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Khayyam The Zero-Compromise Composing Genius Is No More

Subhash K . Jha

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 Khayyam  blossomed  into a popular  music-provider  very late in his career. For too long he remained sidelined by a sense of self-worth that made any sort of compromise sacrilegious. Hence in  spite early  indications  of  indubitable brilliance  in films  like Footpaath(Sham-e-gham  ki qasam) in 1954 and the timeless Woh subah kabhito aayegi, Phir na  jikiye mera gustakh nigah ka gila (Phir Subah Hogi ) in 1958, Khayyam lagged  far behind the  other composing  stalwarts  of  the 1950s and 60s  .

That  a composer  of such colossal talent who couldn’t compete  in the Bazaar  of  film sangeet with Shankar-Jaikishan, O P Nayyar  or even Ravi  , left Khayyam embittered. During a large part of  the  1960s Khayyam Saab was  upset with Mohd Rafi over  a trifle and  vowed to replace  the mighty Rafi with the copy Mahendra Kapoor in  his compositions.

Such  egoistic  issues  damaged the genius’ onward progression and  he found himself out of work in Bollywood  during  a large  part  of  the  1960s and 70s when he kept himself busy with non-film albums. Prominent among these  is the album  I Write  I Recite in which Khayyam Saab composed  music  for poems written  and sung by the legendary actresss  Meena Kumari. It remains  a unique classic of its genre.

In  1976, Khayyam made a spectacular return to film composition with  Yash Chopra’s Kabhi Kabhie. The eloquent romantic  shayari  of  Sahir Ludhianvi and  Khayyam’s lilting  melodies  set the  charts ablaze. The title song Kabhikabhie mere dil mein khayaal  aata hai (incidentally it was  composed for  but not used in another film  directed  byChetan Anand)  was  the biggest  hit  of  the year.And Khayyam  Saab was finally a force  to reckon with.

 The support and patronage  of Yash Chopra provided  Khayyam Saab’s career with the  compositional heft that  it needed. He went on to compose brilliant songs for Yash Chopra’s Trishul, Noorie, Nakhuda  and  Sawaal.

Khayyam Saab  followed the  chartbusting  success  of Kabhi Kabhie with the monumental  Umrao Jaan  in  1981.The  album’s  Mujras and Ghazals sung by Asha  Bhosle were a rage and continue to be popular  to this  day. There are  stories  of the arguments that  Khayyam Saab had with Asha  Bhosle over how the song in Umrao Jaanshould be  rendered with the composer insisting that she sing a few octaves  lower than usual. Khayyam Saab won.

Unfortunately some of his  most  accomplished work  in the  post Kabhi Kabhie phase of his career  occurred  in  unsuccessful films. Khayyam’s best  compositions in the the films Shankar Hussain, Bazaar, Anjuman, the  ambitious Razia Sultan  and the unreleased  Zooni never  got  the  recognition they deserved.

Khayyam remains a  beacon  of brilliant possibilities  never fully realized or accomplished. If one  or two of his  great compositions  like Baharon mera jeevan bhi sawaro from Aakhri Khat in 1966 and  Hazaar raahein  mud kedekhin(Thodisi  Bewafaai) in 1980  topped  the charts , a  bounty  of his most brilliant compositions in  the  1960s, 70s and  80s went   unnoticed.

In the 1990s Khayyam Saab withdrew  from the rat race rather than  do the  kind of work he was asked to  do.

“I am happy with the  little that I do these days,” he told me  in 2007. “The work I do is  the work I want to do. Nowadays  that is not  the way  the  film industry works.”

The  Best  Of Khayyam

1.     Wohsubah kabhi toh aayegi: Phir Subah Hogi(1958)

2.     Jeet  hi lenge baazi hum  tum: Shola  Aur Shabnam(1961)

3.     Mere chanda mere nanhe: Aakhri Khat(1966)

4.     Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein: Kabhi Kabhie(1975)

5.     Tu mere saath rahega munne: Trishul(1978)

6.     Maana teri nazar mein tera pyar hum nahin: Khandaan(1979)

7.     Tu hi saagar hai tu hi kinara(Sankalp)

8.     Hazaar raahein: Thodisi Bewafaai(1980)

9.     Apne aap raaton mein: Shankar Hussain(1977)

10.  Dikhayi diye yun ke bekhud kiya: Baazaar(1982)

11.  Kabhi kissiko muqammal jahan nahin milta: Ahista Ahista(1981)

12.  Dil cheez kya hai: Umrao Jaan(1981)

13.  Ae  dil-e-nadaan: Razia Sultan(1983)

14.  Kuch aur  behak jaaon: Chambal Ki Kasam(1980)

15.  Aaja re aaja re oh mere  dilbar aaja: Noorie(1979)

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