Monday, August 19, 2019

Khayyam: A poet amongst music directors



Yesterday (19th Aug 2019) came the news that Khayyam saab has passed away at a ripe old age of 92. With him, an era has truly ended, with all the music directors of his times having passed away earlier. This is a humble tribute to this wonderful music director.

The first time I heard the name Khayyam was when 'Kabhi Kabhi' was released. I was in school those days and even then I had this habit of checking out who the music director was for a particular movie. The posters of those times used to have this clearly marked. R D Burman, Kalyanji Anandji, Shankar Jaikishen, Laxmikanth Pyarelal were some of the well known names during those times. So I was seeing a totally new name now. Khayyam.

The songs of 'Kabhi Kabhi' were major hits. Mainly the title song and 'main pal do pal ka shayar hoon'. Everyone was fascinated by these songs. Listen to how the music and lyrics merge in 'main pal do pal ka shayar hoon'. Lyrics of Sahir.



Amitabh, by then, was on the ascendancy as an angry young man. He did do films earlier "Chupke Chupke' and Mili' but at this time, his action image had caught people's imagination. Yash Chopra took a risky bet on giving him a mellow social drama instead of the standard revenge fare. The risk succeeded. Along with Yash Chopra's direction, his choice of locales, it was Khayyam's music which enabled people to connected to the movie and make it a hit in the box office.

The next time I noticed Khayyam's name in the poster was in 'Trishul'. It was a bit of a surprise seeing Khayyam score for Amitabh films since we generally saw LP, KA or RDB score music for his films. The music was quite different from the standard music of Amitabh films and we should thank Yash Chopra for giving Khayyam a chance to compose such excellent melodies. 'Trishul' though was not a typical Khayyam score is my opinion. The songs were quite big hits but the strong Khayyam signature you saw in other songs was missing in this movie.

Then came 'Noorie', whose title song was another hit and this carried the signature of Khayyam saab. I think this was the debut film of Poonam Dhillon. The film and the song became big hits. Lyrics by Jan Nissar Akhtar.



Noorie was one of those innocent love stories with fresh faces. Such stories appear from time to time. They commonly depend on certain facts: the newness of the lead pair, a strong story and good music. Even now, such movie happen once in a while. Here Poonam Dhillon and Farooque Sheik wer the fresh faces,  the story was a romantic tragedy helmed by Yash Chopra and Khayyam provided the music. The music did help the movie a lot and this was also a much spoken about movie of those times.

I found out more about Khayyam when I moved to a hostel to do my graduation. It is here that I discovered some amazing songs of Khayyam and then on I went looking for them. The first song that made a great impact on me was 'sham-e-gham-ki-kasam' from 'Footpath'. Wiki credits both Majrooh and Sardar Jafri as lyricist.



I initially heard this song in 'Best of Talat Mehmood' tape and was immediately blown away by both the lyrics and the tune. This was one of early movies of Khayyam which established him as a Music Director of repute and people started noticing that a new melody maker is on the horizon. The excellent lyrics, the tender voice of Talat Mahmood and Khayyam's signature style of tuning a poem give us an immortal melody.

Another discovery around the same period was this angst ridden melody, 'chino-arab-hamara' from 'Phir Subah Hogi'. Lyrics of Sahir.



The lyrics are typical Sahir. This movie was an adaptation of 'Crime and Punishment' of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, generally considered as of the greatest novels of the world. Sahir brings in an anger to the song as only he can. The way Khayyam tunes the lyrics ensures you get to clearly the sarcastic tone of the lyrics. Raj Kappor and Khayyam is not a combination you see often. This was the one time it happened.

The other discovery was this Mohd. Rafi gem from 'Shankar Hussain', 'kahin ek maasom nazuk si ladki' . Lyrics of Kamal Amrohi



As you can hear, the whole song is about how the poem is enhanced by the music. This film also had a couple of lovely Lata numbers, 'aap hyun faaslon se' and 'apne aap raaton ko'

Another Rafi beauty which established Khayyam's reputation as a melody maker. From the film, 'Shola Aur Shabnam', the song 'jaane kya dhoondthi rahti hai'. Lyrics by Kaifi Azmi.



'tum apna gham apni pareshani mujhe de do' from 'Shagun'. Sung by Jagjit Kaur, his wife. Lyrics by Sahir



Khayyam married Jagit Kaur in 1954. She was Punjabi and Khayyam was a Muslim. Supposed to be one of the first inter communal marriages in Indian film industry. They lived together as a very happy and contended couple. There is an interview with them when Khayyam had turned 90. The way the couple carried themselves, the respect they had for each other and the deep understanding between them comes out very well in this interview. It is slightly long time but will be worth watching for this wonderful couple.



After 'Noorie', the next movie whose songs were liked by all was 'Bazaar'. The movie too created ripples. 'phir chidi raat baat phoolon ki' from this movie. Lata and Talat Aziz. Lyrics by Makhdoom Mohiuddin



Baazar was directed by Sagar Sarhadi and starred some of the key actors of the parallel cinema movement: Naseerudin Shah, Smita Patil, Farooque Sheik and Supriya Pathak. Based in Hyderabad, this was a tragedy which spoke about girls being married off to rich expatriates in Gulf without their consent. The movie was acclaimed critically and the music became very famous. Other than 'phir chidi raat', Lata's 'dikayi diye to bekhud kiya' and Bhupinder's 'karoge yaad to har ik baat yaad ayegi' used to be played regularly in those days.

Kishore is a singer you wouldn't immediately associate with Khayyam the way you would associate Rafi or Talat, given the soft touch which Khayyam gave in his songs. Yet, Kishore has given some lovely songs with Khayyam. Here is one such from the movie 'Dil-e-Nadan'. 'chandni raat mein ik bar tujhe dekha hai'



'Dil-E-Nadan' was the remake of the hit Tamil movie, 'Ilamai Unjaladugiradhu'. Sridhar who directed the Tamil movie also directed the Hindi version which starred Rajesh Khanna and Shatrugan Sinha. Unfortunately, the result in Hindi was exactly opposite that in Tamil. In Tamil and Telugu the movie was a big hit, in Hindi it was a major flop.


I have kept the most popular film for the last. Though Khayyam has so many great films and melodies against his name, the one film that always crops up when you mention Khayyam saab is Umrao Jaan. It was a path breaking film and all those associated with the film profited from it. Muzzafar Ali, Rekha, Asha and Khayyam all got National Awards.  The film will forever be associated with Khayyam for his amazing music. Each song a gem. I will now post two songs from this movie instead of one. Lyrics were by Sharyar, who was very choosy when it came to writing lyrics for movies. He and Muzzafar Ali were friends and classmates. So he gave some amazing poetry for this movie.

'yeh kya jagah hai doston' by Asha Bhosle.



'zindagi jab bhi tere' by Talat Aziz



If you were to analyze these songs which I had posted, you will notice one thing, how the poetry stands out. Khayyam worked with some great poets and tuned their poetry to perfection. There were lot of music directors in olden days who first wanted the lyrics to be written and would only then set tune. The would never give a tune first. K V Mahadevan is known for it. It is said that he has never set the tune first for even a single song. MSV had set lot of Kannadasan's lyrics to music. I think music directors like Anil Biswas also had the lyrics first approach.

The one way that Khayyam differed from them was that most of them wanted to give us a tune. Their idea was to set tune to the poetry. 'Tune' being the operative word here. Khayyam on the other hand gave us poetry, melodious poetry. He enhanced the poetry with his tune but what we got was a poem. Musical poem yes, but a poem nevertheless. His music so enhanced the poem that if you were to take away his music, the poem's effect would diminish and yet you are not overwhelmed by the music. This can happen only if the music director has a very good ear for poetry and language. Khayyam saab did have both of them as his songs demonstrate to us again and again. His love for the language ensured we heard some great lyrics in his songs and his respect for poetry ensured we heard the poem very clearly. That is why I say that Khayyam was a poet amongst music directors. He did not give us tunes, he gave us enhanced poetry. You can find such sensitivity in some songs of other music directors as well but they are rare. Like, 'malargal nanandhana paniyale' of  K V Mahadevan, 'yeh kaisi ajab daastan' of Sajjad Hussain.

I will leave you with this clip. In this Rajkumar pulls Anil Biswas's leg, Naushad give his opinion on the current music. Then Khayyam saab picks up the mike to honor his seniors, telling as to who composed the songs and ending with, "It will be injustice if we didn't tell their names". What a great gentleman. (Wish all the sites give credit to the lyricist of the songs. Most sites just put the singer and MD's names. I am sure Khayyam saab would have been unhappy with this situation)



We have lost a great music director, an excellent gentleman and a man who possessed great aesthetic sense. May he rest in peace.

Khayyam: A poet amongst music directors

Yesterday (19th Aug 2019) came the news that Khayyam saab has passed away at a ripe old age of 92. With him, an era has truly ended, wi...