O.P. Nayyar - The King of Rythmn

Written by hildebrand
O. P. Nayyar

Omkar Prasad Nayyar (16 January 1926 – 28 January 2007) was a famous  film music director and composer born in Lahore, India, now in modern day Pakistan. He was particularly acclaimed for his peppy numbers.


O.P. Nayyar ( "O.P." ) got his first introduction to music while working for some children's show at Lahore Radio at the age of 11. He also acted in and sang in chorus for a Punjabi movie Dulha Bhaati which had music of Pandit Gobind Ram. During this stint he composed for various poets and lyricists for the radio channel. He made some private records also for HMV.

He started his career as a movie music composer by composing the background score for the movie Kaneez (1949). Aasmaan (1952), produced by Dalsukh M.Pancholi was O.P.Nayyar's first film as independent music director, after which he composed music for Chham Chhama Chham (1952) and Baaz (1953) but all these 3 movies couldn't make any impact on viewers. He started receiving increasing public recognition from his compositions for Guru Dutt's Aar Paar(1954), Mr and Mrs. 55' (1955), C.I.D.(1956), and Tumsa Nahi Dekha(1958). O.P. went on to notch up even higher distinction through his compositions for Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon and Mere Sanam. The former movie included his enormously popular song, Bandaa Parwar, Thaamlo Jigar, while the latter included Jaayiye Aap Kahaan Jaayenge and Pukaarataa Chalaa Hoon Main. Some months later, his scores for the movie, Kashmir Ki Kali, once again gained high popularity.


O.P. is reported to have commanded the highest fees in the Hindi movie music world at the height of his reign as a composer. He was the first Hindi music director to receive 100,000 rupees for his compositions for a movie. It was a very substantial sum of money in the 1950s.

O.P. was known to have a stubborn individuality, and traits of aloofness and imperiousness. However, he was always generous with struggling newcomers and artists who had been marginalized in the movie industry. The press was always deferential to him, and frequently referred to him as a "rebel" composer. Many columnists too labeled him as a maverick. Judging from his combative performance in various TV talk shows later on, O.P. seemed to enjoy those epithets.

Trendy Music

During the 1950s, the state-controlled All India Radio found O.P. too "trendy", and put for quite some time a ban on broadcasting most of his famous tunes. He seemed to have remained undaunted by this highhanded government order, and went on to create more, similar tunes, and most of them continued to receive national popularity. The far-away Radio Ceylon, (which later transformed into Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation), was at that time the only source from which O.P.'s new hits could be heard. Soon the English language press began referring to him with the honorific, "maestro", though Opee was still very young then.

Rhythm was O.P.'s specialty. His spirited composition, Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawaanonkaa featuring Dilip Kumar and Ajit in Naya Daur(1957) is an all-time favorite in India even after fifty years. Lata Mangeshkar once said that her most favorite O.P.-Asha Bhosle tune was Aao Huzoor Tumko Sitaaromein Le Chale in Kismet.

Artists and Songs

O.P.'s first hit had come with C.H. Atma's Preetam Aan Milo. He used his singing services later for his debut Asmaan and Dhake Ki Malmal. Later, for most of his career, Mohammad Rafi was his primary male singer.

O.P. worked extensively with Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum, Mohamed Rafi and Asha Bhosle producing some of  their career's biggest hits.

During his early career, his primary singers were Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum with whom he produced many memorable songs. Later after 1958 due to some non-musical reasons (reportedly an ultimatum from an insecure Asha against using services of other female singers) he stopped using their services using only Asha as his female singer. Many believe that Asha Bhosle was groomed and given an independent identity from the shadows of her sister. Many of his compositions which Asha sang are memorable and have a contemporary flair.

O.P. never worked with Lata Mangeshkar, the melody queen contending that her thin voice did not suit his compositions. During an estrangement in second half of 60s with Mohammed Rafi, Opee started to work with Mahendra Kapoor as his main male singer. He also worked in the movie, Sambandh, with Mukesh, who was the favorite playback singer of Raj Kapoor. Based on one of Rabindranath Tagore's Bengali compositions, O.P. composed the song, Chal Akelaa, Chal Akelaa, sung by Mukesh. The same movie also included a memorable baritone rendering by hemant Kumar, who was both a top-notch singer and a renowned Bollywood composer in his own right. Like many other movies for which Opee provided scores, Sambandh is remembered mostly because of its music.

Mahendra Kapoor sang O.P.'s compositions, displaying much depth of feelings, and provided cadence and rhythm to O.P.'s style. His rendering of the song for Dharmendra, Badal Jaaye Agar Maali, Chaman Hotaa Nahi Khaali in Bahaaren Phir Bhi Aayengi was an instant hit.

O.P. recognized very early in the career of Kishore Kumar his talent as a singer. His movies Chham Chhama Chham, Naya Andaz, Baap Re Baap and Raagini contain many Kishore Kumar hits in the inimitable O.P. style. Regrettably, a cordial relationship between Opee and Kishore Kumar did not endure.

His Heroines

 In the black-and-white movie era, Madhubala, who could provide a distinct, stylized performance for O.P.'s songs became O.P.'s favorite heroine. Folklore has it that she used to reduce her price if the film had his music since she felt it would guarantee a hit. After all, it was his Howrah Bridge which had reinvented her career at a time when some considered her a box office poison.  He also produced some extremely lovely songs for Geeta Bali. Later heroines like Vyjayanthimala, Mala Sinha, Padmini, Asha Parekh and Sharmila Tagore lip-synced several of the O.P.-Asha Bhosle numbers, and a large number of those songs gained high popularity.

His Lyricists

Majrooh Sultanpuri and Sahir Ludhianvi wrote some memorable lyrics for some of O.P.'s earlier compositions such as in Naya Daur. However, generally keeping clear of established song writers of his time, O.P. experimented with other lyricists like Jan Nisar Akhtar, Qamar Jalalabadi, Shamshul Huda Bihari, and Ahmed Wasi, who tried to write the lyrics that would match the sensuous tunes which O.P. would have in his mind. In the tradition of the great composers in India, O.P. was fond of the poetic flourish of the Urdu language for his more serious songs. The Rafi rendering, Dil ki Awaz Bhi Sun, Mere Fasane pe Na Jaa in Humsaya is one of Opee's haunting scores.

Songs for Comedians

O.P. started the tradition of assigning to comedians full three-minute long songs, some of which proved even more popular than the songs sung by the heroes themselves. These supporting actors also received excellent reviews. Thus, comedian Om Prakash sang O.P.'s composition, Churi Bane Kanta Bane Oo My Son in Jaali Note.

Comedian Johnny Walker sang O.P.'s popular song, Aye Dil Hai Mushkil Jeena Yahaan in C.I.D., and Main Bambaika Baaboo, Naam Meraa Anjaanaa in Naya Daur. There was later a movie titled Johnny Walker where Johnny Walker himself was the hero. Along with some other numbers in the last movie, Asha Bhosle/Gita Dutt's, Thandi Thandi Hawaa in it is memorable.

Separation from Asha

 O.P. and Asha Bhosle parted ways in 1974, and that parting impacted O.P. for the rest of his life. The final straw in their strained relationship is said to be his attempt to use services of Krishna Kalle for Taxi Driver.

The last Opee composition which Asha sang was Chain Se Humko Kabhi. It was meant to be included in the movie, Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye(1974), but it was dropped in the final version of the movie. However, it became an O.P. classic, and it won Asha a Filmfare Best Playback Singer Award. This separation had an adverse impact on his career and he did not have any releases till 1978.

Other Reasons for decline later

According to some critics, O.P. did not choose his movies well and wasted some of his superb tunes on B-grade actors like Joy Mukherjee, Biswajeet and Babita. Though O.P. was still active in his musical career in the 1960s and '70s, to the regrets of his fans, O.P. did not compose music for the then superstar Rajesh Khanna or budding Amitabh Bachchan. O.P. also did not provide music for movies starring heroes of the day lik Sanjeev Kumar, Shashi Kapoor and Jitendra. Again, with the exception of Rekha, O.P. did not compose music for heroines like Hema Malini, Rakhi, Mumtaz who were all well known around the time he could have made a re-entry as a top composer.

Attempts for A Comeback

O.P. faded from the Bollywood scene in early 1970s, though he made a comeback attempt in the late 70s and again in the 1990s. Around 78-79 he attempted a comeback using the voices of Dilraj Kaur and Pushpa Pagdhare. Only Heera Moti was partially successful but it did not get him more movies. A few which he got never got released due to various reasons. He tried a comeback again in early 1990s but it was also shortlived. The magic in his work somehow seemed to have long gone. Almost until his last days, he would often refer to Asha as a singing sensation. Embittered Asha, on the other hand, practically ignored him after the breakup, and held the thought that she was beholden to no single composer.

Telugu Movie Neerajanam

Apart from Hindi films, O.P. also composed music for Neerajanam in Telugu. Even though Neerajanam was a flop at box office, the music was such a rage that it created a record for the most sold album in south until over taken by A.R.Rahman's Roja.

Personal Life

During his retirement, O.P. stayed in touch with only a few select friends.  He made brief appearances for TV Show  Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and  Vividh Bharati for which he also presented his life-sketch through six hour-long episodes collectively titled as Mujhe Yaad Sab Hai Zaraa Zaraa. He was involved in practicing and promoting Homeopathy and Astrology during his last years.

For some years before his death, O.P. had been estranged from his family members to the extent that he had requested that they be not allowed to attend his funeral. Following the estrangement, he had moved out of his house at Marine Drive in Mumbai (Bombay), leaving his family behind, and begun to stay at a friend's place in the suburb of Virar. A month before his death, he had moved to yet another friend's place in Thane.

O.P. died on 28 January 2007 through cardiac arrest. He is survived by his wife, three daughters, and a son.



His Filmography is available here .


Source: The article is based on Wikipedia article on OP and supplemented by research by the compiler.


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