In Hindi film music world, Music Director O.P.Nayyar, known as the master of rhythm, has an unique place. For about two decades from the early 1950s, with his first film Aasman, O.P.Nayyar followed a path of independent music composing with great success, popularity and fan following. He was unmindful of adverse criticism about his style of functioning, his likes and dislikes, his preferences in the selection of singers and musicians. As a music director, it was said, that he wanted his to be the last word and producers were, by option or compulsion, willing to give him a free hand because he was sure to deliver success. His imposing personality, impeccably dressed appearance, supreme confidence in his own creative ability, desire for independence, and, above all, the quality and success of his music made him a legend with a distinctmusical aura. The fact that he did not use the voice of Lata even once during his entire
career speaks volumes about his 'stance' eventhough his uncompromising attitude towards his music was often, rather unfairly, construed as arrogance.
For O.P.Nayyar, Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi were the only singers who could give expression to his music and his preference for them, especially in the second half of his career was exclusive. In the initial years of his dominance, Shamshad Begum and Geeta Dutt had sung a number of beautiful songs for him. In film C.I.D. (1956) Shamshad Begum sung the lilting hit 'Kahin pe nighahen kahi pe nishana' and 'Leke pahala pahala pyar " along with Asha and Rafi. In Naya daur (1955) there was the ever popular song 'Reshmi salvar kurta jali kaa' with Asha. In the film Aar paar (1954) he conjured another hit song 'Kabhi aar kabhi paar' by Shamsad Begum. Similarly Geeta Dutt had sung a number of memorable songs for O.P.Nayyar like 'Babuji dheere chalna', ' Ye lo main haari piya' , 'Muhabat karlo ji bharlo'(with Rafi) all from the film Aar paar. Beautiful songs like 'Jane kahan mera jigar gaya rae' and 'Tanty hava kaligatta' both from Mr.and Mrs. 55 ,'Yeh hai bombay meri jan' and 'Ankhon ki ankhom mein', both from C.I.D , were also by Geeta Dutt. She probably had the chance to sing these songs for O.P .Nayyar because the films were produced by Guru Dutt and O.P. Nayyar did not object to her voice. There is also a rare song by Mukesh , viz.,'Chal akela chal akela' ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgf30EIRs0s ) from film Sambandh.
Apart from a few songs, as mentioned above, it was Asha and Rafi all the way especially when O.P. re-emerged, after a brief lull, at the beginning of the 60s and bombarded the music world with hits after hits like Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, Kashmir ki Kali, Mere Sanam, Kismat, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon, Sawan ki Ghata, Baharein Phir Bhi Ayeega, Yeh Raat Phir na Ayengi, Kahi Din Kahi Raat, Sambandh, Kalpana,Hum Saaya and so on.The songs of these films revealed the full repertory of Nayyar and introduced the vibrant rhythm, swing and beat dominated often by the Indian Dholak and the double bass. This thrilled the young audiance who identified themselves with his songs and to them he was the master of rhythm.[ For record collectors Nayyar's records are the most difficult to get which, probably, shows that they were lapped up by the young generation of those days who are even now not willing to part with them!!] During this golden era of the 60s Mahendra Kapoor also sang a few songs with great success for O.P. who, reportedly, used Mahendra Kapoor's voice to get equal with Rafi with whom he had a temporary tiff!! Songs,viz., 'Ankhon ke khayamat ki kajal'[Kismat] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqVWTecgm7U , 'Meri Jaan Tum pe Sadke'[Sawan ki Ghata],'Badal Jaaye Agar Maali(Baharein Phir Bhi Ayegi],were a few Mahendra Kap0or hits.
An important feature of Nayyars music was rhythm and the beats of horse hooves [tonga beats]in the back ground of the songs. This can be heard prominently in songs like 'Maang ke sath tumhara'[Naya daur] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix8L9MvruAo , Piya piya piya mera jiya pukare [Bapre bap], a rare Asha Kishore song for O.P., Haule haule chalo mera sajna [Savan ke ghata] and Yoo to hamne lakh haseen [Tum sa nahin dekha] and a few other songs. Strains of this beat could be heard by the discerning ears, in a large number of his songs. Incidentally, the gramophone record of' Tum sa nahin dekha' is a collector's item as it is a 45 rpm. record in the size of a LP record[33rpm.] Besides, it has the glorious picture of the handsome but loveable villain Pran on one side of the jacket, a rare picture of a villain on the jacket of a music record!]
It will be unfair to over emphazise Nayyar's mastery over rhythm to overlook his exquisitely fluid and haunting melodies .The ingenuous and refreshing use of santoor, sitar, sarangi and shehnai supported by violin and piano were the distinguising features of these songs. Aayiye mehreban[Howra bridge],Jayiye aap kahan jayegi[Mere sanam]Deewana hua badal[Kashir ki kali]Rathon ki chori chori[Muhabat zindagi hai]were a few examples.
O P. Nayyar,though not formally trained in claasical music, had created a number of enchanting classical melodies in films like Kalpana[Bekesi hudse kabi], and Ragini [Chota sa balma] and another hit 'Dekho bijly dol bin badal ki' [Phir wohi dil laya hum] all in Asha's voice. In the film Sambandh, combining with the famous poet Pradeep, all his songs were based on classical ragas. The songs Akelii hum me piya aa[ Asha], Chal akela chal akela[Mekesh], jo diwadha hum ne ek din [Hemanth kumar and Mahendra Kapoor], Andhre me jo baithe hein [ Mahendra kapoor] were hits even before the film was released. There was no song by Rafi in this film.
O.P. Nayyar has also given a number of duets with Asha and Rafi. The 'tonga beats' songs from Naya daur, Bapre baap and Tum sa nahin dekha, mentioned earlier, and the song 'Ek pardesi mera dil le gaya' ["Phagun," Asha- Rafi] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kyCrcxYH-8 are some of the very popular duets of O.P.Nayyar.
O.P.Nayyar was, perhaps, the only music director other than R.D.Burman, who could exploit the sensuality in Asha's voice to create such wonderfully catchy songs like' Yeh hai reshmy zulfon ka andhera[Mere sanam] Yeh haseen dard de do[ Hum saya], Kajra muhabat vala.[Kismat] and many other songs. In fact this timbre of Asha's voice always got emphasis in all her songs for O.P.Nayyar.
O. P. Nayyar was an outstanding composer who had created a niche for himself. He will be remembered by the young and old not only for his energetic, rhythmic, soulful and varied musical contributions but also for his stance as a music director who took pride in his creations and who stood for the freedom of the composer in creating film music. He could not, regretfully, survive the pressure and to stand on his own from the middle of the 70s. He chose to fade away rather than surrender his individuality. In the late 90s he attempted a comeback with film 'Nischay' but in vain. While his fans had no complaints for his exclusion of Lata and others it would be interesting to ponder as to what would have been the tremendous gain had the voices of singers like Kishor, Lata,Manna Dey,Talat and others were also used by him in his heydays. To that extent, music and music lovers are at the losing end along with O.P.Nayyar himself.