O.P. Nayyar - The End Of An Era

Author: Dr. Mandar V. Bichu

On 28 January, 2007 when I first read the error-ridden PTI news-agency dispatch describing the news of O.P. Nayyar’s demise, the first thought coming to mind was quite strange. I just wondered how the great man himself would have reacted to that atrocious piece of writing. Knowing his inimitable, upfront OP-style, I am sure Nayyar would have simply burst out with something unprintable on reading that news-report, which carelessly mixed up facts and figures and attributed to him the songs and films that he had never ever composed!!

Just one meeting with him was enough to provide an insight into this musical maverick’s mind. It was my good fortune that I got that opportunity in 2003. It happened after a musical concert staged in Dubai in his honor. The organizers- Mr. and Mrs. Chandramohan had arranged a cosy, private dinner at their place and we few lucky souls present that night (6th June 2003), were treated to almost four hours of intimate and vintage O.P. Nayyar reminiscence- session! The O.P. that we witnessed that night was someone special- a handsome old man nearing eighty- a man who never minced words, while regaling us with a constant stream of memorable anecdotes. Once he realized that he was within a group of people who were not only his admirers but who were well-versed with nuances of his music, he just let his guard down and took us all on a mesmerizing flight to the bygone magical musical era. We were all wonderstruck by the frank, forthright manner in which he described his successes, failures, relationships and altercations!

The man was so different from all the celebrities I had interviewed over all those years. He was so refreshingly down to earth- his Punjabi rusticity showed time and again despite his well-cultivated cultured demeanor. Expletives came naturally to him and they also seemed quite natural while coming from him! He wasn’t at all bothered about the political correctness or social implications of his statements- which almost always contained some explosive stuff!

Till that memorable meeting, O.P was just another musical legend for me. Till then whatever I knew about him was from books, magazines and television. That no-holds-barred meeting extending into wee hours of night showed me the human face of this legend for the first time. Bitter, brash, poignant, sensitive, nostalgic, nonchalant, headstrong, hilarious- that night, I saw so many different facets of his personality from close quarters. Till then I had known a lot about O.P. Nayyar. I knew him as a trend-setter composer who had dominated the fifties and sixties, a path-breaking mentor who had literally ‘made’ legendary singers, a controversial maverick who had never followed conventions and a proud individual who had lived life on his own terms. That night, I feel that I understood him!

The world will forever remember O.P. Nayyar for his fabulous music and his historic significance. I too will remember him for that but more than that I will remember him as an unforgettable person who was as colorful as his music!


OP – The Trendsetter

  • Onkar Prasad Nayyar alias O.P. Nayyar was born in Lahore on 16th January 1926.
  • His non-film composition Preetam Aan Milo sung in typical Saigal-style by C.H.Atma was the first popular song in his music.
  • Film-producer Dalsukh Pancholi gave him his first break in the film Aasman (1952).
  • His first three film-soundtracks failed commercially but he came into his own in Guru Dutt’s Aar Paar (1954) with catchy songs like Babuji Dheere Chalna, Kabhie Aar Kabhie Paar and Sun Sun Sun Zalima.
  • He shifted the focus from melody to rhythm and fusing his Punjabi folk-music with Western Rock-N-Roll, he created a racy, rhythmic OP-style, which was imitated by many of his contemporaries and successors.
  • He was the uncrowned ‘Rhythm King’ of the fifties and sixties and the only major composer of that golden era to succeed without ever using Lata Mangeshkar’s vocals.
  • He was responsible for changing Mohd. Rafi’s sad, sentimental crooner image into a sporty, sprightly songster image.
  • He was the most important mentor in Asha Bhosle’s transition from a fringe singer into a leading singer.
  • After his personal and professional break-up with Bhosle in the early seventies, O.P. Nayyar’s career went into a nosedive from which it never recovered.
  • In the last decade, he made many appearances as a judge on various television musical competitions.
  • On Janauary 28th, 2007 O.P Nayyar breathed his last at Thane – a town near Mumbai.

Top Soundtracks

  1. Aar Paar (1954)
  2. Mr.and Mrs.55 (1955)
  3. Naya Daur (1957)
  4. Tumsa Nahi Dekha (1957)
  5. Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962)
  6. Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963)
  7. Kashmir Ki Kali (1964)
  8. Mere Sanam (1965)
  9. Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi (1966)
  10. Sawan Ki Ghata (1966)

Top Songs:

  1. Babuji Dheere Chalna – Aar Paar (Geeta Dutt)
  2. Aankhon Hi Aankhon Mein Ishara Ho Gaya – Mr.and Mrs.55 (Geeta Dutt- Mohd. Rafi)
  3. Aaiye Meherbaan- Howrah Bridge (Asha Bhosle)
  4. Piya Piya Piya Mera Jiya Pukare – Baap Re Baap (Asha Bhosle – Kishore Kumar)
  5. Yuun To Humne Laakh Haseen Dekhe Hain – Tumsa Nahi Dekha (Mohd. Rafi)
  6. Deewana Hua Baadal– Kashmir Ki Kali (Asha Bhosle- Mohd. Rafi)
  7. Yeh Hai Reshami Zulfon Ka Andhera – Mere Sanam (Asha Bhosle)
  8. Reshami Salwar Kurta Jaali Ka – Kismat (Shamshad Begum – Asha Bhosle)
  9. Chal Akela Chal Akela – Sambandh (Mukesh)
  10. Chain Se Humko Kabhie – Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye – (Asha Bhosle)

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