May 25, 2020
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O.P. Nayyar

Straight From The Heart

Punctuality was one thing that OP was very fussy about. And he always spoke his mind. There was hardly any big-wig who was not a victim of OP's blunt, no-nonsense ways.

Straight From The Heart

Punctuality was one thing that OP was very fussy about. He stormed off a meeting with Dev Anand after waiting for him for five minutes. "Needless to say, he never used my music in his films!" OP would laugh. But it was the same fussiness about time that made him stop working with Mohammed Rafi because he was late for a recording for a song from Saawan Ki Ghata.. Rafi explained that he had got delayed in a Shankar-Jaikishan recording. OP concluded, "I gather, you have time for Shankar-Jaikishan and not for OP Nayyar. Now onwards, OP Nayyar will not have time for Rafi",  cancelled the recording in front of shell shocked musicians and told the accountant to charge the expenses for the cancelled session to his account. OP would often recount the story about how after three years, Rafi came to his house, " crying like a baby" but had the grace and large-heartedness to admit:  "I also broke down. Both of us touched each other's feet. I said, 'Rafi, by coming here today you proved that you are much greater than OP. You could overcome your ego. I could not!'"

There was hardly any big-wig who was not a victim of OP's blunt, no-nonsense ways. Raj Kapoor never worked with him after OP told him that his songs, if sung by Mukesh and not Rafi as wanted by him, would "sound shit." He was initially very close to Dilip Kumar who used to call him ‘Johnny'.  But the ever-sensitive OP got upset at the screening of Naya Daur when Dilip needled him who told him that the songs were very good but the background score was "pretty weak" At the celebration party later, Dilip asked him, "Johny, did you see how well I have danced on your songs?" Pat came the reply: "OP Nayyar's music makes even a third rate actor dance. It has such energy!" 

And he cut-off relations with poet-lyricist Sahir Ludhiyanvi as he overheard him tell somebody that he had made S.D.Burman. "If this man could say such a thing for a great composer like S.D. Burman, then what was there to prevent him from saying the same about me? I just cut off relations with that man."

Kishore Kumar's tomfoolery during the recordings for Raagini so annoyed him that he got Mohammed Rafi to playback for for Kishore for the song Man Mora Baawra. 

Here are some of the soundbytes from his on-record interviews:

On songs in Hindi films: "I now find it funny that there are songs at all in our films! When I look back, I think it was all rather amusing and I sometimes can't believe we composed so seriously for contrived song sequences. Sometimes I do listen to new songs. But I find today's music and lyrics have no dum, they are all very artificial. We had such fine lyricists back in those days."

On hoof beats in his songs: "Basically, it is the beat of Punjab. People don't remember any more, but the melodies composed by our early greats - music directors like Ghulam Haider, RC Boral and Pankaj Mullick - were also very earthy and rhythmic. If you have heard Pankaj Mullick's Chale pawan ki chaal, you will recall that song too had hoof beats as the background music. I used to like that song a lot. In that sense, my horse trot was not entirely original. But I composed songs with that beat, people liked it and it became my trademark."

On himself as a music director: "The fact is I don't know the ABCD of music! It was all a gift from God that I composed so effortlessly and people liked the music I made. I didn't set out to be a music director, just drifted into it."

On Lata Mangeshkar: "I never ever summoned her for any of my songs. I needed a powerful, full-throated, sensuous voice and she had this thin, thread-like voice, which was not at all suitable for my music. Another thing is about my inspiration coming from beauty. Lata with her plain, ordinary looks never could inspire me as a composer! ... Even though I never ever worked with Lata, I still consider her as the Number 1 singer in India. Asha tried hard to take her place but could never achieve that. Lata was just supreme, a God given voice! ... We had cordial relations but still I remained suspicious about her. I remember, once she called me for lunch and I was first watching what she was eating and then eating the same thing after her!"

On  Mahendra Kapoor:  "I used him as replacement for Rafi. I used to call him Çharan Das for he used to touch the feet of practically any Tom, Dick and Harry. I found this extra-humility phony. He might have sung quite a few good songs for me but just listen to Do Ustaad title track to know how off-key he could be! Purposely I kept that Besuraa singing so that one day, I could show him how bad he could be!"

On Guru Dutt: "I personally never felt Guru Dutt knew a great deal about music ...Everyone says Pyaasa is a masterpiece but take away Sahir's poetry and S.D. Burman's music and what is left? 

On S.D. Burman:  " The way S.D. composed for Jinhein Naaz Hain Hind Par is pure genius." 

On Geeta Dutt: " Geeta Dutt had the most original voice in film music."

On the best singer of the lot: "Shamshad Begum had the best voice. It was what you could truly call khanakti aawaz. She was right in believing I downplayed her in order to promote Asha."

On  Manna Dey and Rafi who sang Tu Hai Mera Prem Devta:  "Rafi was far too superior to Manna Dey there! Manna Dey would take around four-five takes to get it right."

On B.R. Chopra's Naya Daur, the film that got him his only Filmfare award:  "I thought that was a ridiculous film – a Tonga versus motor car theme".

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