Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Tonga Comes To A Halt

He was truly the last of the original pillars that had propped up the Hindi music industry. Naushad died recently. Anil Biswas, who introduced Mukesh and Talat Mehmood to playback singing, died quite recently. And today, O.P. Nayyar passed away too.

People, especially politicians, when they condole such deaths, often say: "His (or her) passing away has left a vacuum in the film industry." Nothing can be more wrong. People like Naushad and Nayyar left a vacuum long ago when they retired, and their places were quickly taken by others, so much so that they faded away and no one even remembered them. Both tried to make comebacks, but the attempts didn't work out and they returned to oblivion. So no vacuum. The real vacuum would happen when their existing music disappears from or is not available in the music shops, which is often the case.

Still, in their deaths, they do leave a vacuum, in the sense that their deaths are like the death of a grandfather, who might not contribute much to a family, but he is still there in a corner -- as the link to the generation that has passed away, as the testimonial to history. Your father might be rich because he is earning the cash, but your grandfather is richer because he has the anecdotes. Money can secure the future, but it can't buy the time that has passed by.

Only a few weeks ago, Nayyar saab dispensed with dollops of the past era to fellow journalist Bhumika, who was perhaps the last reporter to have interviewed the great composer. From the interview, it is clear that Nayyar kept his spine erect with the trademark I-give-a-damn attitude. While the world flocked to Lata Mangeshkar, he stuck to Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle. Long after retirement, a stage when lesser mortals live at the kindness of the industry or their kin, Nayyar lived in style in a Mumbai hotel, practising homoeopathy and even returned to make music for Andaaz Apna Apna. Almost till the end he savoured his two whiskies and boiled eggs.

It was clearly a lifestyle that matched his music -- clip-clop, clip-clop... the gentle pace of a tonga, or horse cart. His was music in motion. Almost all his biggest hits were filmed on situations where the actors were moving on a 'gentle' vehicle, such as a tonga or a boat, or even the good, old Willy's jeep (Pukarta chala hoon main from Mere Sanam).

And for Guru Dutt's movies, no vehicle was required to picturise a song: the actor's eyes were restless and naughty enough to match the speed of a tonga or a jeep, and therefore you have all the songs you have today: be they from Mr and Mrs 55 or Aar Paar. O.P. Nayyar, for that matter, was also responsible for making Johnny Walker a star comedian by giving him all the fabulous songs. Sadly, Johnny Walker passed away too a few years ago. Jagdeep is still there though -- not only as a witness of the Guru Dutt-O.P. Nayyar era but also as a participant of the Amitabh Bachchan-Ramesh Sippy era. Please celebrate him while he is still there, rather than write fake tributes in the past tense.

Anyway, I feel very sad today. The composer of all the songs my mother loves is dead today, and my mother is not even aware. That's because she probably doesn't know those songs were composed by him: most people just listen to songs and toast the singer. Not many care about the composer or the lyricist. That is why Majrooh Sultanpuri died unsung a few years ago, even though Bollywood's most famous songs were penned by him, be it for O.P. Nayyar or R.D. Burman.

But O.P. Nayyar was not a music director whose tunes could be mistaken for anyone else's. His was music in motion, and it shall remain that way, no matter who lent voices to those tunes -- Rafi or Kishore, Geeta or Asha. And as long as he was alive, one could easily get a passport to that clip-clop era. But now, no chance! The clock is ticking -- that's the message from his death.

But at times the clock stops, like the moment I was face to face with her, sometime ago, on an elaborate dinner table laid out under the star-lit sky. Everytime our eyes met, the song Aankhon hi aankhon mein ishara ho gaya (from CID) rang in my ears. And in spite of being love-lorn, I remembered to remember that the song was composed by O.P. Nayyar. May his soul rest in peace.


Yogi Pradeep Ullal said...

Nayyar saab remains in my heart. i can never forget his presence in the saregamapa shows. he celebrated his bday's on the sets. he was loved by all. his trademark hat, erect posture, ready smile and caring words and lovely ear for music made me his big admirer long after he had quit making music.

his music still rings in my ears. let his soul rest in peace and his music live forever. biswanath, thank you for writing. i didnt even about his death

Anonymous said...

Hey dude

Good article, bad research.

OPN did not compose for Andaz Apna Apna. What an insult to this extraordinary man.

Anonymous said...

please accept my heartfelt thanks for highlighting such a great music director O P Nayyyar.i am deeply saddened by the news of his sad demise.Your blog takes me back to the brilliant numbers of the 50s n 60s which had stolen away every music lovers heart.Cant forget those immortal tunes composed by Nayyar saab in films like Howrah Bridge,Phir wohi dil laya hoon,sawan ki ghata.He is one composer who even proved late Mukesh so melodious even in his non mukesh type tunes like the one Chal akela chal akela in film Sambandh.I have lost my words to express my deepest condolence on his demise.may his soul rest in peace....raisona

Anonymous said...

Nayyar saab's come back film was parichay,this salman-karishma film was released in 1991.truly one of the last of our original composers have left us leaving a handful of music arrangers and rajesh roshan.

Anonymous said...

Want to say only two words - Thank you - for making us all remember maang ke saath tumhara, Jaiye aap kahan jaayenge, chain se humko kabhi, Aap ke haseen rukh pe...and countless others...

As for Gurudutt's eyes...oh! those eyes!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ghosh,

That is really a good write up on OP. Actually I started liking OP's music only lately but as you have rightly mentioned the clip clop and the uniqueness are so characteristic of him and inimitable. I dont feel sad about OP's death. Even some time back I read his candid interview in the Hindu. His job in the world is over. What is the purpose of life after everything has come to a halt and just to have a vegetative living? His life was full and vibrant like his catchy and melodious music. Let him go. Anyway we will remember him through his songs eternally.