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.