O.P. Nayyar's music had a lingering charm, as soothing today as in 1948 when he began his career with "Kaneez".
With him in toe, Asha's voice took on a bewitching hue.
Who would have said he was not trained in classical music - not his singers, the voices that went on to become the film world's collective expression; not the actors who found themselves famous and rich thanks to his winsome musical flourish; not the masses who hummed his evergreen tunes while they went about their everyday business; and certainly not the producers and directors who saw their films raking in big moolah, all on account of the genius of a man who taught a drudging industry how to make music. Not just for the ears but also for the heart. Even with heavyweights like Naushad, C. Ramachandran, S.D. Burman, Madan Mohan and others holding fort, Omkar Prasad Nayyar, the man who did not know his "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa", managed to carve out a niche for himself, away from the humdrum emotional litanies of Hindi film music.Many, or most, of the movies for which he scored music were downright terrible stuff, had an extremely thin storyline, if at all, but they all had the unmistakable stamp of his class. People went to watch the films only to "hear" the music. He gave non-starters like Joy Mukherjee a new lease of celluloid life with runaway hits like "Ek Musafir Ek Hasina" and "Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon" and when the actor returned for his second innings, Nayyar obliged him in "Humsaya", teaming up with singer nonpareil Mohammed Rafi, to give that memorable hit "Dil ki awaaz bhi sun". Shammi Kapoor had more than his stars to thank the seductive baton of the master musician for the iconic "Kashmir Ki Kali" and so did Biswajit, whose musical extravaganza "Mere Sanam" for a while made him the king of romance in the mid-'60s. The music director who dared to go on without the Nightingale's golden voice, delivered hit after mega hit with Asha Bhonsle. One only has to listen to songs like "Jaayiye aap kahan" ("Mere Sanam"), "Raaton ko chori chori" ("Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi"), "Zara haule haule", "Meri jaan tumse sadke" and "Aaj koi pyar se" (all in "Sawan Ki Ghata"), "Aayiye mehrban" ("Howrah Bridge") and "Aankhon se jo utri hai dil mein" ("Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon") to sense the profound wavelength the two worked on. The heady cocktail of OP-Asha captured the imagination of music lovers as never before and swept away even powerful competition from the Madan Mohan-Lata combine. With him in toe, Asha's voice took on a bewitching and an unrivalled sensuous hue, as in "Woh haseen dard dedo" ("Humsaya"). Be it the horse hooves clicking away in "Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon", the sheer minimalism and vocal resonance of that unforgettable song "Main soya akhiyan meeche" ("Phagun"), or the soulful saxophone in "Hai duniya usi ki" ("Kashmir Ki Kali"), the ultimate `dholak' master proved his mastery of musical arrangement time and again, pioneering the use of many offbeat instruments that were the mark of his folk fascination. "Kabhi shola kabhi naghma" in "Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon" bears ample testimony to his penchant for a `different' rhythm, a different instrument to charm his listeners.
Uncanny cadenceA latter-day homeopathy practitioner, he had his hand firmly on the pulse of the masses and delighted a beat starved nation with his rhythm and uncanny cadence. His laugh riots for Johny Walker, the most famous of them being "Hai dil hai mushkil", were as appealing as his haunting melodies, such as "Aanchal mein saja lena" ("Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon"). The rip-roaring "Suno suno Miss Chatterjee" ("Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi"), his rollicking "Jaane kahan mera jigar" (Mr. & Mrs. 55) and "Mere dil pe laga de darling' ("Basant") continue to be hot favourites with his fans. Then there was that wonderful song in "Chhoomantar" ("Gharib jaan ke") featuring the ace comedian. And for the genial comedian, Om Prakash, he composed the delightful "Chhuri ban kaanta ban oh my son" ("Jaali Note"). Even his lesser-known films like "Kalpana" ("Bekasi jab hadse guzar jaaye"), "Ragini" and "Sone Ki Chidiya" ("Raat bhar ka hai mehmaan andhera") had flashes of the maverick composer's brilliance. If he worked with Raj Kapoor in "Do Ustad", he gave the other legend Dilip Kumar's most memorable hit, "Naya Daur" ("Maang ke saath", "Ude jab jab", "Yeh desh hai veer jawanon ka", "Main Bombai ka babu", "Reshmi salwar kurta jaali ka", "Saathi haat badha na"). And for the suave Dev Anand he gave that rollicking hit "C.I.D." ("Le ke pehla pehla pyar", "Aankhon hi aankhon mein ishara hogaya", "Kahin pe nigahen, kahin pe nishana") and "Jaali Note". While Rafi remained his favourite singer, he gave Kishoreda the peppy song "Piya piya piya - Chori chori chori" ("Baap Re Baap") and even had Mukesh lend his voice to "Chal akela chal akela" ("Sambandh"). Talat sang that lovely song "Pyar par bas to nahin hai mera lekin" in "Sone Ki Chidiya". Reportedly the first music director to command a price of Rs.1 lakh and probably the first one to take royalties seriously, O.P. Nayyar was as much known for his autocratic demeanour as for his unorthodox musical genius. He began his career with "Kaneez" but had his real break with Guru Dutt's "Aar Paar" which had such delicious numbers like "Sun sun zalima" and "Yeh lo main haari piya". There was no looking back. The film "Twelve O'Clock", such an unromantic name, gave us such super hits like "Dekh idhar aae hasina, June ka hai mahina", and "Tauba tauba".A matchless legend, his sad demise has created a void in the music world that is difficult to fill. Indeed, when one hears Rafi's "Tareef karun kya uski" ("Kashmir Ki Kali"), one wonders if the lyrics were not written for the maestro who was verily the soul and spirit of the golden age of Hindi film music.