When a Punjabi and a Bihari united to turn music into magic

When a Punjabi and a Bihari united to turn music into magic

O.P. Nayyar  – January 16, 1926–January 28, 2007

By Siraj Khan

January is unofficially “O.P. Nayyar month”. Aman Ki Asha commemorates the great composer every year with a piece by his spiritual son Siraj Khan. This year the focus is on Nayyar’s musical partnership with S.H. Bihari

When OPN fans tap their feet to his amazing mind-blowing compositions, they may not be fully aware of the time that the maestro spent on getting every word to blend in for the melody being created, as well as what would end up on the screen.

Well versed in Urdu poetry but unable to read or write Hindi, O.P. Nayyar would often provide the mukhda or key words to the lyricist, at times even creating complete stanzas. However, he always let the lyricist take full credit for his compositions. Even the sad ones are saturated with romance and flow.

During his professional life, he worked with no less than 37 lyricists but only 6 or 7 were able to weave the sentiments in the lyrics he wanted incorporated into the songs he composed. Many of his hit songs are based on the work of poets like Majrooh Sultanpuri, Qamar Jalalabadi, Janisar Akhtar, Aziz Kashmiri and Sahir Ludhianvi, and towards the end of his career, lyricists like Noor Dewasi and Ahmed Wasi. Interestingly, the only song that Kaifi Azmi ever penned for OPN was the title song of Baharein Phir Bhi Ayengi, sung by Mahendra Kapoor.

S. H. Bihari

But it was OPN’s musical partnership with lyricist Shamsul Huda Bihari (SHB) that takes centre stage, not far behind in importance than OPN’s romantic partnership with Asha Bhosle. It was this partnership with SHB which turned music into magic.

Born in 1922 in Bihar, SHB was about four years older than OPN and had worked with several composers, with a fair amount of success, but without creating a sensation. That changed when OPN entered his life. The film Basant (1960) has 14 songs, of which Rafi and Asha Bhosle sing 10 duets — a record in itself.

Of these songs, S.H. Bihari wrote only one, his very first for OPN, Nainon Mein Suraj Ki Kirnein, picturized on Shammi Kapoor and Nutan, was no chart-buster. But this is where OPN and SHB forged a relationship which continued until the poet’s death in 1987. Their legacy of songs created together remains, long after both have departed this world.

They did 94 songs together in 25 films. This piece attempts to highlight just a few of them, where the brilliance of SHB’s lyrical poetry is just particularly compelling. Some nuggets selected from the treasure chest:

1.         Yeh duniya rahe na rahe kya pata

(Whether the world stays or not, who knows)

A mother has these words for her son in the film Mitti Mein Sona (1960)

Paseena bhi tera gire ga jahan, baha doongi mein khoon apna wahan

Dikha doongi kia maa ki hai maamta, mera pyar tujh se rahe ga sada

2.         Bohat shukriya badi meherbani

(Truly grateful to you)

Leading lady Sadhana responds to her man in the last stanza with these words in Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962).

Mujhe darr hai mujh mein ghuroor aa na jaye, lagoon jhoomne mein suroor aa na jaye,

Kaheen dil na mera ye tareef sun kar, tumhara banay aur mujhe bhool jaye

3.         Isharon isharon mein dil lene wale

(Taking my heart away without telling me)

S.H. Bihari had this to say about the expression of unspoken love in Kashmir ki Kali (1964)

Mohabbat jo karte hein wo mohabbat jatate nahi,

Dhadkanein apne dil ki kabhi kisi ko sunate nahi,

Maza kia raha jab ke khud kar diya ho,

Mohabbat ka izhar apni zubaan se

4.         Woh hans ke mile hamse hum pyar samajh baithe

(He met me with such a smile that I thought it was love)

A gem from filmmaker Guru Dutt’s last production, Baharein Phir Bhi Ayengi (1966), in which he also played the hero’s role, a reporter. He died when the film was only 10% of completed. The film was completed with Dharmendra in the lead. Leading lady Mala Sinha plays the chief editor who falls in love with him, a woman who expresses regret and pain with these words:

Aisee to na thi qismat apna bhi koi hota

Kyun khud ko mohabbat ka haqdaar samajh baithe


5.         Na jane kyun hamare dil ko tumne dil nahi samjha

(You never considered my heart as a heart)

When love not only becomes blind, but the mind too becomes incoherent. Though presented in a light-hearted mode, the message given here, from the film Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, is thought provoking.

Hamara pyar dekho aur hamara hausla dekho,

Mohabbat ka junoon humko kahan tak le chala dekho,

Tumhi ne jaan le li aur tumhein qatil nahi samjha

6.         Phil miloge kabhi is baat ka wada karlo

(Promise me that you will meet me again one day)

The beauty of the incomplete and the imperfect is reflected in SHB’s lyrical poetry in this duet from Baharein Phir Bhi Ayengi (1966).

Dil ki har baat adhoori hai, adhoori hai abhi

Apni ik aur mulaqaat zaroori hai abhi


7.         One Two Three Baby Ya Ya Ya

Who would expect a gem of a couplet embedded in a random situational song in Kismat (1968) – the poetry so good that it could even be recited in a mushaira and the picturization of the song so bad that Biswajeet should probably be convicted for overacting.

Zara ched do aisa naghma koi ke sari faza gungunane lage

Woh dil jo ke ulfat se anjan hai wafa ke tarane sunane lage

8.         Mera pyar woh hai ke mar kar bhi tumko

(My love is such that it will not leave you even after death)

When love becomes overly possessive, it can even overflow and create problems with faith. Mahendra Kapoor sings for Ye Raat Phir Na Ayegi (1966)

Tumhein chheen le merI bahon se koi, mera pyar yoon besahara nahIn hai

Tumhara badan chandni aake chhu le, mere dil ko ye bhi gavara nahin hai

Khuda bhi agar tumse aake mile to, tumhari qasam hai mera dil jalega

The Censor Board banned the song for the use of the word Khuda (God) and the line had to be changed to Koyee bhi agar … to get the desired clearance.


9.         Hai duniya usi ki zamana usi ka

(This world belongs to those who have made love sacred)

It is only when you lose yourself that you find true love. Some of the most effervescent words of sentiments, found their way into film poetry through SHB. Rafi singing in Kashmir ki Kali.

Luta jo musafir dil ke safar mein

Hai jannat ye duniya uski nazar mein

Usi ne hai loota maza zindagi ka

Mohabbat me jo ho gaya ho kisi ka…

…Hai sajde ke qabil har wo deewana

Ke jo ban gaya ho tasweer e jana

Karo ehtraam uski deewangi ka

Mohabbat me jo ho gaya ho kisi ka

10.       Chein se humko kabhi

S.H. Bihari’s song for the film Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye may have as many stories attached to it as all of Mughal-e-Azam. Both Asha Bhosle and O.P. Nayyar knew that everything was over between them when they recorded it. It was their swan song. When it was first played in November 1973 on Radio Ceylon, it wasn’t common knowledge then that it had been removed from the film. Here are the lyrics:

Chein se ham ko kabhi aap ne jeene na diya

Zehr bhi chaha agar, pina to peene na diya

Chand ki ruth mein raat ki dulhan jab jab aayegi

Yaad hamari aap ke dil ko tadpa jayegi

Pyaar ke jalte zakhmon se jo dil mein ujala hai

Ab to bicchad ke aur bhi zyada badhne wala hai

Aap ne jo hai diya, voh to kisi ne na diya

Zehr bhi chaha agar, pina to peene na diya

Aap ka gham jo is dil mein din raat agar hoga

Soch ke yah dam ghut-ta hai, phir kaise guzar hoga

Kaash na aati apni judai, maut hi aa jaati

Koi bahaane chein hamari rooh to paa jati

Ik pal hansna kabhi dil ki lagi ne na diya…

Here’s the translation:

You have never let me live in peace.

Yet even when I desired for poison, you did not let me drink it.

When the night arrives as a bride at the moon’s prime

My memories will continue to cause you heartache

The light which in my heart from our love’s burning wounds

Will now continue to shine even brighter after we have parted

What you have given to me, no one else has been able to replicate

Yet, even if I were to ask to die by poison, you did not let me drink it.

To bear your sorrow in my heart all day and night

The very thought of this is suffocating, how will I endure it, I wonder

At least my restless soul would have at least found solace

At least my restless soul would have at least found solace

Even for a moment, my heart’s emotions have never let me smile…

The years 1973-78 were the most difficult in OPN’s life. He was unable to get a booking for any recording studio, musicians to provide the orchestra or even a chorus singer. No producer was willing to take the risk with him. The aura of revenge and retaliation created against him by his industry enemies was strong and things went downhill. It was only later that he got a few B and C grade films, but by that time the ship had sailed. It was during those depressing times that S.H. Bihari wrote this for OPN, in an attempt to keep his spirits high.

Teri zindagi mohabbat, tera naam hai deewana,

Tere baad bhi karega, tera zikr ye zamana

Tu wo zindagi nahi hai, jise maut khatm karde,

Jise bhool jaye dunya, tu nahi hai wo tarana

(Your life is love, your name is passion

Even after you, your name will live on

Yours is not the life that death can end

Someone the world will forget, you are not that song).

Much earlier, OPN himself had already placed an invisible crown on the head of S. H. Bihari by giving him the unique title of Shayer-e-Azam (the Great Poet). No other poet of Bollywood has been elevated by a top composer to this level.

However, by the time of SHB’s sudden death in February 1987, a cold reality had dawned on both. O.P. Nayyar – the man – was still be alive, but O.P. Nayyar the composer, had played his part and departed from the stage already.

It was good while it lasted, but it was all over now.

A consultant in the global non-profit space by profession, Siraj Khan is a Boston-based world citizen who lives a life without boundaries. He is a connoisseur of South Asian arts and culture, using poetry and music in building bridges. Email [email protected].

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