O.P. Nayyar




In the year 1968, during my stint in the film weekly “Screen” when its editor asked me to interview O.P. Nayyar, my excitement knew no bounds at the prospect of meeting the music celebrity who had earned the sobriquet “Rhythm King”. At the same time I was in awe of him as he had the dubious reputation of being a different kind of a person, of possessing a mercurial temperament. I knew his career was no longer steady, it was heading towards a final fall, still who knows how he would conduct himself, I wondered.

While travelling by bus to the venue of the meeting, the Taj Mahal Hotel, nothing else occupied my mind but that his illustrious career, his evergreen hit songs, the conspicuous absence of Lata Mangeshkar throughout his two decade musical journey-an undeniable incredible phenomenon in the history of film music- a great achievement in itself.  

One by one his hit songs came to my mind. His forte being beats I recalled them with relish such as “Udi jab ab zulfein teri” ; “Reshmi salwar te kurta jaali da” ; “Ek pardesi mera dil le gaya” being the more popular hits with unbeatable captivating beats with a folksy flavor of his native Punjab. From his earliest hit in this category, “Mera naam chin chin choo” to the much later the pulsating duet “Kajra Mohabbatwala” ; these were the songs that did not miss being huge hits.

In two of his songs, “Maang ke saath tumhara” and “Yun to humne lakh hansee dekhein hai” the trolling of horses served as beats thanks to his imagination.

Then my memory switched on to the sweet, tuneful melodies ones such as the slow-paced sexy “Aiye Meherbaan” ; the haunting “Jaiye aap kahan jayenge” or the heady “Deewana hua badal”. How the trill in Asha Bhonsle’s voice complimented his creations to thrill the listeners I marveled.

When I entered the hotel room, to my surprise I saw Omkar Prasad Nayyar the “Rhythm King” majestically seated waiting for me. I became tensed if I was late. Watching me nervously looking at my watch he said, “Don’t worry young lady, you are punctual to the minute, it is I who have arrived early. Time is hanging heavy on my hands. I am sure you know of late I enjoy no status whatsoever as a music director. But time was when journalists were after my life to obtain an interview with me. Now there is a reversal of situation. It is I who look forward to be spoken to and listened to in a leisurely manner.”

Smilingly, continuing his narration he said, “Don’t think I am wallowing in self- pity, I am only pondering over the contrast, the difference in the past and the present. Only a few years back, there was a time when the whole film world was at my feet and now the same world is looking away from me, showing supreme indifference. Anyway, I am enjoying basking in my past glory.”

This startling start to the interview where the maestro poured out his heart to the stranger that I was, made me tongue tied for a while. I could not believe my ears he displayed keen sense of humour, a confirmed egoist laughing at himself! It amused me a lot but embarrassed me too a little. Just unable to make out what to say, I somehow managed to utter these words. “No no, take it from me, you will make a comeback with a bang anytime.”

O.P shrugged it off with a flourish and went on philosophizing “It will never happen. The novelty of my music which was once universally hailed as being a class by itself has worn out. Mew entrants in the field have edged me out. This fate has been shared by so many of my illustrious predecessors. I cannot expect to be an exception.”

As he stopped talking I at once snatched the moment to carry out my part in the interview. I also wanted to take his mind off the past even though what all he recounted did not smack of any ill feelings towards the time-serving film industry. “What are the films you are giving the musical scores for?” I asked him in a bid to wean him away from past memories good and bad.

“Oh, my present assignments? The number is not too small, “he replied breaking into a sardonic smile proceeded in a theatrical manner. “But the banners? I who at a point of time would not settle for no less a filmmaker than B. R. Chopra, Guru Dutt or Shakti Samanth am now working with rank newcomers. And I am composing music for the lyrics penned by little known lyricists, I who was fortunate to have been associated with the great Sahir Ludhianvi and a few other famous ones like Qamar Jalalabadi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and S. H. Behar.

“These days my remuneration too is proportionate to the reputation of the banners. Not that this downfall affects me. Again, mind you, I am not boasting when I tell you I was one of the earliest composers along with Shankar Jaikishen and Naushad to charge a whoppy sum of a lakh per film. Producers would vie with each other to rope me in. In case I appeared to be reluctant to sign up, in order to cajole me they would go even to the extent of lavishing expensive gifts on me, even as costly as the latest model of new brand of limousine.”

Luckily for me the talk took a different direction when he sprang a surprise by asking me, “It is now my turn to ask you a question, tell me frankly, what is the public perception of me as a person?” I noticed naughtiness in his piercing eyes.

“ If I sense that someone is trying to act funny with me, however great that person may be I give him left and right then and there. As an example when once  Dilip Kumar dropped into the room as I was trying hard to put my best into a tune for ‘Naya Daur.’ With an air of superiority he found some flaw in the tune and gave me an unsolicited advice. Stung to the quick I fiercely asked him to get lost. Adding further insult to his injured ego , I blasted him with the suggestion that he better remain confined to his domain, acting, which too was woefully below par.”

Clarifying his stand on this matter he made haste to add, “ it is not that I oppose suggestion just to assert myself. In this connection I would like to know how wholeheartedly I welcome any if it is a sensible one and put forward in a decent manner. While composing the tune for the song, “Ye chand sa roshan chehra” for ‘Kashmir kiKali’, it was suggested by director Shakti Samantha that the letter ‘taa’ in the words “tareef karun kya uski” be pronounced with a thunder like sound. Initially, I was not so willing to do it as it would enhance the impact of the song to be lip-synced by the flamboyant Shammi Kapoor I was convinced and did as they asked me to do.”


Now it was I who took him to the past questioning how he made his entry into the films, how  he made his entry into films, how sound was his training in music, if he had any regrets in life, the secret of his not getting along with the Nightingale of India Lata and so on.

He was happy to answer all questions. “The filmmaker who discovered the potential in me and gave me a much desired break was the veteran Dalsukh Pancholi. The film was ‘Aasman’ made in 1951. Just a little earlier my non-filmi song the emotionally charged “Pritam aan milo” that brought out the golden voice of K. L. Saigal in the throat of the brilliant singer C. H. Atma had taken the musical world by storm. D. M. Pancholi I am deeply indebted to, the other do gooder for me was Shashadhar Mukherjee who was after I hit a rough patch in 1961. My music in his ‘EK musafir ek haseena’ had done the trick.”


“My association with Guru Dutt in three films, Aar Paar, Mr. and Mrs. 55, and last but not the last C.I.D proved fruitful for me as each of them took me one rung  up the ladder to fame. Incidentally, I have a guilty feeling when a slight delay by me in meeting Guru Dutt proved my undoing. The tow of us close friends at one time had been out of touch for a long time. The night previous to his suicidal death he had conveyed through his friend a longing to see him. Through lethargy I did not go. The next morning he had bid good bye to this world. If only I had known how deeply he had sunk into depression!”

“Coming to the topic of my musical training, I had nothing worth the name. And classical music? Absolutely nil!”  I then asked O.P., “How come you could create such an awe-inspiring song like ‘tu hai mera prem devata’ in raag Lalit?”

“Is it raag Lalit?’ , he wore a surprised look. By now since we had developed a remarkable rapport, I told him he was feigning ignorance about his unfamiliarity with ragas. “No what I am claiming is not false. I can’t tell one raga from the other, even the common ones. My exposure to classical music does not go beyond listening to them and never with a view to studying it. So this song along with other like “Dekhi bijli bole bin badal ke” got created by me without any conscious effort on my part, spontaneously I should say.”

As one who knew something about the complexity of classical music I at first took his claim with a pinch of salt. The next moment I argued with myself that for someone like him naturally endowed with such abundant talent this could have been possible.

“ I have given you so much information at such a short time. Does any question still remain unanswered?” “Yes, one question is there to which I hope to get a straight uninhibited answer. The question is how is that you boldly ventured to embark on your musical journey without using Lata’s voice, considered to guarantee for the popularity of a musical score? Has it more to do with your saying that her thin voice did not suit your type of songs?”

Striking his forehead with his hand in  a mock gesture of disgust he answered, “If truth be told, there is much more to it than that reason. To put it plainly, not to mince words, she proved a hard nut for me to crack. I simply could not stand her. She was most unfriendly almost inimical towards me for reasons best known to her. Sorry to confess, I have nothing much to praise her as a person but,” here he stood up from his seat made a gesture of salute and with an expression of deep veneration stated “Simply hats off to her as a singer, a peerless one.”



This unexpected gesture spoke volumes for his not being chary of giving credit where it was due.

After hearing his great appreciative words about Lata, my spontaneous reaction was expressed in the words, “And sir, hats off to you on behalf of countless fans for reaching the top without using Lata’s voice.” His face brightened up at my comment.

O. P. then requested me to keep his adverse remarks about Lata strictly off the record which I agreed to. I take the liberty of sharing it with you now decades later.

As we parted our ways, I experienced a sense of fulfillment for having elicited much of his views some of which uttered philosophically was a reflection of his quixotic personality.

As all his fans know, O. P. in the last years of his life turned a recluse completely staying away from the film world, which had given him fame and fortune. Most intriguing part was his snapping the ties with his wife and children to the extent of his telling them not to attend his funeral.


“ I value my self- respect much more than any other thing in my life.” This is what he had stressed during the course of our conversation. At long last we believe he found himself at peace with himself and the world-a world with whose ways he could never come terms throughout his extraordinary life. The world did not allow him to “ Chain se humko kabhi aap ne jeene na diya” as the first part of the line of one of his last songs , a masterpiece went.




PS: Speaking of him, one can’t but hum his songs…here are the links to his songs:

“Udi jab ab zulfein teri”; www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaWp0eMM9Pk

“Reshmi salwar te kurta jaali da” ;  www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQQDlClWaSA

“Ek pardesi mera dil le gaya”; www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJjxRIfAYno

“Mera naam chin chin choo” ; www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7R3IeuDQt0

“Kajra Mohabbatwala”;  www.youtube.com/watch?v=kItK3kQlyko

“Maang ke saath tumhara”; www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBUBPElquj4

“Yun to humne lakh hansee dekhein hai”; www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ezpvc3lNLK0

“Aiye Meherbaan” www.youtube.com/watch?v=urUpMevl_XQ

“Jaiye aap kahan jayenge” www.youtube.com/watch?v=AajHv7NIp9g

“Deewana hua badal” www.youtube.com/watch?v=beqTRIpoos8





Roshan The strains of the melodious song “ Hum intezaar karenge” superbly rendered by Asha Bhosle greeted my ears as I entered composer Roshans home which I visited for an interview on behalf of the film weekly “Screen” in the year 1968. This song composed from “Bahu Begum” was being played in his drawing room. At the entrance of the home itself who should be there to welcome me but Roshan himself with his charming wife, both of whom presented a pleasant picture. The informal manner in which our meeting started held promise of an interesting interview. Already feeling at home, I began the conversation by congratulating him for his fascinating song for the recently released film “Bahu Begum’” which also had another song “Duniya kare sawaal to hum kya jawaab dein”. It took me not long to observe he was a rather shy person. To make him more comfortable I asked him to play his song too. His wife readily obliged with a smile. I simply adored this composer whose creations in any genre whether it be filmy dhuns, bhajan ghazal or qawaalis had a melody which was difficult to match. A classical touch pervaded some of the songs which made for a pleasant fare. He started to tell me about his musical journey. Like most persons who seek a career in filmdom, he too had his share of struggles. After his stint at the Lucknow radio station where he met his future life partner Ira who was a Bengali (Roshan Nagrath was a Punjabi) he migrated to the citadel of filmdom Bombay in 1948. After assisting a small time composer, he came in contact with veteran director Kedar Sharma . Roshan was entrusted the musical score of film “Neki aur Badi” whose failure at the box office did not deter Sharma from engaging Roshan for “Bawre Nain” which saw huge success. The songs from this film “Khayalon mein kisika” crooned by Geeta Dutt and the one with the rustic flavor song “Sun bairi balam kuch bol re ib kya hoga” courted great popularity. I knew all about this and much more beyond it till the last phase of his career I had become a diehard fan of his having fully savored the subtle beauty of his songs like the devotional “Ae re main to prem deewani” or the emotion laden “Rehte the kabhi “ from Mamta : the philosophically worded “Oh re taal mile nadi ke jal mein”; the evergreen “Zindagi bhar nahi bhoolegi wo barsaat ki raat’ ; the FIlmfare award winning, the perennial favourite “Jo vaada kiya wo nibhana padega”, to name few of many hits. When I expressed my admiration for his mastery over melody, the gentle composer just acknowledged with a smile.  I could not help heaping praise on his iconic qawaali,” the mother of all qawaalis “as it is hailed, “Na to caravan ki talash thi” unusually long and vibrant that could easily enliven the dullest atmosphere. Countering my opinion that no one could match its marvelous quality he made haste to say that there were so many other qawaalis that fit into my description. The credit should be shared equally by the singer and the lyricist, he said. He told me he had immense love for classical music in which he had sufficient training. While I wanted to ask a question on this aspect, the maestro told me “be good enough to have a leisurely lunch with me. We can continue without talk later.” On my refusing point blank, he openly showed disappointment. ON his insisting further I agreed, the homely atmosphere making me feel as if I was a family member. The table was laid by Roshans wife herself.  I was in for another surprise as she herself started doing the culinary chores. I could hear the sound of rotis being rolled out. Roshan and I sat down to lunch while his housewifely wife started serving us hot rotis one by one making sure that the rotis were straight from the tava.  Here I felt a little ill at ease. While I felt honoured to have my lunch with the famous maestro the fact that his wife was at the kitchen slugging for us, made me embarrassed. I made my way into the kitchen to enquire her lunch. She gave a reply that she had kept a ‘vrath’ for the health and long life of her husband. Having finished the lunch, the chat went on. Roshan said, he had achieved full satisfaction in his career having had enough opportunity  for putting to use his knowledge of classical music as in the musical score of Kedar Sharma’s “Chitralekha” The songs “Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare” and “”ye ri jaane na dungi’ being special to him. “Aye re main to prem deewani” in raag Bhimpalas in “nau Bahar” also was one of his favourites, he added. Throughout the chat nowhere could I found even a shadow of ego, the I and the mine being totally absent. A pleasant smile was naturally on his lips. His expressions did not vary. A calm exterior reflected the inner peace and contentment. And the lunch part of the interview? It was not as if they could not afford a cook. Ila’s herself cooking the food and the in ostentatious way y of laying the table and the serving of the lunch as in the style of a middle class family spoke of their simplicity. During the last few years by dint of hard work that led to his popularity he had become quite affluent, possessing even an expensive limousine. In spite of this the answer that I received for the question I asked as to whether he was keen to see his sons Rakesh and Rajesh step into his shoes was a bit surprising. His opinion was that he would not object to it, if they opted for this line which however, could not guarantee a stable secure life. “The out of work periods which are inherent in this line could be quite agonizing”, he said, with a thoughtful expression. The interview long over, I left with sweet memories of the time with the famous composer. But hardly a few days had passed when I came across the news of his sudden demise in the newspaper. It came to be known that at a party he attended his uncontrolled laughter at a joke cost him his life. Being a heart patient this stress led to cardiac arrest. Then I realized why his devoted wife kept ‘vrath’ frequently. His life was not too long; it was cut short at 51. But indeed he lived a full life, leaving a veritable treasure of heart touching soul-elevating songs of everlasting quality. download As far as the frank opinion about the uncertainty in the line, luckily neither his sons, Rakesh and Rajesh Roshan and his grandson, the darling of millions Hrithik Roshan have not been its victims. They have reached a stage where there is little possibility of such a situation.





Old Age is the stage when one hankers  not after luxurious goods

But only harbours the hope of hearing a few sweet words

Alas, the fulfillment of this wish often remains elusive

For the youth of the day have their own life to live

For us the ancients, they have little or no time to spare

So conversation with them becomes ever so rare

We the dull oldies are woefully ignorant of the current in thing

Hence, in the eyes of the smarties, we are simply nothing.

Our eager queries seldom fetch in reply not more than a monosyllable

We unnecessarily talk to them they think, because we have no work, we are idle

Our words of advice, (if we dare give it!) fall on deaf ears

They are sure they are mature beyond their years

Every poser is answered after a long pause, maybe to curb our urge to talk more

Fearing our insipid chatter, might death them bore?

Our normal  talk is to them a source of irritation

For which we fail to see any rhyme or reason

The best way therefore is to keep mum

Taking in our stride their every fancy and whim.

This indifferent attitude towards us is sometimes hard  to endure

But they still love us about which we are very sure.

*A poem I wrote for ‘Harmony’ Magazine for the June 2008 issue




A friend of mine who teaches general science to the lower classes in a reputed school, observed

 amusedly that thanks to TV viewing, the students display a greater interest in and knowledge about the animal kingdom and that her classes have become livelier. 

In the light of this statement, I wonder if TV is not more sinned against than sinning. 

Do the programmes-other than the ones meant for entertainment-fail to hold the interest of children who are regarded as the main victims of the ‘new opiate’? I, for one, eel youngsters take a keener interest in sports, literature, science or even politics, as a result of watching TV.

A school girl known to me has become an avid reader of Tagore, Premchand, O’Henry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, etc., in recent months. I think TV whets their appetite for general knowledge in a way.

As for waste of their prime time, in the absence of TV the children could well become hooked on to comics of dubious merit. Injudicious viewing is indulged in by children only in households where the parents lack the requisite firmness to deal with them. Or, do some parents themselves ned to be de-addicted?




*this letter won the first prize in the Eve’s Weekly magazine, Feb 28th to March 6, 1987 edition.


ImageA friend of mine lost her husband in the prime of her life. He had been a heart patient for years and she had looked after him i with exemplary care, love and devotion. After his death she did not feel like wearing good clothes or jewellery. She wanted to switch over to simple white sarees but her college going children dissuaded her from doing so on the plea that this would remind them of their bereavement whenever, they set their eyes on their mother. 

She finally but this gave rise to shock waves in some quarters.

It set me thinking, what purpose is served by making the already dull life of a widow more so by her adhering to conventions. How many of the tradition bound widows have such a story of sacrifice behind them? Can my friends wearing fine clothes detract from appreciating the way the served her husbands for long years in her youth/ Why should eyebrows be raised at all?



I was lucky to have in my grandmother a strong feminist who wanted us grand-daughters to be highly educated and economically independent. Often she would bemoan the fact that she remained semi-literate as she was married off at a very early age, in tune with the times.

Her benign eyes would light up when some of us shone in our studies or excelled in extra- curricular activities. Often she would contrast our good fortune with those of her contemporaries, many of whom had become child widows. One particular heart rending episode she narrated was that of youthful widows with clean-shaven heads covered with white saris, indulgently adoring the salt and pepper hair of their suhagan mothers or mothers-in-law with flowers.

The only ambition of these women had, was to go once in their lifetime to Kashi to take a holy dip in the Ganges. Only a fortunate few realized this dream. The rest resigned themselves to their fate.

Pondering over it could any society be more callous towards its womenfolk?

*this article had won the best letter in Femina-July 23 to August 7, 1989