Jan 24 (The Hindu) – Everything in universe pulsates with a rhythm. From the blood flowing in the veins to the magnificent curves of the sea waves, every activity is dictated by an organic beat. Rhythm is at the heart of music and in the vast archive of Hindi film songs, we have had several composers excelling in their craft but perhaps none dazzled the screen with as many unusual rhythmic patterns of music as O P Nayyar. That he earned the sobriquet of the “Rhythm King” is not too surprising as his first name devolved from the most sacred sound of our Universe, Om!
If his melodies defy conventional rules of music making, they also make it apparent that Omkar Prasad Nayyar (or OP as he was popularly known) was a genius who despite absence of formal training, not only composed audacious tunes but also directed some of the most noteworthy musicians of his era. With an audacious confidence in himself, Nayyar created songs of such rare texture that his music acquired a haloed aura, forcing producers to print his name above the film stars on their banners since his name was a magnetic draw for audiences.
Frankly, if people still swoon in delight to the songs of Nayyar it is because their zing and zest give them the much-needed elixir for living. Nayyar’s exceptional talent lay in fusing the bohemian Punjabi spirit and western music in foot tapping rhythm. Take any of his songs and you will discover Nayyar shapes the rhythm with his own web of lilting instruments. Savour the delightfully different songs like “Ye Lo Main Haari Piya” (“Aar Paar”), “Aaiye Meherban Baithiye Jaanejaa” (“Howrah Bridge”), “Dil Par Hua Aisa Jaadoo” (“Mr & Mrs 55”), “Huzoor-e-Walaah” (“Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi”) or “Ek Baar Muskura Do” (“Ek Baar Muskura Do”) and you’ll notice the breath taking brilliance of rhythm in each note. The opening notes of “Aaiye Meherban Baithiye Jaanejaa” and “Huzoor-e-Walaah” are sufficient proof of how Nayyar’s unusual beat patterns inspire as well as seduce a listener!
But Nayyar was not just a master at stitching unusual rhythm patterns. His songs had an earthy feel. Fragrant like the fresh daisies that blossom in sunshine, they also shone with their art and grace. Be it romance, tease, guilt, tears or parting, Nayyar’s forte was giving a worthy song that brought alive the story in magnificent resonance of the required emotion, pitch and tenor.
Remember Rafi Sahab’s eternal love ballad “Aapke Haseen Rukh Pe Aaj Naya Noor Hai” (“Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi”) that literally lingers and drools over the piano keys? Or the haunting “Pukarta Chala Hun Main” that makes the instrument of Santoor map out an exquisite and memorable road journey? Similarly, if he could make you smile with “Suno Suno Miss Chatterji” (“Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi”) and “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Jeena Yahan” (“CID”), he could also make you weep with sublime tearjerkers as “Chain Se Humko Kabhi” (“Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye”) or “Tukde Hain Mere Dil Ke” (“Mere Sanam”). Irrespective of the stars or banners, Nayyar provided nuggets like “Laakhon Hain Nigha Mein” (“Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hun”), “Hai Duniya Useeki Zamana Useeka” (“Kashmir Ki Kali”), “Tumhara Chahne Wala” (“Kahin Din Kahin Raat”) and “Chal Akela Chal Akela” (“Sambandh”). Even in small time films like “Chhoo Mantar”, “Kalpana”, or “Bhagam Bhag” he gave exemplary songs like “Gareeb Jaanke Humko Na Tum Mita Dena”, “Tu Hai Mera Prem Devta” and “Hey Babu” respectively.
Many labelled him as obstinate or rebellious in temperament but it must be admitted that Nayyar was ahead of his time and his experimentations in music making were due to his devil may care approach to life. Many of his songs have no percussion instruments nor drums but Nayyar weaves a rhythm pattern from unusual sources. It isn’t clear as to who introduced “taali” (clap sound) or the horse shoe sound in film music but one can safely credit Nayyar for providing these sounds their distinct place and identity through a wide array of songs from “Ye Chand Sa Raushan Chehra” (“Kashmir Ki Kali”) to “Maang Ke Saath Tumhara” (“Naya Daur”). For lack of space, one refrains from quoting many songs of established music composers in which they tried to copy his style but failed miserably and one is inclined to agree with music director Anil Biswas that at a time when most music composers were copycats, “Nayyar was an original”.
Believing in full freedom in composition, selection of song writers and singers, Nayyar may have been a flashy showman but was a strict disciplinarian as far as his work was concerned. That is why he could oust Kishore Kumar from the recording studio when Kishore wasn’t doing justice to the devotional notes of “Man Mora Bawra”.
A fatalist, Nayyar believed “Time was the greatest maker of a man’s fortune” and accepted his decline stoically as it was inevitable. He always described Asha Bhosle as a great asset and there is no denial that Nayyar was responsible for her blossoming into an incredible singer. It was his stubbornness as well as visionary foresight that made him never sign Lata Mangeshkar but help Asha create magic under his baton. When they broke, all he said was that “this was destined to happen”.
Gutsy and irreverent, Nayyar was a loner who defied conventions of society and though labelled a rebel, a misfit and a disruptor, Nayyar was truly a blessing for Indian film music. He left home at the age of 18 to pursue a career in music and at the age of 60 plus, left music and home to live alone. Relinquishing his property to wife and children, Nayyar wandered in wilderness as a penitent Yogi… conscious of his burdens as well as wrong doings. Sad that he who composed the most delicate romantic numbers for Hindi screen was rendered longing for divine communion of “Pritam Aan Milo” (his own creation for C.H. Atma) in his last days!