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KHAYYAM : The Last Musical Moghul

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Ali Peter John

The entire nation and we Bajpais in particular are deeply saddened and shocked at the heavenward ascent of our dear beloved peerless Composer Emeritus Khayyam Sahab’s heavenward ascent.May his pious soul rest in musical peace in the heavens and regale the Gods with his unmatched lilting musical compositions until now the only surviving torch bearer of that memorable era was Music director Mohammad Zahoor Khayyam Hashmi known to legions of his admirers as Khayyam – the composer par excellence, who is virtually was the last link of that dynasty of “Musical moghuls”.

In that glorious era of Hindi film music from 1935 to 1975, aptly classified by connoisseurs as the period “When Melody was Queen”, there were a few Composers emeritus who literally brought a touch of regal splendour to their delectable compositions. We can justifiably christen them as “Moghul Composers”. One such regal Moghul Composer is Padmabhushan Mohammad Zahour Khayyam Hashmi, known to legions of his admirers as Khayyam. He is the only surviving torch bearer of that memorable era – virtually the last link of that dynasty of “Musical Moghuls”.

This patriarch shall be celebrating his 90thbirthday on February 18 this year and on that momentous day too he would be busy lending his magical touch to brand new compositions for the couple of films (presently under productions) being embellished with his unique musical scores.  74 films, 15 television serials and 459 filmi as well as 208 non filmi songs (Total of 667 songs) are ample testimony to the poetic, purposeful, melodious and meaningful music of Khayyam, which has withstood the test of time. Each of his outstanding compositions is steeped in total creativity of the highest class. Quality with consistancy has been the hallmark of Khayyam’s unmatched composing prowess.

“Footpath”(1953), “Lala Rukh”(1958), “Phir Subah Hogi”(1958), “Shola Aur Shabnam”(1961), “Mohabbat Isko Kahte Hain”(1965), “Shagun”(1964), “Aakhri Khat”(1966), “Kabhi Kabhie”(1976), “Shankar Hussain”(1977), “Umrao Jaan”(1981), “Razia Sultan”(1983) and “Noorie”(1979) are films, we rate as his “Twelve Best Scores”. There have been 62 other film scores too, which by no means are any less meritorious.

Among his other most notable films mentioned must be made of “Trishul”(1978), “Chambal ki Kasam”(1979), “Khandan”(1979), “Thodi Si Bewafai”(1980), “Aahista Aahista”(1981), “Dard”(1981), “Dil-E-Nadan”(1981), “Bazar”(1982) and “Dil Aakhir Dil Hai”(1982). Born in February 18, 1927 to parents Janab Al-Haaj Miyan Muhommad Abdullah Hashmi and Mohtarma Hurmat Jahan Hashmi at Rahon (Dist. Jullundhar), Punjab, Khayyam had seven brothers / sisters. His in-born love for music did not permit him to receive formal education above the basic level and Khayyam moved on to acquire musical knowledge at an early age.

Initially he even had a brief stint with the Indian army, which probably is responsible for the perfect discipline followed by Khayyam in his personal as well as musical life. He never ever compromised his musical convictions even at the expense of declining lucrative film assignments from legendary production houses. Khayyam had the fortune of learning Hindustani Classical Music from celebrated composer Pt. Amarnath and his famed nephew duo of Husnlal Bhagatram. Khayyam assisted music director G.A. Chishti (in Lahore) too. He still very fondly remembers him as Chishti Baba.

Few would know that Khayyam had set out to be an actor singer (like the great K.L. Saigal) but made his first faray in the film world as a Playback Singer. While learning musical skills from Husnlal Bhagatram, he was given a break as a crooner by Pt. Husnlal, who made him sing a duet “Dono jahan mohabbat mein haar ke” with Zohrabai Ambalewali in the movie “Romeo Juliet” (1947).Khayyam broadened his classical music base while interacting with too maestros of the “Kirana Gharana” – Ustad Niyaaz Ahmad Khan and Ustad Faiyyaz Ahmad Khan.

Music is the life and soul of Khayyam. His personal choices too have been as musical as hiscomposing choices. No wonder when he saw Playback Singer Jagjit Kaur on the Dadar T.T. Railway Station Overbridge it was love at first site. Jagjit Kaur (Khamosh Zindgi ko ek afsana mil gaya) became Mrs. Khayyam and the motivational inspiration behind his musical exploits. They had a son Pradeep, who has been an actor and a T.V. Producer.

A lesser know and discussed fact of Khayyam’s musical journey is that he has composed 186 non film songs (parallel career) of all variety – Ghazels, nazms, bhajan, geet and naats. Khayyam is the only Hindi film composer to have recorded a number of popular ghazals in the voice of the legendary Begum Akhtar. Selected twelve non film gems of Khayyam out of his vast repertoire, are tabulated below:

1 Ulti ho gayeen sab tadbeerein Meer Begum Akhtar
2 Ghazab kiya tere wade pe Daagh Mohd. Rafi
3 Kisee ne phir na suna dard ke fasane ko Daagh Jagjeet Kaur
4 Aa gaeen phir se bahaarein Khawar Zaman Talat Mahmood
5 Poochh na mujhse dil ke fasane Jan Nissar Akhtar Mohd. Rafi
6 Woh jo hum mein tim mein qaraar tha Momin Begum Akhtar
7 Yeh na thee hamari qismat Ghalib Mohd. Rafi
8 Shayam se nehe lagaye Madhukar Rajasthani Mohd. Rafi
9 Zara si baat par har rasm Jan Nissar Akhtar Mukesh
10 Chalo na gori machal machal ke Madhukar Rajasthani C.H. Atma
11 Muddat huyi hai yaar ko Ghalib Sudha Malhotra
12 Laayi hayaat aaye qaza le chuki Zauq Begum Akhtar

Only a composer of Khayyam’s genius could compose the famous Ghalib ghazal“Ye na thi hamari kismat” in two different tunes to be sung by Begum Akhtar and Md. Rafi respectively. It is impossible for music lovers to decide as to which of the two compositions is superior. Composing for the great Begum Akhtar was no mean task, but Khayyam came out with flying colours.Remarkably Khayyam also has to his credit an Album sung by tragedy queen Meena Kumari – a collection of her own nazms, including “Chand tanha hai aasmaan tanha”. He has also recorded film songs in the voices of other leading ladies viz. Mala Sinha, Rekha, Shabana Azmi and Jaya Prada as well as leading men viz. Amitabh Bachchan.

Khayyam made his debut as an independent film music director in the Punjabi film “Heer Ranjha” (1948) produced by Nazim Panipati and directed by Wali Sahab. 73 more films have followed to-date in the next 67 years.Although it is a well high impossible task, yours truly has made an attempt to list Khayyam’s sixteen (I could not limit it to twelve) best ever film songs as tabulated below:

1948 1949 1950
HeerRanjha Parda Biwi


1951 1953 1954
Pyar Ki Baatein Foot Path Dhobi Doctor
  Gulsanobar Gulbahar
1955 1958 1960
Tatar KaChor LalaRukh Bambai Ki Billi
  PhirSubahHogi Barood
1961 1964 1965
SholaAurShabnam Shagun MohabbatIskoKahteHain
1966 1967 1974
AakhriKhat MeraBhaiMeraDushman PyaaseDil
1975 1976 1977
MutthiBharChawal KabhiKabhie Shankar Hussain
1978 1979 1980
Trishool Chambal Ki Kasam Thodi Si Bewafai
  MeenaKumari Ki Amar Kahani  


1981 1982 1983
AhistaAhista Baawri Mehndi
Dard Bazaar Razia Sultan
Dil-E-Nadaan DilAakhirDilHai  
Nakhuda Sawaal  
1984 1985 1986
Lorie Bepanaah Anjuman
    TereShaher Mein
1988 1989 1995
EkNayaRishta Jaan-E-Wafa MohabbatonKa Safar
Parbat Ke Us Paar    
2000 2006  
Ek Hi Manzil Banaras 1918 ( A Love Story)  
Yaatra (The Journey )

Although it is a well high impossible task, yours truly has made an attempt to list Khayyam’s sixteen (I could not limit it to twelve) best ever film songs as tabulated below:


1 Akelemeinwohghabrate to honge Biwi Md. Rafi
2 Shaam-e-gham ki qasam Footpath Talat
3 Kayiaisebhiaansoohain Gulsanobar Lata
4 Gar teri nawazish ho jaaye Gulbahar Talat
5 Pyaaskuchhaurbhibhadka di LalaRukh Talat / Asha
6 WohSubahkabhi to aayegi PhirSubahHogi Mukesh / Asha
7 Teri duniyameinnahin koi Barood Lata& chorus
8 Jaanekyadhoondtirahtihain Shola AurShabnam Md. Rafi
9 Tum apna ranj-o-gham Shagun JagjitKaur
10 Thahriyehoshmeinaa loon MohabbatIskoKahteHain Md. Rafi / Suman
11 Bahar mera jeevan bhi sanwaro AakhriKhat Lata
12 Main pal do pal kashayarhoon KabhiKabhie Mukesh
13 Dilcheezkyahaiaapmeri UmraoJaan Asha
14 Aye dil-e-nadaan Razia Sultan Lata
15 Aapyoonfaaslon se guzarte Shankar Hussain Lata
16 Dilkhayidiyeyoonkibekhudkiye Bazaar Lata


Khayyam has always had a God bestowed gift of composing “Shayrana – Qalaam” to musicalperfection. His grasp of Shayari helps him creat a mood enhancing tune to accentuate the literary content. He has tuned “Ustaads” viz. Meer, Ghalib, Zauq, Momin, Jigar, Josh etc. (to name just a few) with great aplomb. In film music his Shayrana rapport with the great SahirLudhianvi, Jan Nissar Akhtar, Kaifi Azmi and Naqsh Lyallpuri has been truly outstanding, yielding splendid results. Of late he has been using Maya Govind and Ahmed Wasi’s lyrics frequently. Nevertheless his tuning with the late Sahir Ludhianvi shall be remembered forever and their joint creations are Khayyam’s best.

Voices of the “Best–in-business” artists viz. Mohd. Rafi , Lata Mangeshkar, Talat Mahmood, Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Asha Bhosle, Geeta Dutt, Meena Kapoor, Sandhya Mukherjee, Jagjeet Kaur, G.M.Durrani, Uma Devi, Zohrabai Ambalewal, Premlata, Chandbala, Suman Kalyanpur, Ashima, Mubarak Begum, Bhupendra, Sulakshana Pandit, Azeez, Babban, Yesudas, Nitin Mukesh, Bhupendra, Anwar, Shahida, Runa, Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Suresh Wadkar, Kabban Mirza , Parveen Sultana, Ustaad Faiyyaz/ Dilshad/ Niyaaz Ahmed, Talat Aziz, Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamoorthy, Shabbir Kumar, Anup Jalota, Anupama Deshpande, Pankaj Udhas, Hariharan, Sunidhi Chauhan and Udit Narayan etc. have adorned Khayyam’s compositions in his six decades long carreer.

Khayyam’s first really big hit song was a Mohammad Rafi number “Akele mein woh ghabrate to honge” from the film “Biwi” (1950). Md. Rafi enjoyed a special rapport with Khayyam, who presented his unmatched voice in a completely new low key style in scores of memorable ghazals, bhajans and geet. Arguably Asha Bhosle’s greatest rendition of mujra songs was under the baton of Khayyam in his peerless score of “Umrao jaan”. Notably Asha for the first time sang on a lower scale than usual with telling effect and it indeed is a great tribute to the composing genius of Khayyam.

Khayyam’s first non film song was in the voice of Talat Mohmood – “Aa gaeen phir se baharein” and together they created magic in numerous memorable songs, but their best ever remains the 1953 “Footpath” classic “Shaam-e-gham ki qasam aaj ghamgheen hain hum”. The song was on the legendary Dilip Kumar (who according to me is the greatest actor ever on either side of the Suez Canal) and with its timeless quality has become immortal. Dilip Sahab himself told me about his particular fondness for this number, which he loves humming even today. Strangely the song was initially recorded for a Wali Sahab film and rejected. Many other producers found it to be too slow to be a hit until Zia Sarhadi, the director of “Footpath” picked it up.

Lata Mangeshkar and Khayyam’s tuning took some years to develop, but she too has been at her peak recording for Khayyam – case in point the unique “Pahadi” composition “Baharon mera jeevan bhi sanwaro” for Chetan Anand’s classic “Aakhri Khat” shall perennially remain etched in memory. Lata’s brilliant renditions in “Shankar Hussain”, “Bazaar”, “Dard”, “Kabhi Kabhie” and of course “Razia Sultan” for Khayyam, too have a timeless quality. Likewise Mukesh (Phir Subah Hogi, Kabhi Kabhie, Mohabbat Isko Kahte Hain), Kishore Kumar (Thodi Si Bewafai, Dil-e-Nadaan, Mehndi), Suman Kalyankar (Shagun), Yesudas (Trishool, Majnoon), Bhupendra (Aahista Ahista), Jaspindar Narula (Bikhri Aas Nikhri Preet), Alka Yagnik (Ek Hi Manzil), Kavita Krishnamoorthy (Mohabbaton Ka Safar), Sulakshana Pandit (Sankalp, Khandaan) have put their best foot forward in recording Khayyam compositions.

Khayyam most deservingly won the coveted Filmfare award for his scores in “Kabhi Kabhie” (1976) and “Umrao Jaan” (1981). It is not commonly known that the super duper hit song “kabhi Kabhie mere dil mein khayal aata hai” was first recored in the voices of Geeta Dutta and Sudha Malhotra for Chetan Anand’s “Kaafir”, a Dev Anand / Geeta Bali / Priya Rajvansh starrer which eventually got shelved. The emeritus composer was also conferred the “Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award”

Some of the most sparkling compositions of Khayyam were created for his lady love Jagjeet Kaur and she sang like a Champion for him. “Phir Wohi Sawan Aaye” and “Ladi re ladi tujhse aankh jo ladi” (Shola Aur Shabnam), “Tum Apna ranj-o-gham (Shagun)” & Dekh lo aaj humko jee bharke (Bazaar) are a few examples. Jagjitji is at her best in rendering non-film ghazals viz. “Shikve ke naam se”, “Aaj kya haal hai yaarab”, “Kisi ne phir suna dard ke fasane ko”, “Dil ko kya ho gaya khuda jaane” etc. under her better half’s baton.

Khayyam has also composed music for a number of T.V. Serials


1 Milan LekhTandon
2 Dard Neena Gupta
3 ArzooKa Safar AmbrishSangal
4 Kranti 1857 Sanjay Khan
5 SunahreWarq KishanSethi / Rahim
6 TereLiye AshwiniLamba
7 The Great Maratha Sanjay Khan
8 Shaira S. Sukhdev / Gulzar
9 BikhriAasNikhriPreet LekhTandon

My first meeting with Khayyam Sahab and Jagjitji was on board a flight to Lucknow – the meeting brought the two families very close. When we launched a teleserial “Bikhri Aas Nikhri Preet” (Every Sunday 9PM-DD-1) based on my late mother Smt. Shanti kumari Bajpai’s classic celebrated Hindi novel “Vyavdhaan”, the first name to compose the music that occurred to the veteran director Shri Lekh Tandon and myself was that of Khayyam. We approached him, he heard the subject in detail, debated it with Lekhji and said “Yes”. Then he went on to compose seven brand new songs for the rather sensitive and difficult subject of the Teleserial, coming up with a dream score, which has converted me from being his admirer to an unabashed admirer.



My better half Kanika Bajpai (who is a theatre / T.V. artiste and received musical Training under late Shri S.N. Tripathi) got the opportunity to sing under the baton of Khayyam. His music truly embellished our teleserial and knowing him and working with him has been a most rewarding experience. Khayyam has won awards and accolades galore including Filmfare awards, National award (Umrao Jaan – 1981), BFJA / UPFJA / Cinegoer’s association / IMPPA / Dada Sahab Phalke Academy / Ashoka awards, Lata Mangeshkar Award, Asha Bhosle Award, Swami Haridas Award, Dinanath Mangeshkar Award, Sangeet Natak Academy Award. etc.. It would be prudent for the Govt. of India to consider him for the Padma Vibhushan and Dada Sahab Phalke awards.

Khayyam dedicated his biographical book (Khayyam: The Man – His Music) to Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the great world leader, father of Indian democracy & visionary first Prime Minister of India. The first copy of the book was presented to Dr. Manmohan Singh (thenPrime Minister of India), who believes in the Nehruvian Dream, by Mr & Mrs Khayyam. Khayyam has won awards and accolades galore including Filmfare awards, National award (Umrao Jaan – 1981), BFJA / UPFJA / Cinegoer’s association / IMPPA / Dada Sahab Phalke Academy / Ashoka awards, Lata Mangeshkar Award, Asha Bhosle Award, Swami Haridas Award, Dinanath Mangeshkar Award, Sangeet Natak Academy Award. etc.. It would be prudent for the Govt. of India to consider him for the Padma Vibhushan and Dada Sahab Phalke awards.

I was indeed extremely fortunate to receive the Dada SahabPhalke Academy Award for the music of “PhirUssi Mod Par” from the last musical Moghul our own Khayyam Sahab —alas that was our last meeting.Adieu peerless Composer!

Until now Khayyam, the 93 years young musical Moghul was still at the zenith of his composing zeal, possessing a musical treasure, a large part of which remained yet to be unraveled. His best was yet to come and may the Almighty grant him his rightful place in a befitting heavenly abode ……. “Shaam-e-gham ki kasam aaj ghamgheen hain hum ……”.

Dr. Trinetra Bajpai

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Khayyam, RIP, Music Director, Umrao Jaan, Noorie, Kabhie Kabhie, Trinetra Bajpai

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