The mystery behind the melody

FRANK SPEAK Omkar Prasad Nayyar (O P Nayyar) with his trademark bowler hat

FRANK SPEAK Omkar Prasad Nayyar (O P Nayyar) with his trademark bowler hat   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: K. MURALI KUMAR

Yesteryear Hindi film music composer O.P. Nayyar on Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar and why he's turned his back on music.

There's never been any looking back for music director O.P. Nayyar. Not even now when he's a dapper 82, sporting a black felt hat and a whole lot of attitude. Whether it is with his success, his music, his directors and singers, his birthplace, the women in his life... he lives on believing in the adage that whatever happens is for the best.Many will remember his snappy songs, known for their ghoda gadi tunes that bore a characteristic clip-clop rhythm, like in Maang ke saath tumhara from Naya Daur; or the poignant Yeh hai Bambai meri jaan from CID. It was he who made the voices of Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhonsle so synonymous with seduction, giving them iconic hits like Babuji dheere chalna and Aayiye meherban. Having created incandescent music for two decades, one wonders why he stopped in the mid-1970s. "I'm 82 now," smiles the wiry man. "I don't feel like composing for today's films. There is a time for everything... there was a time when God made me give music." God is the answer to most of what we ask Nayyar- saab. He believes that he is blessed. Otherwise how would anyone like him, with no formal training in music, without knowing the "alpha-beta and raag-raaginis of music" as he puts it, be able to compose? No one in the family was a musician and he himself had never listened to music. "I never listened to music composed by my contemporaries either as I feared they would influence me. Even today I don't listen to music! If the world listens to my music, it is God's grace."What he does not keep mysterious, however, is his relationship with singer Asha Bhonsle. Asha's musical career soared when she sang for him for over two decades. But today he openly pans her: " Machine chalti zaroor hai par woh dum nahin hai"(Her singing is like a machine that runs, but without much feeling.)He insists that Asha sang some of her career best songs for him because she was "involved" with him. "Asha's magic came out when she was with me. Now there is no ras in her singing. But Asha is Asha. No one can be her." Right now he's enjoying life. "I drink a bottle of beer in the afternoon and eat my fish or chicken, and have a peg of whisky at night with gobi bhajjias! There is this one film I see and I can see it even 20 times a day - Ye Raat Phir Na Aaye. Wah! What a film!"He now practises homeopathy. "Medicine and music are both healers - one of the body and one of the soul," he says of the switch in profession.For someone who gave such dynamic music, it comes as a surprise when he says it was all a business. It is known that he was charging a lakh for a film when such amounts were unheard of. "I used to make a dhun (tune) in five minutes; it never took me more than that. But I would always tell the filmmaker to come back after 15 or 20 days so that it wouldn't look that simple," he laughs. The director, the songwriter and he would sit together and write for the situation. "I couldn't even read Hindi. So anything that was in Urdu, I would say `wah wah'!"He has respect for gifted contemporaries like C. Ramachandra, Roshan, Shankar Jaikishan and Salil Choudhury. "Now machines make even the besura sura!" Not surprisingly, the film industry saw him as arrogant and temperamental. Did he see himself that way? "I was humble and down-to-earth. But I do have my self-respect... "The fact that Lata Mangeshkar never sang for him (he felt her voice was not suited for his compositions) is raised... yet again. "There was no jhagda. Everyone makes a mountain of a molehill."Returning to Lahore, his birthplace, is also a nightmare he'd rather not face. "I'll drop down dead at Wagah," he says, the painful memories of Partition brimming in his eyes.BHUMIKA. K

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