The music of O.P. Nayyar, the reclusive composer who passed away recently, has a lingering charm. It is as haunting today as it was in 1948 when he began his career with a lesser-known film Kaneez
Who would have said he was not trained in classical music - not his singers, the voices that went on to become film world's collective expression; not the actors who found themselves rich and famous, thanks to his winsome musical flourish; not the masses who hummed his evergreen tunes while they went about their everyday businesses; 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. Ramachandra, 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 a niche for himself. Many, or most, of the movies for which he scored music were downright terrible stuff, had an extremely thin story line, 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 Laaya Hoon and when the actor returned for his second innings, Nayyar obliged him in Humsaaya, teaming up with singer non-pareil 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 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 hits 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 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" (Humsaaya).Be it the horse hooves clicking away in "Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon", the sheer minimalism and vocal resonance of that unforgettable song "Mein 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 nagma" in Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon bears ample testimony to his penchant for a different rhythm, a different instrument to charm his listeners. This later-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. and Mrs. 55) and "Mere dil be laga de darling" (Basant) continue to be hot favourites with his fans. Then there was that wonderful song in "Garib jaan ke" (Chhoomantar). 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 bar 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", "Mein Bombai ka babu", "Reshmi salwar kurta jaali ka", "Saathi haat bada na"). And for the suave Dev Anand he gave that rollicking hit C.I.D. ("Leke 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 mein haari piya". There was no looking back. The film Twelve O'Clock, such an unromantic name gave us such super hits like "Dekh idar aae hasina, June ka hai mahina", "Kaisa jadoo balam" and "Tauba tauba".A matchless legend, his sad demise has created a void in the music world that is just about difficult to fill. Indeed, when one hear's Rafi's "Tareef karun kya uski" from 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.