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How OP Nayyar scored his big break with Kaneez

Here's how the famed composer got his first break with the film Kaneez 67 years ago on this date.

Sonal Pandya

Over 50 years and with nearly 73 films, music composer Omkar Prasad (OP) Nayyar established himself as a master of rhythm with chart-busting songs from films like Aar Paar (1954), Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) and Howrah Bridge (1958).

The legendary songsmith had no formal training in music, yet he composed unforgettable tunes in the 1950s and 1960s and became one of the highest paid composers of his time, even earning a royalty fee from HMV.

Nayyar's compositions brought out the best in the female playback singers he worked with, namely, Geeta Dutt, Asha Bhosle and Shamshad Begum.

OP Nayyar is also famously remembered for having had a successful career in Hindi cinema and never recording a single song with the top female singer of the era, Lata Mangeshkar.

Nayyar scored his first Hindi film, Aasman (1952), directed by Dalsukh M Pancholi and starring Nasir Khan, Shyama and Veena. Asha Parekh had a small role in the film as a child artiste. Reportedly, one of the songs in the film was to be recorded by Mangeshkar but she could not make it. That is said to be the reason why he chose other singers over her, including her younger sister, Asha. One of the more popular songs from the film, 'Pom Pom Pom Baaja Bole Dholak', sung by Geeta Dutt, was used by Binaca Geet Mala, hosted by Ameen Sayani, as its signature tune.

Few know, however, that Nayyar's actual big break came with the film Kaneez (1949). Directed by Krishna Kumar, the Muslim social released on 26 November and starred Munawar Sultana, Shyam and Kuldeep Kaur. Munawar Sultana played Sabira, the daughter of a rich man who is duped by his manager. Sabira weds the manager's son Akhtar, played by Shyam. Their short-lived marriage is threatened by the presence of another woman, Darling, played by Kuldeep Kaur.

The songs of the film were jointly composed by Ghulam Haider and Hansraj Behl. Nayyar was given the opportunity to compose the background score for the film by Kaneez's director Kumar and its lyricist Prem Dhawan. That, in turn, led to his first film as an independent music director, Aasman (1952), and a long and fruitful musical career in Indian films.