Article Hindi

10 songs that capture the rhythm of OP Nayyar – Death anniversary special

Arriving in the golden age of Indian film music, Nayyar etched his name as the 'rhythm king' by creating timeless melodies that continue to evoke romance.

Shriram Iyengar

For a music composer to not have recorded a song with the 'nightingale of India', Lata Mangeshkar, is almost heresy. Yet, despite this glaring statistic, OP Nayyar remains one of the greatest composers of Hindi cinema music's golden age.

From the 1950s till the 1970s, Nayyar ruled the world of film music with works of great melody, rhythm and harmony. 

By the time the composer passed away on 28 January 2007, he was a forgotten man reduced to the sidelines of an industry that had moved on to newer realms of technological innovation in music.

Yet it was in the earthy tradition of Nayyar's Punjabi music that giants like Shakti Samanta, GP Sippy, and Guru Dutt built the templates of their cinematic classics. 

While Nayyar made his debut with Kaneez (1949), he went on to compose iconic music for films like Baaz (1953). Aar Paar (1954), CID (1956), Naya Daur (1957), Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) and Mere Sanam (1965), among many others. 

On his 11th death anniversary, we look at 10 songs that capture the timeless romance of OP Nayyar's music. 

1. 'Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar' — Aar-Paar (1954)

It is hard to imagine the composer being pleased when this beautiful number was remixed into something a lot more sensual than Guru Dutt had picturized in 1954. Sung by the majestic Shamshad Begum, the original song captures the playful, carefree spirit of Nayyar's music. Replete with a steady rhythm of the dhol, and garnished with the melody of the guitar and flute, the song remains an eternal classic about the modus operandi of love at first sight.

2. 'Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata' — Mr & Mrs 55 (1955) 

An effervescent Madhubala frolicking by a swimming pool in the summer was all you needed to sell this song. But the catchy tune by OP Nayyar manages to create a fun-filled track that is still as trendy as it was all those decades ago. Surprisingly, in the late 1950s, the official broadcaster, All India Radio, decided not to play the composer's songs on air as they were 'too trendy'. Needless to say, the contraband status only boosted the composer's popularity further.

3. 'Aankhon Hi Aankhon Mein' — CID (1956)

It was in Guru Dutt's Baaz (1953) that the director and composer first formed a partnership. Through the 1950s, it continued to be one of the most productive director-composer partnerships of the decade. In CID (1956), the two teamed up again, with Dev Anand providing more firepower with his evergreen charm. The film won Nayyar a nomination to the Filmfare award for Best Music. Hearing the light, frothy sound of this romance, it is easy to see why. 

4. 'Maang Ke Saath Tumhara' — Naya Daur (1957)

How does an Indian music composer choose to eschew Lata Mangeshkar from his discography? Easy. He chooses to work with the more versatile talent of Asha Bhosle. This wonderful track from BR Chopra's Naya Daur (1957) is an example of Nayyar's ability to make the most of Bhosle's underrated talent. He would mentor her to rise on a par with her more celebrated older sister, only to part ways unceremoniously in later years. The film also won Nayyar a Filmfare award for Best Music Director (1958).

5. 'Aaiye Meherbaan' — Howrah Bridge (1958) 

This song is the embodiment of creating sensuality through music. Asha Bhosle's voice floats invitingly through the melody to match Madhubala's gorgeous eyes. Composed for Shakti Samanta's noir thriller Howrah Bridge (1958), the song remains a classic for its magic and melody. The song, incidentally was the 100th of lyricist Qamar Jalalabadi, the nom de plume of Om Prakash Bhandari.

6. 'Piya Piya Na Lage Mora Jiya' — Phagun (1958)

While he was often hailed for his trendy, Westernized compositions, the composer's knowledge of traditional music was just as formidable. Bibhuti Mitra's Phagun (1958) was one of the OP Nayyar film scores that was built solely on traditional rhythms and melodies, devoid of Western influences. This particular song is a wonderful example of the composer's ability to morph rhythm and create structure that flows throughout the song.

7. 'Aankhon Se Jo Utri Hai Dil Mein' — Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963)

While it is the Mohammed Rafi number 'Laakhon Hai Nigaahon Mein' that remains the more famous composition from this film, this silken number by Asha Bhosle is no less beautiful. OP Nayyar turns the demure Asha Parekh into a seductress by pairing her with Bhosle's magnetic voice. The composition also stands out for its simple but brilliant use of the sitar to provide the punctuation for his rhythm.

8. 'Isharon Isharon Mein' — Kashmir Ki Kali (1964)

Shakti Samanta's colourful story set in the magical climes of Kashmir had everything going for it — a young and gorgeous Sharmila Tagore, a mercurial, Elvis-ish Shammi Kapoor, and a soundtrack that blew everybody's minds. The romantic drama remains a milestone of the 1960s era of Hindi film music. Initially, Kapoor favourites Shankar-Jaikishan were to compose music for the film. But once Shammi Kapoor heard Nayyar's work, he had no second thoughts. It proved to be a remarkable decision.

9. 'Pukarta Chala Hoon Main' — Mere Sanam (1965)

In a song that raises question about Biswajeet's driving skill, Mohammed Rafi's silken voice ensured that nobody noticed the traffic. The magic of Rafi's voice is only enhanced by the simple, rhythmic beat of OP Nayyar's composition. The steady march of the drum beat, interrupted by the occassional guitar riff, creates a wonderful romantic atmosphere that is difficult to escape. 

10. 'Aao Huzoor Tumko' — Kismet (1968)

Strangely, the song begins with a 1 minute 30 second introductory mukhda that few people remember today. It is the dulcet tone of Asha Bhosle singing 'Aao Huzoor Tumko' that has stronger evocations. One of the rare on-screen appearances of Babita alongside Biswajeet, the film was directed by a young, upcoming director named Manmohan Desai. While the film is not one of the greatest hits given by the man who shaped 1970s Hindi cinema, the song remains a timeless classic and has been reproduced several times since.