pad for the successful careers of both Guru Dutt and OP. OP always admired the ingenuity of Guru Dutt in creating interesting situations for the placement of the song and the way he picturized the songs. Shyama (the heroine) accuses Guru Dutt of being an ex-convict. Guru Dutt takes her to the jailer, who explains why he was jailed, presumably for fast driving. Thus convinced of Guru Dutt’s innocence, Shyama pleads forgiveness through this song. Shyama looks beautiful and has given full justice to the song. Though she is the pleader, still she retains her spunk and almost demands forgiveness. No grovelling here. OP held this as the best song of Geeta Dutt sung under his composing baton.
6. Ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahan – CID (1956) -Rafi & Geeta Dutt – (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
CID was the biggest hit for Guru Dutt Productions. The major success factors were wonderful music, Dev Anand, good plot and excellent direction by Raj Khosla. Guru Dutt had promised new cars for Raj Khosla, Waheeda Rehman and OP if the film became a hit. As per promise, Guru Dutt presented new cars to Waheeda and Raj Khosla, but not to OP (he already had a car). As usual, OP took it as an insult and stopped working for Guru Dutt. How OP agreed to work for Bahaarein Phir Bhi Aayengi is another story. Johnny Walker owes a lot to the popularity of his songs composed by OP. The first was Aare na na na na na na tauba tauba from Aar Paar, the second was Jaane kahan mera jigar gaya ji and then this song. The success of these songs made Johnny Walker’s songs an instant draw, and in almost all his films afterwards had at least one song picturized on him. This song was Binaca Geetmala topper in 1956.
7. Yeh kya kar dala tune –Howra Bridge (1958) -Asha Bhosle – (Hasrat Jaipuri)
This is an iconic song of OP, capturing the essence of OP’s musical style prevalent in this phase. A breezy intro music set in western beats, sets up the mood of the song beautifully. Typically, you have dholak for antara. Fine singing by Asha Bhosle, with Madhubala looking ravishingly alluring. Madhubala was a great friend of OP, she used to offer discount in her fees, if the music was to be scored by OP. OP composed music for six of her films, which is the most by a music director. The best part of the song is the unexpected sarangi piece. Sarangi is being accompanied by cello. Sarangi is tuned in high pitch while cello is tuned to low pitch. The effect is magical. OP had a great affinity with sarangi and was mainly influential in making it popular as a romantic instrument. A foot tapping number for sure.
8. Ude jab jab zulfein teri – Naya Daur (1957) – Rafi & Asha Bhosle (Sahir Ludhiyanavi)
This remains the biggest hit of BR Chopra films. OP got the only Filmfare award of his career for this film. The musical success of this film resulted in the formation of OP-Asha musical partnership to the exclusion of Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum from OP’s music. The lyrics were by Sahir Ludhiyanavi and the producer was BR Chopra. Both were from Punjab, as was OP. So it was a team from Punjab. OP was a big fan of Gulam Haider who introduced Punjabi folk music in Hindi films in the film Khajanchi in 1941. OP himself was born and brought up in Punjab, and so had Punjab folk music in his blood. This song represents the true Punjabi folk music, moulded in the romantic style of OP. The honour of reviving the Punjab folk in Hindi film music, thus, goes to OP after a gap of 16 years. The picturisation is very good, with magical dancing by Vaijayantimala. The song remains hugely popular till date.
9. Main kho gaya yahin kahin –12 O’Clock (1958) – Rafi (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
Though this film was directed by Pramod Chakraborty, song picturization remained in Gur Dutt’s domain. It’s a delight to view this song. Waheeda Rahman is Guru Dutt’s secretary and both of them are tenants, living in the same building. Guru Dutt sings this song while both are going through the morning chores, getting ready to go to the office. Such a simple song, with Rafi in his elements and all the OP masala in full measure. This truly makes one feel that all is well and God is in his heaven.
10. Jawaniyan ye mast mast mast bin piye –Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) – Rafi (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
This was Nasir Husain’s maiden venture as a director. The film was made under the banner of Filmistan. Nasir Husain was dealt with a short hand with Shammi Kapoor and Amita as the leading pair. Shammi Kapoor was almost at his wits end after struggling for four years, Amita was also a non-entity. The only ace he was dealt with was that the music director was OP Nayyar. But S Mukherjee, the doyen of Filmistan, knew what he was doing. He was sharp enough to know the story-telling talent Nasir Husain had. He had also seen OP’s music play a crucial role in turning many small budget films into a commercial success, for example, Choomantar, Musafirkhana, Shrimati 420, Hum Sub Chor Hain, etc. The result was that this movie became a huge musical hit, mainly due to OP’s music and Nasir Husain’s excellent direction. However, the biggest surprise was the acceptance of Shammi Kapoor by the public as a new heartthrob. Shammi Kapoor and Nasir Husain were close buddies, and Nasir had a heart to heart talk with Shammi Kapoor about how to make over his image. He made Shammi Kapoor shave off his silly short mustache, cut his hair short, wear trendy clothes and express himself like walking jauntily, spreading hands and have an impish smile on his face. The impact of this was instant. OP’s foot tapping music made Shammi Kapoor shed his inhibitions, it was as if his inherent dancing talent which was shackled inside by his self-imposed restriction came out like a flood. During the premiere of this movie, Shammi Kapoor and Nasir Husain were very nervous, biting their nails. When this song started on the screen, there was an instant public acclaim as soon as Shammi Kapoor’s image came on the screen. Shammi Kapoor was well on his way to become a dancing idol of the young generation and Nasir Husain’s career was launched. There was an additional stanza to this song (which was presumably cut from the film), the words were ‘ Idhar Se Jo Gayi Gujar, Usi Pe Hum Machal Gaye, Jo Kuchh No Ho Saka To Phir, Karib Se Nikal Gaye’. What romantic sentiments!!! if nothing happens, at least she walked past me…that’s good enough for me.
11. Bahut shukriyaa badi meharbani – Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962) – Rafi & Asha Bhosle (SH Bihari)
After the success of Tumsa Nahin Dekha, a rift developed between OP Nayyar and Shashdhar Mukherjee, mainly due to OP insisting that his music was the main ingredient in the success of the film. S Mukherjee went for Usha Khanna in his next two films. Due to the intervention of Asha Bhosle, the rift was healed and OP got this movie. This was OP’s comeback film and was a tremendous success at the box office. OP based this tune on Tere pyar ka asara chahata hoon from the film Dhool Ka Phool. The treatment OP gave to this song makes it very hard to recognize this. Harmonium in this song is played by Babu Singh, OP’s favorite harmonium player. The antara is fabulous and influenced by Punjabi Gayaki. The words of SH Bihari are also noteworthy.
12. Aaj koi pyar se – Sawan Ki Ghata (1966) – Asha Bhosle (SH Bihari)
The intro piece is out of this world. It’s as if there is a sawal jawab between santoor and violins. The mukhda starts after a thaap on dholak in a true OP fashion. The tune is based on raag Pahadi and the taal is Deepchandi. This song is a prime example of how Asha Bhosle’s singing had matured under OP’s tutelage by this stage. The sensuousness, the khanak and the blithe spirit in Asha Bhosle’s voice needs to be imbibed and admired to enjoy this song. Mumtaz was a side heroine in this movie and has enacted this song wonderfully. She bursts into this song when Manoj Kumar (the hero) praises her qualities. As can be guessed, Mumtaz wrongly interprets this as love. In the orchestration you can notice all the Indian instruments like santoor, sitar, flute, taar-shehnai, along with dholak and tabla.
13. Dil to pahle hi se – Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966) – Rafi & Asha Bhosle (Shewan Rizvi)
Guru Dutt came back to OP for this, after SD Burman got sick, with OP managing to overcome his silly grievance. Guru Dutt had okayed all the 6 songs before his sad demise. The song starts with typical sitar piece, OP’s signature tune. The tune is based in Gaara/Jayjawanti that. “Kabhi Khud Pe” from Hum Dono and “Aise to na dekho” from Teen Deviyan also have the same tune. But see the treatment OP has given to this song. It has western beats, there is sitar, there is sarangi, there is flute, still rhythm beats catch your attention. Rafi and Asha Bhosle are having their duel about who will steal the show. It has typical OP-style throw of words, it’s a Hindi/Urdu song, based upon classical raga, with a touch of Thumri. All this is blended immaculately by OP. Nowadays this is called as ‘Fusion’, which OP perfected long back.
14. Yaar badshah yaar dilrubaa – CID 909 (1967) – Asha Bhosle (Shewan Rizvi)
Feroze Khan was the hero and Mumtaaz was the heroine. A typical spy thriller. This song was a major draw of the film. All the six songs were excellent and fairly popular. OP in this song has used Persian instruments. When OP played this tune to S Mukherjee, he chided OP for wasting this song on this B-grade thriller. OP replied in his usual blunt manner, “the Producer has paid me my fee, so I must give him the best that I have to offer”.
15. Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra – Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) – Rafi (SH Bihari)
This was the last film OP made with Shammi Kapoor. It’s claimed that An Evening Paris was to go to OP, but something happened due to which SJ came in. In the instance of this song, it was Shammi Kapoor’s suggestion to repeat the words Tarif karun kya us ki a number of times as ending of the song. He had an idea in mind about how to enact it. Though OP was skeptical about it, when he saw the final result, he hugged Shammi Kapoor in admiration. The friendship of OP and Shammi Nayyar went long back, in fact from OP’s first film Aasmaan. Shammi Kapoor has gone on record that, he was to play the hero in this film, originally, before being replaced by Nasir Khan. This song is representative of OP’s title of ‘Rhythm King’. The short intro music of electric guitar is truly electric, in the second antara, you have a melodious piece of santoor as well as apt accompaniment of soft sarangi. This is a highly popular song with today’s generation also.
16. Humdum mere khel na jano – Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963) – Rafi & Asha Bhosle (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
This is a typical Nasir Husain film. This was his first independent film under his own banner. OP’s music was again the major plus point and the film was a great commercial success. This is a terrific song, starts with a sher and then antara, before coming to the mukhda. The changes in rhythm from western beats to Punjab style dholak, mouth organ, claps, it’s full of OP’s standard tricks to make his song popular. This turned out to be the last film by OP for Nasir Husain, since Teesari Manzil which was supposed to go to OP finally went to RD Burman.
17. Chain se humko kabhi – Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye (1973) – Asha Bhosle ((SH Bihari)
This is an iconic song as it marks the end of OP-Asha Bhosle collaboration, resulting in the end of OP’s film career for all practical purpose. It’s a ‘soul-toucher’ by which one eternally remembers the tuneful togetherness of OP and Asha Bhosle. It’s just uncanny, how the words so aptly represent the break up. This song remains ultra-special for all OP-Asha Bhosle fans, as it epitomizes the pain of OP and Asha Bhosle finally parting musically. Both Asha Bhosle and OP have given everything they could to make this song so memorable, knowing possibly that this could be their swan-song. The tune is so simple, soulful and heart-rending. The slow rhythm is perfect, made up of just piano notes and church bell. The orchestration is minimal, with beautiful flute interludes. The song has silence as well as speechlessness underlined by silence between two notes. This song is actually tailor made for Lata Mangeshkar, but the way Asha Bhosle has delivered this song there is hardly any shortcoming in her rendering. This song is the final proof of the progress Asha Bhosle made as a singer under OP’s careful grooming. The great Anil Biswas considered this as OP’s best song. We started with Aasmaan song and end with this song, both of them cast in New Theatre’s style. OP had travelled full circle after going through Punjabi / western stops!! (Note: The YT link below explains that since the original video was unavailable, scenes of ‘Ye Raaste Hain Pyar Ke’ have been mixed. – AK)