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