Asha ‘disowns’ OP Nayyar
I watched with great interest, a special two-part programme on legendary singer Asha Bhonsle on Times Now. I must concede that the effort by this news channel to pay tributes to some of our musicians and singers is indeed commendable. At last there is someone who is trying to recapture the great musical moments of the Indian film industry.
The programmes on Salil Chaudhury and Hemant Kumar were also very interesting. Similarly, other musical memories brought out by Times Now have evoked a tremendous response.
However, I think that producers of such programmes need to do more research and not rely on information provided by just a few. There is no doubt that Asha Bhonsle and her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar have been amongst the greatest singers in this country but music history should be a little more objective and not necessarily from their point of view or from the view point of people they have been close to. The two sisters have outlived most of their contemporaries and God should give them many more years to enrich our music. But over the years, they have apparently developed some biases and prejudices and this should not come in the way of giving an accurate account of things.
The programme on Asha was extremely good but she was hesitant throughout in naming OP Nayyar, the composer who actually was her real mentor. Many in the music world still say that had there been no OP Nayyar, Asha’s talent may have remained latent and undiscovered for many more years. This composer, who died a few years ago was the original rhythm king of the industry and helped in shaping Asha’s career more than RD Burman, also a great composer who later married her.
But Asha in the programme, tried to attribute the success of Naya Daur music to BR Chopra and not its composer who also won his first Filmfare award for his enthralling score for the film. When no one looked at Asha, it was Nayyar who gave her some of the most important breaks. What is very significant is that Nayyar was perhaps the only composer who rose to the top without using Lata’s voice even once. Such was his commitment in promoting Asha.
There is no doubt that Asha sang some of her most memorable songs also for other composers like SD Burman and Ravi, but it was under Nayyar’s baton that she came into her own. There was stiff competition from other singers such as the unmatchable Geeta Dutt and of course Shamshad Begum but Asha remained his favourite.
More than BR Chopra, Asha’s earlier successes were in films produced by Guru Dutt– “Leke Pehla Pehla Pyar“—which she sang with Mohammad Rafi and Shahshad for CID is one such instance. Nayyar used her effectively in Phagun to render some Punjabi tappas with Rafi and a solo, “Piya Piya na lage jiye mora“. Again on the programme she attributed the success of Tum Sa Nahin Dekha music to the producer Nasir Hussain. But forgot to mention that the memorable score was by OP Nayyar.
Subsequently, her best songs– “Aankhon se jo utri hai dil mein” for Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon and “Jaiye aap kahan jayenge” for Mere Sanam were both composed by Nayyar. The lilt and the way the composer used her voice, no one was able to ever replicate it. Even their last song together many years later in Pran Jaya Par Vachan Na Jaye– “Chain se humko kabhi, aap ne jeene na diya” demonstrates their chemistry.
The shortpoint I am trying to make is that both the Mangeshkar sisters should be large hearted and not petty. They should put on record the contribution of composers who helped in putting them right on top. Asha tried to downplay Nayyar’s role in the same manner as Lata had tried to eliminate the contribution of India’s most successful and talented music composers—Shankar Jaikishen in a double album of her best songs released in the early eighties.
There was not a single song by SJ though there were many by Lakshmikant Pyarelal, good composers but subservient to the great Lata. Later she tried to make amends in the video released by the HMV where she acknowledged on record that “there was no one like Shankar Jaikishen”. Obviously they were the greatest and ruled the industry when melody indeed was the king. Not that I am trying to run down other composers who gave us so many haunting numbers but I am going merely by the popularity of this music duo for 22 years starting with Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat. I would not hesitate in stating that had there been no SJ, Raj Kapoor would not have been such a successful filmmaker. They provided soul to his films.
The programme on Asha also did not mention anything about Mohammad Rafi who was India’s most versatile male singer. Regardless of all this, I am a great Asha fan and also believe that Lata is one of the greatest singers this country has produced. But Rafi and Geeta Dutt will always remain my favourites as also Shankar Jaikishen and OP Nayyar. That does not mean I do not appreciate scores by great maestros like Naushad, SD Burman, C Ramachandran, Roshan, Hemant Kumar, Salil Chaudhury, Sajjad, Khayyam, Ghulam Mohammad and Madan Mohan.