“Even when I was sitting at home without any assignment in exile for seven years, I declined to do regional films, because a lion will not stoop down to eat grass”
O.P. NAYYAR tells JYOTHI VENKATESH
Music Maestro died on January 28, 2007. To commemorate his 83rd death anniversary today, I watched the evergreen film Ek Musafir Ek Haseena today on Zee5 to listen to his chartbusters as a music director before we reproduce excerpts from a rare interview with O.P. NAYYAR by JYOTHI VENKATESH which appeared first 43 years ago in the now defunct PICTURPOST dt November 1978). It is with great fondness and nostalgia that I ,in this intimate article to commemorate his death anniversary ,remember the good old days that I had spent in the company of the revered but jovial music director..
O.P as I used to call him fondly had developed some kind of affiliation towards me from the time I had met him the first time way back in 1975. Every time he was free in the evening, he used to make it a point to call me on my landline (there were no mobile telephones in those good old days, you see) to join him for an evening for drinks and dinner when I was just 23. While O.P sahab was staying at Breach Candy, I was living with my parents at Worli which was not very far off and he used to send his driver with the car to fetch me after I was back home after a tired day of work at the hotel Oberoi Sheraton then. Though he used to insist that I drink Scotch as he could afford it, I used to politely excuse myself and ask for only chilled beer. Inevitably when I used to drink as many as three bottles of beer just because I wanted to give him company as he drank his favourite scotch, I used to develop a hangover and very kindly he used to open his suitcase at home and offer me homeopathic pills to eat before I used to sleep to get rid of the hangover. And also make it a point to see to it that his driver drove me back home after midnight
With producer Ratan Mohan’s Khoon Ka Badla Khoon, veteran music director O. P. Nayyar had staged his comeback in films after seven years. Ek Baar Muskara Do was his last film. I remember that it was on his behest that I had the proud privilege and good fortunate to organize a small but intimate as well as informal get together at the Taj Hotel to talk to the selected print journalists about the music that he had composed for the film and distribute the L.Ps of the music of the film at a get together arranged before the release of the film that I grew close to O.P. Nayyar. I still cannot forget the gesture of his when he issued me a cheque for a princely sum of Rs 5000 just for organizing the event at the Taj Hotel in spite of my refusing to accept it, that too at a time when I was drawing just Rs 850 as my monthly salary at the hotel
It may be surprising, but the fact is that O.P. Nayyar has never utilized, not even once, the voice of Lata Mangeshkar for any song of his. “When every other composer today wants Lata Mangeshkar to sing for him, what makes you defy Lata and refuse to employ her voice?” I asked him point blank, when I met O.P saab after a few days after the event at the Taj. “I do not have any intention of defying Lata Mangeshkar. If I have not utilized her voice, it is not to prove that I can do without Lata, but because the types of songs that I compose do not suit Latabai”, he asserted very modestly without any trace of ego with which he was reported to be associated with at that time.
However much you tempt or provoke O.P, he used to refuse to talk ill of Asha Bhosle. “How can I talk ill of a woman with whom I was associated for nearly fourteen years? I have nothing against Ashaji. I have high regard for Ashaji as a singer. I do not at all claim to have made Ashaji what she is today. To tell you the truth, I only served as a mere instrument to mend Ashaji’s style of singing. When I recorded her song for the first time, she was already a good singer.”
“I have composed for about 65 films till date including Ratan Mohan’s Khoon Ka Badla Khoon and Heera Moti. Ashaji has sung most of my songs because only Ashaji could effectively transplant my songs to my satisfaction. Even today when new girls come to me to give them a break, I ask them to sing some of Ashaji’s numbers composed by me in the 60’s. They are all quite complicated numbers. Not everyone can sing these numbers. Ashaji alone had stood the test.”
How did he spend his exile from films during the last seven years? I had once asked O.P Saab. “I have never prostituted my conscience so far. I have always believed in destiny. I have no malice whatsoever against anybody. Nobody is indispensable. Believe me, there have been stalwarts like Madan Mohan, Ghulam Mohammad, Vasant Desai and Roshan. What am I in comparison to them? Who will remember me when I am dead and gone?”
“I survived the test of time during my exile because I was getting my royalty from the sale of my old film songs which had been brought out then by HMV. I am also a homeopath. Very few of my friends know that apart from practicing homeopathy, I am also adept in studying horoscopes and palms. I wasn’t prepared to accept defeat. It was my determination and will power that made me decide to accept Ratan Mohan’s offer and stage a comeback against odds at a time when I was actually written off by the entire film industry with Khoon Ka Badla Khoon and Heera Moti.”
Today any big music celebrity charges a bomb to attend the music release function of a new singer but O.P. Nayyar was an exception to the rule. When the then newcomer Ashok Khosla requested me to see if I can get O.P saab to come to his music release function at Santa Cruz at a Club to release his maiden music album, Nayyar told Ashok that he will come if and only if he arranged to send me to fetch him from his house at Churchgate. I was only too glad to go to his house to fetch him as I too was really fond of him
O.P. Nayyar was quite proud of the fact that he was one composer who had never hankered after big banners. “It was the late producer Dalsukh Pancholi who gave me a full fledged break in his Aasman, as a music director. However, not many people are aware of the fact that it was with a film called Kameez starring Shyam and Munawar Sultana that I made my entry in films. Ghulam Hyder and Hansraj Bahl had migrated to Pakistan at that time and I was entrusted with the job of scoring the background music of the film Kameez”.
“Looking back, I can very well claim that Dame Fortune has indeed been very kind to me. There are many talented people. Though they were all very talented and even better than me, it is only luck which has denied them their rightful place in filmdom. I am the only composer who has not worked with big banners and big playback singers. When I assigned the job of singing my songs to Ashaji , many well wishers advised me to give up my bid and ask Shamshad Begumji to sing my songs because she was saleable. Ashaji was comparatively a newcomer, but steadfastly I refused to bow down and persisted and what’s more, I even succeeded in grooming Ashaji’s voice”.
O.P. Nayyar is happy that the discs of his film Khoon Ka Badla Khoon had registered good sales in spite of the fact that he had utilized the voices of new comers like Pushpa Pagdhare and Uttara Kelkar, apart from the Bol Re Papihara girl Vani Jayaram.”I am determined to present a new voice in every film of mine”, said he, at the recording studio where he had recorded the song in my presence.
Among the males, his favorites were Mohammad Rafi who had sung a record number of songs for him including a hit number in Khoon Ka Badla Khoon and Talat Mahmood. Nayyar was hopeful of utilizing Talat’s voice once again in films, but unfortunately fate willed otherwise and snatched him away from us, initially when he used to live as a recluse away from his near and dear ones at Virar with a female disciple of his, who willingly looked after him in spite of the fact that she was in no way related to her at all and died in 2007.
Till his death, O.P. Nayyar wasn’t ready to grab each and every offer. “When I was in exile, I declined to do regional films. A lion will never stoop down to eat grass. Even when I was sitting at home without any assignment to compose music for any film, only if and when I am paid my price, will I take up an assignment. Or else, I will not let anyone exploit me for no rhyme or reason.”