Omkar Prasad Nayyar (January 16, 1926 – January 28, 2007) was a famous Indian film music director and composer born in Lahore, India, what is now in modern day Pakistan. He was particularly acclaimed for his peppy numbers.
Opee 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.
Opee 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, Opee seemed to enjoy those epithets.
During the 1950s, the state-controlled All India Radio found Opee 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 Opee'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.
Opee never worked with Lata Mangeshkar, the melody queen in Bollywood music. After a breakup with Mohammed Rafi, Opee started to work with Mahendra Kapoor, an upcoming 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, Opee had composed the song, Chala Akelaa, Chala Akelaa, which Mukesh had sung, and it had become a national hit. 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 Opee's compositions, displaying much depth of feelings, and provided cadence and rhythm to Opee'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.
Opee recognized very early in the career of Kishore Kumar his talent as a singer. Both movies, Baap Re Baap and Raagini contain many Kishore Kumar hits in the inimitable Opee style. Regrettably, a cordial relationship between Opee and Kishore Kumar did not endure. Op did produce great hits ith "shamshad Begum" noably kajara Mohbattawala" even when she was not in demand. He also recorded the memorable due "Meri nindo me tum meri khwabo me tum" with "shamshad begum and "kishorekumar" In the black-and-white movie era, Madhubala, who could provide a distinct, stylized performance for Opee's songs became Opee's favorite heroine. After her untimely death, heroines like Vyjayanthimala, Mala Sinha, Padmini, Asha Parekh, and Sharmila Tagore lip-synced several of Opee-Asha Bhosle numbers, and a large number of those songs gained high popularity. Opee-Asha Bhosle's stylish songs, Phir Wohi Dil Layaa Hoon and Aankhonse Jo utree Hai Dil Main which were lip-synced by Asha Parekh, remain memorable after forty years.
Opee and Asha Bhosle parted ways in 1974, and that parting impacted Opee for the rest of his life. After the breakup, he tried to work with several good singers, including Dilraj Kaur, Alka Yagnik, Krishna Kale, Vani Jayaram, and Kavita Krishanmurthy, but 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.
On the part of Asha, she went on to become a widely popular singer while working with many other composers, including, most notably, R D Burman, but the special lilt in her voice which was there when she sang Opee's compositions did not seem to be there anymore.
Majrooh Sultanpuri and Sahir Ludhianvi wrote some memorable lyrics for some of Opee's earlier compositions such as in Naya Daur. However, generally keeping clear of established song writers of his time, Opee experimented with different upcoming 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 Opee would have in his mind. In the tradition of the great composers in India, Opee was fond of the poetic flourish of the Urdu language for his more serious songs. The Rafi rendering, Dilaki Aawaaz Bhi Sun, Mere Fasanepe Na Jaa in Humsaya is one of Opee's haunting scores.
Opee's wife, Saroj Mohini Nayyar, is an accomplished lyricist. She wrote the C H Atma/Geeta Dutt song, Preetam Aan Milo, which launched Opee into the big league of Bollywood composers.
Opee 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 Opee's composition, Churi Bane Kanta Bane Oo My Son in Jaali Note. Comedian Johnny Walker sang Opee'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 . ''
Rhythm was Opee'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 Opee-Asha Bhosle tune was Aao Huzoor Tumko Sitaaromein Le Chale in Kismet. The last Opee composition which Asha sang was Chainase 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 Opee classic, and it won Asha a Filmfare Best Playback Singer Award. According to some critics, Opee did not choose his movies well and "wasted" some of his superb tunes on B-grade actors like Joy Mukherjee, Biswajeet, and Babita. Though Opee was still active in his musical career in the 1960s and '70s, to the regrets of his fans, Opee did not compose music for the then superstar Rajesh Khanna or budding Amitabh Bachchan. Opee also did not provide music for movies starring heroes of the day like Sanjeev Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, and Jitendra. Again, with the exception of Rekha, Opee did not compose music for heroines like Hema Malini, Rakhee, or Zeenat Aman, who were all well known around the time he could have made a re-entry as a top composer.
The other Bollywood maestro, S D Burman, was far more successful as a composer. Twenty years Opee's senior, the mild mannered Sachin Dev Burman composed exquisite tunes for a succession of Bollywood stars despite a long-lasting breakup with Lata Mangeshkar. With Asha Bhosle singing for Nargis his mellifluent composition, Koi Aayaa Dhadkan Kehti Hai in Lajwanti, S D Burman had all but declared that he was Asha's new mentor. Opee held Burman in high esteem and was reported to have said that the Burman-Lata solo for Waheeda Rehman in Guide, Aaj Phir Jeeneki Tamannaa Hai, was the best ever song in Hindi for its sheer evocative beauty and matching lyrical lines. (Unfortunately, the recording of that song was of mediocre quality.)
Apart from Hindi films , Opee also composed music for a few South Indian movies, including Neerajanam in Telugu.
Opee faded from the Bollywood scene in early 1970s, though he made a comeback attempt in the 1990s.
For some years before his death, Opee had very unfortunately 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.)
Opee passed away on January 28, 2007 through cardiac arrest. He is survived by his wife, three daughters, and a son.
On his death, tributes came from many prominent Bollywood figures, including Lata Mangeshkar, B R Chopra, Shammi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore, Mumtaz, Mahesh Bhatt, Khayyam, Shakti Samanta, Sonu Nigam, Ravindra Jain, and Anu Malik.
He once told Mahendra Kapoor that he would not hire him for a song, because he "only made songs for his (Kapoor's) guru i.e. Mohammed Rafi". However, when Opee and Rafi had a fallout, it was Kapoor who got to sing a number of songs for Opee.
Opee is sometimes criticized for repeating his own tunes in different films, and some new compositions did have a ring of familiarity to them.
Mumtaz, the yesteryear heroine, was forthright when she said that Opee was a brilliant maestro and that she knew for long that many others had tried repeatedly to copy his style. To Mumtaz that indeed was the real tribute to Bollywood's famous rebel. Imitation was really the praise due. But Opee's wizardry was his own.
Did he listen to his own music in his twilight years? Never, Opee declared, adding he did not have a collection of his own music! "Once I have made them, I am finished with them"! A rare sentiment indeed!
Despite not being a trained classical musician, Opee had a great ear for music. Witness the classical based "Dekho bijli dole..." and "Tu hai mera prem devta..."
It is also widely acknowledged that when a well-known Opee tune is being played many just impulsively listened in. Even his critics admit his tunes had an arresting, declarative quality.
In the last few years he was often fond of invoking the name of Lord Krishna.
It has been reported he turned a homeopath helping the needy with his medicines free of cost.