Stars behind the clouds: 20 OP Nayyar classics that never made it to the big screen

Although never seen on screen, these 20 ghost songs composed by OP Nayyar still shine bright, testifying to a Southasian musical genius who was born in Lahore, 16 January 1926, and died in Mumbai, 28 January 2007

By Siraj Khan

26 January 2023: The name of composer OP Nayyar is synonymous with the Golden Age of Bollywood movies – the 1950s to 1970s. Or more accurately, with the music of the Hindustani films made in Bombay as it was then called. 

Music arguably played a bigger role in these movies than the stars or the story. So much so that producers would get the songs composed even before starting to film. Professional playback singers pre-recorded the songs, which the actors lip synced. 

But since the music component was still intimately connected to the movie’s storyline, the songs and music were created keeping the script in mind. Sometimes a soundtrack became more popular than the movie itself. Producers began releasing the film’s soundtrack on the radio, as tapes or CDs before launching the film itself. The songs became a marketing and publicity tool, their popularity or otherwise determining box-office trajectory.

The 1960s and 1970s were marked by relative stability and technical advances that led to rising standards of recording quality. Singers like sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, besides Geeta Dutt, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Hemant Kumar and others were the mainstay of the playback singing scene.

Invisible songs

Music lovers and filmgoers loved maestro OP Nayyar’s unique trailblazing, flowing style. With a high ratio of popular songs on the charts, he commanded the highest fees for much of his career from the 1950s up to the early ’70s. His spectacular success is evident in the scores of movies remembered not for their cast or directors, but for his songs, which younger vocalists enjoy performing on stage even today.

With that as a backdrop, imagine that at no less than twenty of his songs were dropped from various films. Some were recorded and picturised but not used on screen. Others were recorded but never picturised at all. Some were barred by the Censor Board and are not available on movie DVDs. 

And yet many of these “invisible” songs, despite never being screened in cinema halls, are partly, sometimes even mostly, responsible for a film’s commercial success.

Here they are in chronological order, along with the reasons they were dropped from a film, where such information could be verified. There are some for which I could find no confirmed reasons on why they were dropped.

1. Koi jab dard ka mara (1955)

Shammi Kapoor first met Geeta Bali during the filming of Miss Coca Cola, a musical whodunit in which she plays a nightclub dancer called Miss Coca Cola. A year older than Shammi Kapoor and already an established star, Geeta Bali disliked Shamshad Begum’s voice picturised on her and had the song removed at the eleventh hour. Interestingly, the lead couple got married soon afterwards.

2. Zara si baat ka huzoor ne (1955) 

A nice peppy song sung by Asha Bhosle came under the scissors when the movie Musafirkhana was deemed too long. Leading lady Shyama was not happy with the cut.

3. Jata kahan hai deewane (1956)  

This Geeta Dutt nugget, considered by many (including myself) as one of OPN’s best, is from the noir thriller C.I.D. One musical sequence involved Dev Anand, a police officer, and a mysterious woman played by Waheeda Rehman. This song was removed in the final version of the film because of the Censor Board’s objection. It was also banned from All India Radio, for reasons that puzzle people even today. 

Waheeda Rehman has said in an interview that it was her ‘sensual’ eyes accompanying the line “Sab kuch yahan hai sanam” (everything is here, my love) that the Censor Board objected to. Decades later, the song finally made its screen debut in the film Bombay Velvet in 2015, re-recorded as old wine in a new bottle.

4. Bhool ja ae dil pyar ke din  (1956) 

One of OPN’s most mesmerising compositions and also one of his own favourites. The script of the flop movie Hum Sub Chor Hein was revised and the song never picturised. Nobody remembers the film or even the name of the heroine, but Asha Bhosle’s soulful rendition will still haunt anyone who hears it even once.

5. Ik deewana aate jaate (1956) 

This song was penned by Sahir Ludhianvi and recorded for the hit movie Naya Daur. Although dropped at the editing stage, it remains a classic.

6. Chhota sa baalma (1958) 

One of OPN’s few raga-based compositions, perhaps one of Asha Bhosle’s best renditions. Penned by Qamar Jalalabadi, it was picturised but removed from the movie Raagini. Still, it remains one the film’s most remembered songs.

7. Pyara pyara hai sama (1960)

Film Kalpana. Singers: Asha Bhosle and M. Rafi. Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan.

8. Idhar dekh mera dil  (1960)

Film: Jaali Note. Singers: Asha Bhosle and Shamshad Begum. Lyrics: Anjaan.

9. Duniya pakki 420 (1960)

10. Kitni badal gayee hai (1960) 

11. Idhar mein khubsoorat hoon (1960)

No less than 14 songs were recorded for Basant and if that itself wasn’t a record, the ten Bhosle-Rafi duets certainly were. By the same token, the high number of dropped songs must also be some sort of a dubious record. Something went seriously wrong here, but we don’t know what.

12. Poochho na hamein (1960)  

Again, one wonders why the best song of the film Mitti Mein Sona would be dropped from the screening. Over 60 years later, this melancholic song embellished with elegant piano interludes, remains fresh even today. 

13. Yeh duniya rahe na rahe kia pata (1960) 

OPN’s alliance with the brilliant lyricist SH Bihari took off right here. Bihari got only one song to write out of seven, and even that was eventually not picturised. This did not prevent the establishment of the rock-like foundation that developed between the two. Their musical partnership yielded 94 hit songs and 25 films over the next 16 years. Asha Bhosle’s delivery is superlative. 

14. Mein pyar ka rahi hoon (1962)

One of the most popular duets of the year, OP Nayyar remembered it often as one of his most rehearsed songs, because it wasn’t easy to sing. Just one word ‘ghabraoon’ (worried) just wouldn’t sound the way OPN wanted. When it finally did, it turned out to be a musical gem. Yet, among 10 great songs of the film Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, it  was this one that was dropped.

15. Zulf ki chhaon mein (1963)

Many reportedly re-watched the film Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon because they thought that they had missed this song in their first viewing. The highly romantic duet by Bhosle and Rafi, which many other composers tried to copy with variations but without success, did not make it to the screen.

16. Balma khuli hawa mein (1964) 

17. Phir thes lagi dil ko (1964)

These lovely and lively Asha Bhosle solos were produced for Sharmila Tagore’s debut film Kashmir ki Kali. Tagore was unable to do justice to the first song, particularly the word “behekna”. However, lyricist SH Bihari made his mark with other songs in the film. The second song got dropped due to changes in the script.

18. Humne to dil ko aap ke (1965)   

A lovely lilting duet from Mere Sanam, which only Rafi and Bhosle could do justice to. 

19. Honton pe hansi (1966)

Considered by many of OPN’s faithful fans as one of the maestro’s best duets. The producer of the film Sawan ki Ghata reportedly wanted to use this song in his next film, but the reality remains a mystery.

20. Chein se humko kabhi (1973) 

This classic sung by Asha Bhosle and penned by SH Bihari for the film Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye was recorded sometime in 1972. By then it was apparent that the magical Bhosle-Nayyar combo was nearing its end, both professionally and personally. It turned out to be their swan song, bringing to a sad end one of the most brilliant partnerships ever in Hindustani cinema history – a musical romance that lasted 14 years, ending in August 1972.

Never picturised, the song was removed from the film even before the shooting stage began. It still became a milestone creation, marking the parting of ways between Bhosle and Nayyar. To quote a line from the film: Aap ne jo hai diya woh toh kisi ne na diya (What you’ve given me, no one could possibly give me).

Paradoxically, Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye was a mediocre dacoit potboiler, one of many played by Sunil Dutt. Hence, a song of this quality, even if included, may have gone against the film’s character. 

The story did not end there. Chain Se Humko Kabhi went on to win Asha Bhosle the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback singer for that year. By then the duo had broken up and Bhosle did not turn up to the award ceremony. Since she was not present when the Best Female Playback Singer award was announced, the organisers called on the song’s composer OP Nayyar to accept the award on her behalf. He had no choice but to accept it. 

Later, while returning home with SH Bihari, he rolled down the window and flung the trophy out, and it shattered against an electric lamp-post. That loud echo late at night also symbolised the dramatic end of an amazing musical partnership, now part of Bollywood folklore. And who cares about Rekha in the female lead!

Still, it serves as a reminder of what incredible heights Asha Bhosle and OP Nayyar achieved together. 

No one has been able to come even close.

Karachi-born, Boston-based Siraj Khan is a connoisseur of Southasian film music. A global finance and audit specialist by profession, he has written scripts and directed concerts in USA, Southasia and UAE. He has also been recognised for his work towards women empowerment and services to children and youth.

This is a Sapan News Network syndicated feature available to use with due credit.

Note on Southasia as one word: Following the lead of Himal Southasian, Sapan uses ‘Southasia’ as one word, “seeking to restore some of the historical unity of our common living space, without wishing any violence on the existing nation states”. Writing Sapan like this rather than all caps makes it a word that means ‘dream’.

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