Music director O.P. Nayyar's foot-tapping songs remain evergreen. A tribute.
I worked best with directors who gave me freedom and did not interfere.
Surprisingly enough, it was at a felicitation function organised by `Keep Alive' group in Mumbai that music maestro O.P Nayyar chose to make some startling revelations for the first time in public. Yes, singer Asha Bhosle was someone special to him but when she put on airs and kept him waiting for a recording because she was doing one for a rival music director, O.P. Nayyar gave her a piece of his mind and their relationship cooled. "She may be a great singer," observed O.P., "but I have my own self respect which I would not compromise." The music director explained why Lata Mangheshar did not sing for him. "She is a great singer," admitted O.P. "But I felt that her voice was too [high] for my kind of songs. There were others whose voices were better suited to my tunes." Someone like O.P. would not stand in a queue to pay obeisance to any singer, however good he or she was.
Niche of his ownAnd yet O.P. Nayyar, who died in Mumbai recently at 81, had his own niche in the film music world. For him, it was nothing to compete with giants such as Naushad, Shanker and Jaikishan, S.D. Burman or C. Ramchandra.He was at his peak during the 1950s and 1960s. And it was his musical score in Filmalaya's `Tumsa Nahin Dekha' in 1959, which finally revived the career of Shammi Kapoor, who had suffered an embarrassing number of flops. `Tumsa' saw him emerge as a dashing `rebel star.' The foot-tapping numbers set to tune by O.P. and sung by Mohammad Rafi pushed him among the top-ranking heroes.From 1949 till the mid 1970s, the Lahore-born Nayyar established his own brand of film music, which only the versatile C. Ramchandra had tried before.The accent was on rhythm and he used a number of western musical instruments. "I worked best with directors who gave me freedom and did not interfere," he once told me. "I completed the score and with directors like Guru Dutt there were no conflicts." No wonder, even today, the tunes of `Aar Paar,' `Mr and Mrs 1955' and `CID' are remembered and their remixes are enormously popular with the youth. O.P. was ready to use the voice of Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum for his hit numbers despite the general belief that the Begum was past her best and was suited only for chorus and qawwali numbers. It is hard to believe that O.P. seldom worked for the really big banners despite the success of films like `Kashmir ki Kali.' O. P's music score in B. R. Chopra's `Naya Daur,' a super hit film, was memorable, but Chopra did not repeat him in any of his next films. O.P. shrugged, "I would not flatter producers nor `work' actively behind the scenes to get favours from a well known producer. If he liked and appreciated my work, he would contact me." In Bollywood where buttering up the big bosses was essential, O.P's aloofness was not liked in some quarters. But a producer like Shakti Samanta was different. He repeated O.P. and prospered, for the songs of films such as `Kashmir ki Kali' and `Howrah Bridge' became super hits.
Situation and lyricsFor O.P., the situation for the song and the lyrics were more important than the stars. He was one music director whose scores lifted up mediocre actors and performances and made the films hits.Remember what O.P's tunes did to the careers of non-actors like Joy Mukherjee and Biswajeet? In many cases, the names of the movies and their stars were quickly forgotten, but his music score remained green in public memory. O.P. could not be accused of stereotyped, jazzy numbers for it was he who created the classic Kishore Kumar number `Manmora baavara...' and other lilting tunes. In an industry, which was losing its soul, the sensitive, yet slightly arrogant, O.P. found himself a misfit. O.P. shifted from South Mumbai to the distant suburb Virar and then settled down in Thane. He did try a comeback in the 1990s but the music industry was not the same. Rhythm had lost its soul, film music was just noise. But O.P's tunes were in demand for remixes though he did not care much for this new avatar. Singer Mohammad Rafi regarded O.P. as one of the most outstanding music directors and that was enough for the great man.