OP Nayyar’s immortal relationship with Mohammed Rafi
Omkar Prasad Nayyar (better known as O.P.Nayyar) is known to be one of the trend-breakers of the traditional music in the Golden Age of Indian film music, in the 50s and 60s. During that period although the Film arena were glorified by Giants of different specialisations, namely Naushad with his Brilliant Ragas, Roshan with the use of Sarengi and providing immortal mujras and qawallis, Madanmohan with his everlasting Ghazals, the general trend of Hindustani classicals and folk songs were used by most of the music directors. Excepting Shankar-Jaikishan who worked on diversified subject matters like Hawaiian flavour in ‘Ajeeb Dastaan hai yeh’ in Dil Ek Mandir,1963 to European Chorus Background in ‘Meherbaa likhoon’ in Sangam, 1964, and Salil Chowdhury blending Russian March in Do Bigna Zameen, 1953, to Indian Chorus in ‘zindagi kaisi hai paheli’ in Anand, 1971, there were not many Music composers who experimented with a blend of Eastern and Western Music (1).
O.P.Nayyar came with an unique trend of merging Punjabi bhangra with Spanish tunes. The other unique feature of OP Nayyar is his association with Mohammad Rafi, the greatest singer India can ever produce in the world of playback singing. Rafi was a genius by his own standards and the way a person gets mesmerised in a historical monument in respect of admiring any part, the diwan-i-khas in Agra Fort, or diwan-i–aam in the same Fort, the same way experts on music have a very tough time judging the best performance of Rafi, whether his ghazals are the best, or his songs with an intoxicated atmosphere, or whether his pure classical numbers. Rafi had sung probably the maximum number of songs for OP Nayyar who knew the westernised andaz would not have suited anyone else in the same way as Mohammad Rafi.
Born in Lahore in 1926, OP Nayyar was fascinated by music. He was not trained in music, but left home to pursue a career as a composer. He got his first break when he composed the background score for the film Kaneez, 1949. He started his journey with Gurdutt in the film Baaz and the first successful break he received in Gurudutt’s film AarPaar, 1954. Also he stormed the film world with his outstanding performance in the film CID, 1956, Mr and Mrs 55, 1955.
One striking feature in the songs of the film CID, 1956, is that the female voice used by OP Nayyar varied according to the requirement of the film. The main playback singers included Shamshad Begum, Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle, the noted songs being “ kahin pe nigahen, kahin pe nishana,” “ puch mera kya nao re”. Yet the male playback was provided by Mohammad Rafi for all the characters of the film. It included Johnny Walker in the song ‘Ai dil mushkil jeena yahaan, zara hatke zara bhachke yeh hai bombai meir jaan’ (2), further Dev Anand in the song ‘Ankhon hi ankhon me ishara ho gaya’. It is even amazing that there was a street song being sung by a road peddler in the film titled ‘Leke pehela pehela pyaar’ which could have been sung by any playback singer, OP Nayyar even engaged Rafi to sing it. There were other hits in Mr and Mrs 55, 1955, like ‘Muhobbat karlo, aji karlo’, ‘jane kahan mera jigar gaya ji’ and ‘Dilpe hua aisa jadoo”.
If the 50s were characterized by the fast numbers of OP Nayyar, the 60s provided him the honour of being rated as one of the most elegant music directors with the same esteem at which Roshan, Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishan, Madanmohan used to be rated. The two films Ek Musafir Ek Hasina, 1962, and Phir Wohi dil Laya Hoon, 1963, stands out as the films where OP Nayyar had experimented the most. There was a duet of Rafi and Asha titled “aap yuhin agar humse milte rahe, dekhie ek din pyar ho jayega”. The dance sequence on actress Sadhna impersonated the way a peacock welcomes the monsoon. The effects produced by OP Nayyar was so outstanding that the background, the picturisation and the voice of Rafi and Asha synchronised together. The other two songs of Rafi “Mujhe dekhkar aapka muskurana” and “Mai pyar ka rahin hoon” had absolute western tunes with odd chords. Rafi had left the audience speechless with his performance in a slightly classical andaz in the songs “Phir tere shahar me” and “Humko tumhare isq ne kya kya bana diya, jab kuch na ban sake to tamasha bana diya.” The lyrics of OP Nayyar’s songs were mostly written by Majrooh Sultanpuri and S.H.Bihari who had brought out their most romantic passion while composing the lyrics which could very well be categorised as Shayeris (3).
In the film Phir Wohi dil Laya Hoon,1963, picturised on Joy Mukherjee, OP Nayyar had made a very stylish endeavour towards the traditional blend of the western and eastern music. Rafi’s song “Nazni bara Rangeen hai wada tera” starts off with the traditional folk sequence with Punjabi where as the antara has “humdum mere naam na janu” which has the effect of Guitar. In the other song “Aji kibla, mohe tarma, kabhi shola, kabhi nagma” has the same blend of Punjabi Folk with Guitar effect. In the song “zulf ke chaome chehere ka ujala lekar” OP Nayyar had made Rafi and Asha answer each other in almost a contest of Shayeri, the way urdu writers used to face each other through their poetic verses. Besides OP Nayyar’s beat oriented composition having effect of the tanga (Cart-pulled by horses) titled “Banda parwar, thamlo jigar, banke pyar phir aya hoon” in the film was equally melodious as “Maang ke saath tumkara” in the film Naya Daur (4), picturised on Dilipkumar, “Yuh to humne laakh hasin dekhe hain” in the film Tumsa Nahin Dekha, 1957, “Kisi na kisi se kabhi na kabhi kahin na kahin dil lagana parega”, in the film Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964.
Besides Rafi’s western romantic mood is utilized by OP Nayyar in a very stylish way in the songs “Diwana hua badal, sawan ki ghata chayi” and “Yeh Chand Sa Roshan Chehera” in the film Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964 picturised on Shammi Kapoor and “Humne to dilko aap ke kadmome rakh diya, is dil ka kya karenge yeh ab aap sochiye” in the film Mere Sanam, 1965 and “Phir Miloge Kabhi is baat ka wada karlo, humse ek aur mulakat ka wada karlo” in the film Yeh Raat Phir Na Ayegi, picturised on Biswajeet. In all these songs the sarengi and santoor had played a very pivotal role accompanied by the intoxicating appeal of Rafi’s voice.
Besides OP Nayyar had a reputation for stubborn individuality all along his career. Many remember him as being aloof and imperious, but always generous with struggling new-comers and those marginalized in the industry. The press and electronic media frequently referred to him as a rebel composer, as did many columnists labelling him a maverick. During the fifties the state-controlled All India Radio found OP Nayyar too trendy and had put in place a ban on most of his very famous tunes from being broadcast.This ban was in force for quite some time. Reports suggest that he was unfazed by this rigid government order and went on to create more of such tunes most of which were national hits. The far away Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation of the then Radio Ceylon was the only source from which his new hits could be listened in.
Although lack of compromise resulted in OP Nayyar fading away from the film arena in 1970s, whenever anybody has to choose some of the most stylish andaz of Rafi, they have to reflect back on OP Nayyar for the unique compositions which have not been obsolete with the fading time.The Archive of Mohammad Rafi should equally restore the compositions of OP Nayyar as well.
A Detailed discussion on the composition of Shankar Jaikishan is made in the Article Shankar Jaikishan –the most versatile Musical Gaint of the last Century.
My father Ex-Chief Public Prosecutor, Bankshall Court North, (Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court, Kolkata), interviewed Milon Gupta, the famous mouth-organ player who played the mouth organ in the song said Rafi’s impersonation of Johnny Walker had created such an impact on the masses that the song became a greater hit than the song that was composed for the hero of the film, that is Dev Anand.
Majrooh Sultanpuri received the highest honour of excellence in Indian Cinema, the DadaSaheb Phalke award for his outstanding contribution to the Film Industry.
OP Nayyar received Filmfare Award for his Music Composition in Naya Daur, 1957.
Article By: Souvik Chatterji
Master of Law from Warwick University, Coventry,UKRelated Reading
Master of Law from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Master of Law from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.