Bollywood Legends - O.P. Nayyar

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Old 14-Sep-2009
Bollywood Legends - O.P. Nayyar

O.P. Nayyar

None can replicate Nayyar saab, none can succeed him.

Omkar Prasad Nayyar was born in an undivided India in Lahore in 1926. His family relocated from Lahore to Amritsar after the partition. He dropped out of college to compose music.

In 1949, Nayyar came to Bombay and met producer-director Krishan Kewal who was making Kaneez. Thus his career started with scoring the background music for Kaneez. In 1951 in Delhi, Bhatia, a close friend of Nayyar’s recommended him to Pancholi who was releasing Nagina starring Nutan and Nasir Khan. But Nayyar got his first break as a composer in Aasmaan. Followed were the films like Chham Chhama Chham and Guru Dutt's Baaz. Santoshi had dropped Naushad to assign Nayyar while Guru Dutt too opted for Nayyar. But his films flooped badly so he was ready to pack his bags and leave for Amritsar The next film with Guru Dutt Aar Paar was a hit and later on they worked together in Mr. and Mrs. 55.

He was now in demand. Lata was the reigning playback singer. But Nayyar determinedly avoided recording with her as he felt her voice did not suit his compositions. He zeroed in on fledgling chanteuse Asha Bhosle. Nayyar had used Asha's voice only sparingly in the early years (Man mora from Mangu) preferring to concentrate on Geeta and Shamshad Begum. But from 1957, he sidelined his erstwhile favourites and lavished his best on Asha. Nayyar was so involved with Asha Bhosle that he neglected other great singers like Geeta Dutt and Lata Mangeshkar. Together they created magic. In about 70 films, they scaled new heights in music. He molded Asha's voice and gave her style and respectability. The Nayyar-Asha team lifted to an unprecedented high in 1957- 1958 with around nine releases in both years and a string of successful scores like Naya Daur (for which he won the Best Music Director Award), Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Sone Ki Chidiya, Phagun, Howrah Bridge and Ragini.

Nayyar became one of the earliest music directors to command a lakh for a film. His decline was as sudden and as steep as his rise. His arrogance and insistence on a high remuneration were famous. Besides his films in the 1959-1960 phase (Raj Kapoor's Do Ustaad, Dev Anand's Jaali Note) did not set the box-office on fire. In 1961, Nayyar had no releases at all.

In the late 50s, his films include Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Howrah Bridge with the most famous song, Mera naam Chin Chin Choo. He also scored the Shammi Kapoor's hit film, Kashmir Ki Kali.

His limited musical education did not come in the way of embellishing his melodies with well-chosen instruments like the sarangi which he popularised or the piano which ripples through Aapke haseen rukh pe from Baharein Phir Bhi Aayegi.

In the late 1960s, Nayyar fell out with his favourite Mohammad Rafi but managed to conjure memorable songs even with Mukesh (Chal akela), Mahendra Kapoor (Lakhon hai yahan dilwale) and Kishore Kumar (Tu auron ki kyon ho gayee).

In the early 1990s, Nayyar made a surprise comeback with Zid and the Salman Khan-Karisma Kapoor starrer Nischay, with his unmistakable tunes. Around the same time, new composer Tusshar Bhatia doffed his hat at the veteran by composing in the Nayyar idiom in Andaaz Apna Apna's Elloji sanam hum aa gaye.

The stubbornly individualistic Omkar Prasad Nayyar was the only major composer from the golden age of Hindi film music to eschew the siren call of Lata's honeyed vocals. Yet Nayyar's robust songs redolent of his native Punjab (Reshmi salwar kurta jaalidar), his characteristic rhythmic beats (in tanga songs like Yun toh hamne, Maang ke saath tumhara) as well as his feather-light melodies (Jaaiye aap kahan jayenge), were immensely popular.

The maestro, in his hat, was seen many times as a guest on television shows. But OP's beaming visage hid in his old age his characteristic stubbornness that has stood him in good stead and helped him tackle the vicissitudes of fate that has seen him move from his posh Churchgate flat to the distant suburbs of Mumbai and necessitated a profession switch from composer to homeopath.

He died on 28th Jan 2007 due to cardiac arrest. Having been estranged from family they were not present for his funeral.

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