Guest article by Ravindra Kelkar
(OP Nayyar lived life king size. Even when he was in financial difficulty in his later years, he was immaculately dressed and had a regal bearing; there was no dent in his famous pride – he refused the Lata Mangeshkar Award for music, which carried a substantial cash award for those days, when he was in need; he never cared for winning friends and impressing people. His music was as much in-your-face – the infectious rhythm and joy was recognizable from miles. It was impossible for such a person to be unlike him.
Ravindra Kelkar started his series on OP Nayyar with an overview of three phases of his career. After covering his peerless combination with Geeta Dutt, his influence on other music directors, and his duets in two parts, he brings the curtain down on the OPN series with his sixth and the last article – befittingly with his unique songs which are very different from his characteristic style.
This theme was first suggested to me by a reader Mukund Gadgil a few years ago, who also sent me a draft article. I made some suggestions with regard to the write-up and the song selection to fit with the general style of SoY, but I did not get any response from him. I tried a couple of times later to establish contact with him, but didn’t succeed. When Mr Kelkar came on board to write the series, I suggested the theme to him. The write-up is entirely his. I suggested some songs which fitted the theme according to me, and I am happy to note that most of those songs have been included. I thank Mr Kelkar for his highly acclaimed series, and this excellent concluding article. I also take this opportunity to thank Mr Gadgil for the theme idea. This may be the last on OP Nayyar, but I trust this is not the last of Mr Kelkar. Hopefully, we will have more from him on other themes. – AK)
This is the last post on OP (did I hear a collective sigh of relief?) and this interesting theme was suggested by AK. Before, we get into it, let us take a summarized look on OP’s career highlights.
1. OP composed the immortal Song Preetam aan milo for CH Atma at the age of 19 in 1945, which turned out to be the foundation stone for his career as MD.
2. OP met Geeta Dutt during his first film Aaasman as an MD. Geeta recommended OP to Guru Dutt. The grand success of Aar Paar helped Guru Dutt as well as OP to get established in their respective careers.
3. OP didn’t work as an assistant to any MD and directly became an MD. This is quite remarkable when one considers that he had no formal musical training.
4. OP played a crucial role in adding a different dimension to Rafi’s vocal abilities by giving him songs which were playful, joyous, and romantically vibrant. In the rendition of these kind of songs, Rafi was matchless. The sustained success of OP-Rafi combination during 1954-1956, resulted in Rafi establishing himself as the undisputed number one male singer for many more years to come. (In my article on OPN’s best songs for Rafi, I had quoted a wag say that “OP Nayyar rescued Rafi from the staid classicism of Naushad”. – AK)
5. The success of Johnny Walker songs composed by OP in Aar Paar, Mr. and Mrs. 55 and CID, made a song of picturised on him an indispensable part of a large number of movies. In fact, Johnny Walker went on to play the role of a hero in many films.
6. CID remained the biggest hit of Guru Dutt films.
7. Naya Daur was the greatest hit of BR Films and helped it to become financially sound and stable. By the same token, the commercial success of the film helped OP to bag the only Filmfare award of his career. The popularity of the music also led to the revival of Bhangra songs in the movies.
8. After the success of Naya Daur, OP concentrated on grooming Asha Bhosle as a serious competitor to Lata Mangeshkar. His contribution in helping Asha Bhosle in achieving this objective is indisputable.
9. Kabhi aar kabhi paar was OP’s first super hit song of his film career and it led to the revival of Shamshad Begum’s career.
10. The superb music of Tumsa Nahi Dekha helped Nasir Husain and Shammi Kapoor to establish their careers as director and hero respectively.
11. OP started the practice of on-the-spot payment to the musicians at the conclusion of the recording of the song, when he saw the sad plight of the musicians, being made to beg repeatedly for the remuneration. The Music Players Association till today remains grateful to him for this.
12. OP was the first music director to charge 1 lakh rupees for a film and he used to claim that he was paid the highest royalty among the music directors (Or Naushad/CR? – AK).
13. The success of the film Ek Musafir Ek Hasina helped Joy Mukherjee to establish himself as a hero.
14. OP possibly remains the only MD who publicly gave credit to the lyric writers and the musicians and the singers in the success of his songs. There are many stories where he impulsively rewarded his musicians after the recording.
15. The greatest achievement of OP is that he is the only MD who became commercially successful and remained in the limelight for two decades without using the vocals of Lata Mangeshkar. He would tell us with impish smile on his face, “I take immense pleasure when somebody praises Lata Mangeshkar, since it indirectly enhances my achievement of being the only successful music director without using her voice”. It’s impossible to counter this logic!!!
16. His music career was practically finished after his break-up with Asha Bhosle in 1972. A thought strikes me here. Could he have managed to salvage his career if he had tried to approach Lata Mangeshkar to render his songs??? Remember the film industry is completely commercial, there are no permanent enemies or friends, there are only permanent interests!!! Of course, it’s a historical fact that OP didn’t stoop to this level. I leave it to the readers to ponder on this.
Let us now come back to the theme of this post. All great music directors of the golden era (1950 – 1970) had their own unique style of composition. Also, it is a well-known and accepted fact that the environment in which the child grows plays a crucial part in the making of the man. In that context, all music directors like Anil Biswas, Naushad, SD Burman, C Ramachandra, OP Nayyar, etc. developed their composing styles based upon the musical exposure they had while growing up. In OP’s case, he grew up in Lahore. The advent of KL Saigal through New Theatre’s movies from 1934-35 onwards coincided with OP’s childhood. OP has written very perceptively about this. He writes, “The pictures from New Theatres had taken full control of our minds. As soon as the news of the release of a new picture of New Theatres used to reach us, the whole Lahore would wait for it with great anticipation. The films used to get released at Nishat Talkies. Riding my bicycle, I would invariably reach the theatre, buy the ticket waiting in the long queue and see the movies. I remember seeing movies like Street Singer, Puran Bhagat, Chandidas, Devdas, President, Mukti, etc, over and over again. Saigal, Kananbala, Jamuna, Barua, Timir Burman, RC Boral, Pankaj Malik, etc. were like our family members. Of course, we had special affinity for KL Saigal, since he was from Punjab. His appearance and singing on the screen used to overwhelm me. And, the Shadaj of him was beyond compare, and would affect my tender heart with uncontrollable emotions. We Punjabi people are simpletons, raw, plain, without finesse. Our music is also full-throated, full of vigor, direct, fast-paced. The music of New Theatres was exactly opposite: soothing, hypnotic, subtle, pure like the light of a lamp in front of the God in a temple. This had a profound effect on us, we lost our sleep. It was beyond our imagination. Then came Khajanchi (1941) and it gave us a lot of comfort, we got our pride back. The credit for this belonged to Master Gulam Haider. The magical quality of his music was something different. He integrated the Punjabi folk/melody and rhythm effortlessly.” Hence, in the shaping of OP’s musical character these two factors played a big part. However, if one listens to OP’s songs in his first phase (before Aar Paar), the influence of New Theatre’s music is much more pronounced in comparison with Punjab folk music. The films flopped and nobody took much notice of its music. From Aar Paar onwards, OP created his distinct musical style which shook the prevalent Hindi Film Music scene. Success begets success, so OP carried on in the same style to consolidate his position as a music director in the film industry. As is to be expected, in the commercial world of Hindi Films, the producers also offered similar types of films to OP which were mostly romantic thrillers/comedies. OP very rarely got serious theme-based movies. So, all in all, close to 90% of the songs which OP composed for films have OP’s signature written all over it. Just to put a seal on it, even Lata Mangeshkar said in a tribute, when OP died, “OP’s work was different from his contemporaries. One could always identify an OP song. He left his distinct mark on his songs.”
How does the identity of the composer get associated with the songs? I think, when we listen to any song, it creates an impression in our mind based upon the actual composition and the orchestration pieces. The combination of this forges the identity of the composer. So, when we say that this is a typical C Ramchandra song, it involves the effect of the combination of the tune along with the orchestration, which rings a bell in our mind and we connect it subconsciously with other songs which we have heard earlier. This means that the style of orchestration also plays an equally important role in creating the identity of the composer. OP used to compose tune on harmonium and orchestration pieces on piano, all by himself. He didn’t leave the orchestration part to his assistants, like some of the other MDs. Hence, it’s no surprise that most of his songs have OP-ness inherent in them.
Coming back to the theme of this blog, which type of OP songs do we associate with popular OP style? Mainly romantic/comedy/cabaret/bhangra/hoofbeat songs. Loosely speaking, all the songs which do not fall into these categories automatically qualify for this theme. OP in his film music career composed 600 songs. As per my assessment, around 70 songs fall into the category of “OP unlike OP”. These OP songs mainly comprise purely Hindustani classical-based songs, sad mood songs, songs which have philosophical orientation, bhajans, qawwalis, etc.
So, let us listen to some of the “OP unlike OP” songs. I have excluded songs like Pyar par bas to nahin hai, Raat bhar ka hai mehman andhera, Tum rooth ke mat jana, Tu hai mera prem devta, Bekasi had se jab gujar jaye, Main soya ankhiyan meeche, Jaan sake to jaan etc., because they have appeared already earlier on SOY. Quite a few of the songs mentioned below, are rarely heard, so they belong to the category of forgotten gems. But after listening to them, one would be compelled to admit that OP was a complete composer and had the talent and ability to handle all categories of songs expertly, like his renowned contemporaries.
1. Aji jaaneman from Mehbooba (1954) by Shamshad Begum, Lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
This was the first film OP was offered after the success of Aar Paar as a replacement of the original MD Roshan. As explained in my post on Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum came to OP’s rescue by agreeing to sing the songs. This film was produced by K Amarnath. Nalini Jaywant and Shammi Kapoor were the leading pair. This is an excellent song. It starts with a mandolin piece, followed by flute piece, and then an instrument piece (I have no idea what that instrument is, the same music piece is used in the interludes), then the proper song starts. The same rhythm is maintained by OP. Fabulous singing by Shamshad Begum, full of expressions. The more you listen, the more the song grows upon you.
2. Ajab hamaari hai zindagaani from Kabhi Andhera Kabhi Ujala (1958) by Asha Bhosle, Lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
Such a soft and melodious song!! Excellent lyrics by Hasarat – Kabhi to mausam judaai ka hai, kabhi hain ghadiyaan madhur milan ki. The violin piece in the interlude as well as the use of shehnai enhance the effectiveness of the song, by complimenting the philosophical thoughts. The film is not available on DVD, so no way to know on whom it was picturized. Though Asha Bhosle has sung it beautifully, one feels this was a song fit for Lata Mangeshakr!!
3. Bedardi preet nahi jani from Quaidi (1957) by Asha Bhosle and Usha Mangeshkar, Lyrics Jaan Nisar Akhtar
This a raag Malhar based composition. Asha’s aalaps are wonderful. The video is not available on YouTube. Most probably it was picturized on Padmini and Helen dancing together. This film was based on the film Prisoner of Zenda. Lahore was a major centre of classical music in the northern India. OP must have attended many classical concerts during his stay and he must have assimilated a lot of it subconsciously, that’s the only possible explanation how he composed so many wonderful classical tunes. (Precursor of Roshan’s ‘Ae ri jaane na dungi’? Raag needs to be confirmed. – AK)
4. Aana hai to aa raah me kuchh pher nahi hai from Naya Daur (1957) by Rafi, Lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi
This is an outstanding song. A great example of the comingling of Sahir’s inspired lyrics with OP’s ability to tune them with equal felicity. It has shades of Yaman, Basant and Puriya-Dhanashree. This is what Pt Shivkumar Sharma has to say about the song –‘Sarangi kaun se scale me chal rahi hai; orchestration kahan se shuru hota hai; gana kahan se shuru hota hai; raag bhi bhinna prakriti ke aa jaate hain – ye sub unexpected hai. Komal rishabh lag raha hai aur Shuddha rishabh bhi aata hai. Ek ke baad ke surprise hai. Bilkul alag mood ka gaana hai!!’. The lyrics are out of this world – Milta hai jahan nyay woh darbar yahin hai/Sansar ki sabse badi sarkar yahin hai. Wah! Kya baat hai!! Rafi has done full justice to the song.
5. Saathi haath badhana from Naya Daur (1957) by Rafi, Asha Bhosle and chorus, Lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi
Naya Daur is a prime example of the versatility of OP. It had three bhangra songs, one tonga song, a Johny Walker song, a bhajan and this song. All of them of excellent quality. As per the situation of the song, OP has composed a perfect tune here. Once again, no praise can be too high for Sahir’s lyrics – Ek se ek mile to kataraa ban jaata hai dariya/ Ek se ek mile to zarra ban jata hai sehara/ Ek se ek mile to rai ban sakti hai parbat. Highlight of the song is excellent use of the chorus, it’s almost as if the chorus plays the role of the rhythm. One of the very few songs of OP where the male and female singers sing together. There was a part 2 of the song Saathi jaagate rehana, which was not included in the picture, which is not readily available. Here is the full song.
6. Soyee hai kahan ja kar from Mr Lambu by Suraiya, Lyrics Harsh
One of the two solos sung by Suraiya for OP. This is a rare song, not heard much, but nevertheless it’s very good. Suraiya has sung it with her usual sweetness. OP worked very less with Suraiya, Talat Mehmood, Mukesh and Manna Dey, but still produced memorable songs which exemplifies OP’s talent to extract the best from every singer.
7. Bhool ja ae dil from Hum Sub Chor Hain (1956) by Asha Bhosle, Lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
This song was not included in the film, so video is not available. One more song, in my view, where one feels the absence of Lata Mangeshkar.
8. Dekho bijali dole bin baadal ke from Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963) by Asha Bhosle and Usha Mangeshkar Lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
This a Raag Ramkali based composition. A beautiful song. Asha at her best.
9. Yeh duniya rahe na rahe kya pata from Mitti Mein Sona (1960) by Asha Bhosle, Lyrics SH lyricBihari
The video of this song is not available. This film was produced by Pradeep Kumar. This is a lori, most probably picturized on Mala Sinha. This is a fantastic song. The interludes based upon violin, flute and sarangi enhance the beauty of the song. Asha has sung it very well. The soft rhythm is based upon drum beats with brush strokes and double bass.
10. Chal akela, chal akela from Sambandh (1969) by Mukesh and chorus, Lyrics Kavi Pradeep
This film was produced by S Mukherjee. The only film by OP with lyrics by Kavi Pradeep. This song is used as a theme song in the movie. This song has impeccable orchestration, with chorus enhancing the quality of the song in no small measure. The words are out of this world. Kavi Pradeep and S Mukherjee were old friends, their association starting from the Bombay Talkies film ‘Kismet’ in 1940s. Kavi Pradeep had a habit of composing and singing a song or two himself in the film. He wrote this song, composed a tune and started to insist with S Mukherjee that he will sing this song, on his tune. Now to sell this idea to OP, S Mukherjee took Kavi Pradeep to OP. As expected, OP hit the roof and bluntly said, “If Kaviji, is going to compose tunes also, where is my need? I am going.” OP went home. The superb words of the song had made an impact on OP. OP got inspired by the words and created this fantastic tune. In the evening, S Mukherjee along with Kavi Pradeep came to OP’s house with the intention of pacifying OP, armed with a bottle of whiskey. OP played the tune to them. S Mukherjee instantly recognized the intrinsic worth of the tune and looked at Kaviji. Kavi Pradeep also realized it and said ‘What a fantastic tune OP! Please forget my tune and get it recorded by the singer of your choice’. OP gives credit to Asha Bhosle for suggesting Mukesh’s name for this song. As was the norm for OP, OP okayed the song at the first take. This made Mukesh nervous. He came running to OP, who was sitting in the recording room. He pleaded, ‘Please take a few more takes’, OP asked ‘Why?’. Mukesh said, ‘Everybody does this with my songs. They take 4/5 takes and select one of them’. OP pacified Mukesh and asked him to listen to the recording and then told him ‘You have sung it very well, I am fully satisfied. So, no need of any more takes’. OP himself considered this as the ‘theme song’ of his life after the end of his film career.
11. Tumko to karodo saal huye from Sambandh (1969) by Asha Bhosle, Lyrics Kavi Pradeep
Another song from the same film. OP was very proud of the musical score he came up with for this film. Almost all the songs from this film were “unlike OP”. This is another fine song. Taar Shehnai is played by Dakshina Mohan Tagore and Sarod by Zarin Daruwala. S Mukherjee and his wife attended the trial run of the film before the release. Their son Deb Mukherjee was making a debut in the film. After the screening was over, S Mukherjee remarked to his wife (who as a devoted mother had come to see her son’s performance) ‘Did you see what sort of acting your son has come up with? Consider yourself lucky that music is by OP. Whatever little success the film may enjoy will entirely be because of OP’s music’.
12. Meri duniya lut rahi thi from Mr and Mrs 55 (1955) by Rafi and chorus, Lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
This is a song that reflects the old style of gazal singing. In this, the qawwali rhythm is played when the mukhda is sung, accompanied by claps. The rhythm stops during the singing of the stanza. The rhythm again starts when the song comes back to the mukhda. Ustad Barkat Ali Khan was a prominent ghazal singer from Lahore and OP must have listened to his singing. The expressions Rafi has put in reflect the singing style of Ustad Barkat Ali, under the instructions from OP. As usual, Rafi has sung the song with great gusto.
13. Diya to jala sab raat re baalam from Dhake Ki Malmal (1956) by CH Atma, Lyrics Saroj Mohini Nayyar
What a fabulous song this is! This song OP had composed before coming into films. The original non-film song was sung by Manmohan Krishna. For the film, C.H. Atma sang it with superb emotions and expressions! You can clearly notice the influence of New Theatres music here. Also, C.H. Atma has sung it perfectly in the style of KL Saigal. OP had the highest regard for KL Saigal. He would say “You say there won’t be another Rafi for hundred years. I say, there won’t be another Saigal for thousand years!!” The interludes and the music arrangement is just perfect to make the song highly effective. Take special note of the end piece of violins which plays for more than twenty seconds. The violins take over seamlessly from where the singer has left. It evokes perfectly the pathos felt in longing in vain for the return of the lover.
14. Man mora bawra from Ragini (1958) by Rafi, Lyrics Jaan Nisar Akhtar
This is a Raag Darbari Kanada (?) based song. Originally, Bharat Bhushan was supposed to play the role that Kishore Kumar ended up playing. This song was recorded when it was supposed to be picturized on Bharat Bhushan. When Kishore Kumar replaced Bharat Bhushan, he requested OP to re-record the song in his voice. OP refused by saying that this classical song was not suitable for him. Kishore went to his brother Ashok Kumar, who was the producer of the film and made the same request. Ashok Kumar told him, “Sorry, music is OP’s domain and his word is final.” This is how Kishore Kumar ended up lip-synching this Rafi song in the film. (This song sounds very far from Darbari Kanada to me. – AK)
15. Chhed diye mere dil ke taar from Ragini (1958) by Amanat Ali and Fateh Ali, Lyrics Janisar Akhtar
This is a Raag Tilak Kamod based composition. When one listens to this song, it becomes very hard to believe that OP had no formal training in classical music. Ragini had another song Jogiya more ghar aaye sung by Amir Khan, which is a traditional bandish in Raag Lalit.
16. Savere ka suraj tumhare liye hai from Ek Baar Muskura Do (1972) by Kishore Kumar, Lyrics Indivar
This is a composition in raag Kalyan in Jhaptaal. This is a climax song in the film. During the recording of the song, Kishore got scolding from OP for not singing it correctly. In the third stanza, Kishore has imitated the style of KL Saigal. The interlude pieces based upon piano, violins, sitar and sarod are in typical OP style. I personally feel, Kishore Kumar was forced to stretch at many places in rendering this song.
I end this post with two songs of OP which are from his unreleased films. Many of you most probably haven’t heard them before. I hope you find them interesting.
17. Jhonke hawa ke sajna se ja ke from Jaane Mehboob, by Anuradha Paudwal, Lyrics Noor Devasi
This film was never released. Raj Babbar and Poonam Dhillon were the leading pair. Rohan Kapoor (son of Mahendra Kapoor) also had a role. In fact, it’s claimed that Rohan Kapoor had lip-synched a song sung by his father in this film! Anuradha Paudwal sang for OP in two films. Unfortunately, both of them got shelved. This melodious song was recorded in 1988, sung beautifully by Anuradha. One of the best songs of Anuradha Paudwal in my books. Also, definitely, a song fit for Lata Mangeshkar. Sarangi in this song is played by Ustad Sultan Khan. The songs from this film were released in 1990, but as far as I know this song is not available on internet.
18. Kisi se haal-e-dil apna yahan from Jawani Ki Raat by Rafi, lyrics SH Bihari.
This movie was supposed to be produced by SH Bihari. No other information is available about the film. This is a superb song, sung in his inimitable style by Rafi. The first aalap Rafi sings reminds you of Ek Musafir Ek Hasina song. The lyrics are excellent – Kinaare le chuke the jis ko badh ke aapne daaman mein, woh kashti pyaar ki doobi kahan, kahiye to kyun kahiye. The music is totally based upon harmonium, another favorite OP instrument, expertly played by Babu Sing. There was another song recorded in the voice of Vani Jairam for this film. The recording of these songs took place sometime in 1973-74. These two songs were never released and are not available on the internet. All listeners need to thank SOY for making this song and the previous song available on a public platform like internet.
Note: I am a keen listener of classical music, but not formally trained in it. I request the knowledgeable readers of SoY to confirm the ragas I have indicated in the songs.
1. O.P. Nayyar Kya Baat Hai Is Jadugar Ki. A coffee table book by Sateesh Paknikar. The comments from Pt. Shivkumar Sharma are from this book.
2. The Legendary O.P. Nayyar by Vishwas Nerurkar
3. O.P. Nayyar King of Melody by Lata Jagtiani