On January 16 1926, the Nayyar household in Lahore got a new member in family. Madan Gopal Nayyar and Laxmi Naiyyar were blessed with a bonny boy. They named him Omkar Prasad Nayyar. He was different from his siblings of four brothers and one sister. While others in the house hold were in awe of their father,a strict disciplinarian and reticient man, Omkar behaved more like a child of nature. He was neither studious nor the one who would follow the commands and advice of others. He felt alienated from his folks at home, as nobody would identify with, or, acknowledge the artiste in him. He turned rebellious and he grew up to be indifferent to social norms.
Omkar was very fond of singing. By the age of 11 he began performing on the All India Radio children's programmes at Lahore. At the age of 12 he got a chance to sing in the chorus of a song composed by music director Pandit Govind Ram. The film was Dulha Bhatti and was made in Punjabi, the song : 'Rab Di Janaab Vicho Aeho Dil..'. Omkar also acted in the film. At the age of 15 he began composing songs for All India Radio. His family shifted from Lahore to Amritsar after partition.
In 1949, Nayyar came to Bombay and met the producer-director Krishan Kewal who was making Kaneez. Thus his career started with scoring the background music for Kaneez. In 1951 in Delhi, a close friend recommended Nayyar to Pancholi who was making Nagina starring Nutan and Nasir Khan. He got his first break as a composer in Aasmaan. Followed were the films like 'Chham Chhama Chham' and Guru Dutt's Baaz. Santoshi had dropped Naushad
to assign Nayyar while Guru Dutt too opted for Nayyar. But his films flopped badly so he was ready to pack his bags and leave for Amritsar. But his next film with Guru Dutt, Aar Paar, was a jubilee hit and that made Nayyar more confident. Guru Dutt, as expected, again called him for his Mr. & Mrs. 55. Nayyar worked very hard for the music of Mr. & Mrs. 55 and as a result of which the film became very successful. Songs like 'Jaane Kahan Mera Jigar Gaya Ji..', 'Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata Aa Hi Gai..' and 'Udhar Tum Haseen Ho Idhar Dil Jawan Hai..' became so popular that Nayyar got many films in his hands.
Nayyar was so involved with Asha Bhosle that he neglected other great singers like Geeta Dutt and Lata Mangeshkar. Together they created magic. In about 70 films, they scaled new heights in music. He molded Asha's voice and gave her style and respectability. The Nayyar-Asha team lifted to an unprecedented high in 1957 - 1958 with around nine releases in both years and a string of successful scores like Naya Daur, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Sone Ki Chidiya, Phagun, Howrah Bridge and Raagini. Guru Dutt and Nayyar reunited for Baharen Phir Bhi Aayegi (1966), but Asha was singing instead of Geeta in a Guru Dutt film. Nayyar's luck had begun to run out when it came to the box-office. Despite composing some truly timeless melodies like 'Dil Ki Aawaz Bhi Sun ..' for Joy Mukherji's Humsaaya (1968), the film didn't do well. In the late 1960s, Nayyar fell out with his favourite Mohammad Rafi but managed to conjure memorable songs even with Mukesh, Mahendra Kapoor and Kishore Kumar. Besides music, Nayyar is a great beleiver in Astrology. A very proficient horoscope reader, his study and experience in the subject has made him a very accurate astologer. He's also acquired the knowledge of Homeopathy. He imparts this skill to several people, less fotunate, and, it remains his great service to mankind. Nayyar got Filmfare Award for best music director for the film Naya Daur, in 1958. He got Andhra Pradesh state government award for best music director of the year for his only Telugu film Neerajanam.
He died on 28 January 2007, survived by his wife, three daughters and a son. There were trendsetters before O. P. Naiyyar, there have been pathfinders after him. But O. P. Naiyyar's niche, in our music, remains his own. O. P. Naiyyar's imitators are legion. But there is one, and only one, O. P. Naiyyar: The Original.
Extracts taken from - The Legendary, O P Naiyyar by Vishwas Nerurkar