A Memorable Musical Evening in Framingham
By Tahir Ali
Glimpses of a musical program held in Framingham to pay tribute to Omkar Prasad Nayyar
Framingham , MA : I have attended many "Indian/Pakistani" musical events held over the years in the United States as well as in Canada. Most of them are organized by various ethnic societies. The list of the performers include renowned celebrities like Asha Bhosle, Vyjayanthimala, Khalid Mehmood (Talat Mehmood's son), Habib Wali Mohammad, Tahira Syed and Alamgir just to name a few, and other professional singers and dancers as well. In most cases there is always some kind of a feeling of remorse and reservations about the program when it is over: Inadequate sound system, musicians’ out of sync, poor coordination, awful compering and the program starting almost an hour late. The performers, however, under the circumstances do their best, only to complain later about the shortcomings.
So as the infant year 2011 was getting ready to make its debut, the year 2010 was not going to fade into history without leaving a trailing blaze behind either. On a mild evening in mid-December, the Pakistani and Indian communities were gathered in a small hall in Framingham and were anxiously waiting for the master of ceremonies, Siraj Khan, to start the program, and surprisingly within ten minutes of the stated time, he did.
The event was - Aayye Meherbaan - a musical tribute to the legendary music director, Omkar Prasad Nayyar. He was born in Lahore in 1926. He passed away in 2007. Siraj Khan who has great respect for O.P. Nayyar was very well known by the music director and as a result of his friendship and devotion to the legendary music director, Siraj earned the exclusive right to write O.P. Nayyar's biography.
The setup was unique in the sense that the performers were to lend their voices to the music track of the pre-selected O.P. Nayyar's songs - Karaoke style. On the outset it would appear to be a trivial task, the music is already there, the lyrics in front of you, a captive audience comprising of mainly O.P. Nayyar's fans, a competent MC who has not only arranged the songs in a certain order, is also well versed and knows the background of each song - all that aside the performers completely mesmerize the audience with their brilliant performance. What really struck me is the manner in which they sang those songs with such ease, not missing a single beat or a musical note, and that is perhaps one of many things that stood out that evening. The accurate delivery of the songs probably warranted many hours of rehearsal time. Kudos to the entire team - Siraj Khan, the genius behind the program, Jawed Wahidwho assembled the music on his sound system and played it in a timely fashion - song by song, and of course the performers: Sudha Lakshmi Rao, Raghu Saranathan, Sowmya Suri, Salman Dar, Anusha Kulkarni, Selina Banerjee and Ami Shalabh.
Tireless Dedication: Siraj, originally from Pakistan, is the only non-Indian member of the O.P. Nayyar trust. He walked gracefully 'on the runway' proudly pointing out the kurta that he was wearing came from OPN's wardrobe and asked the audience to fasten their seat belts because they were about to embark on a "spiritual journey". Siraj spent many hours putting the event together and it was executed flawlessly, which Siraj attributes to 'team work'. His level of involvement and his excitement is vivid from his expression made during intermission, "I have goose bumps all over my body". Siraj Khan maintains a website dedicated to OP Nayyar ( www.opnayyar.org). His photo with OP Nayyar is taken from that site. The site maintains that OP Nayyar never used Lata Mangeshkar as a singer for his songs, yet he attained fame with great musical hits from films such as: Aaar Paar, CID, Mr & Mrs 55, Taxi Driver, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon, Kashmir ki kali and my all time favorite Dilip Kumar's, Naya Daur.
Siraj introduced another diehard OPN fan, Rohan Pusalkar, who said he enjoyed OPN's company while living with the legendary music director. Rohan made a special trip from India just to attend the program. He brought gifts for everyone in the audience: CD's of OPN songs and 2011 calendars smartly labeled as 'Nayyar Daur’. A couple of dedicated fans were also among the audience, Bipin and Meera Parekh who according to Siraj, had bought their tickets in advance, knowing fully well that on that evening they were supposed to be with their daughter who was expecting delivery any time. The list of dedicated fans does not stop here, Sudha Lakshmi Rao's parent-in-law had recently passed away, and in spite of that Sudha and her husband decided to attend. In her own words, "Siraj was understanding if we could not make it, but we thought it will lift our spirits and take us out of mourning." The program would never have been the same without her, she enchanted the audience with her beautiful voice. Originating from Kashmir, Salman Dar has his own style. He puts himself in the song and actually acts it out, hence adding more charm to the song. Attired in a suit and wearing a hat similar to the one that O.P. Nayyar was always seen wearing, made his performance more entertaining, especially his duets with Sudha Rao. I have known Salman for some time and his taste for memorable moments are captured on photos. At home he has a photo on the wall, of his great grandmother probably in her twenties. The photo was taken in Lahore in 1874. The respect and affection for old memories is clearly reflected in his performance.
The Program: The dilemma in writing this review is how to translate the singing event into words. You really have to be there to fully enjoy the songs. Words alone cannot do full justice to the performers. However, I am including snap shots and some video links of the songs sung that evening.
The first singer of the evening was Sudha who sang Hoon Abhi Main from the film ' Aar Paar' . Then entered Raghu on the stage singing Aanchal mein sajaa lena Kaliyaan - from the musical hit 'Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon'. Raghu was introduced as a diversified singer who could easily sing songs originally sung by Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh or Kishore Kumar. Sudha joined with Raghu next to sing along with him Diwana Hua Badal from the film ' Kashmir ki Kali'. Now that the mood was set by the two, Salman's choice of Jawaniyan ye mast mast bin piye, from ' Tumsa Nahin Dekha' was right up there. Then came the pleasant surprise of the evening that got everyone holding their breath, 11 year old Anusha became an instant hit as she took us down the memory lane singing a golden oldie Kabhi aar kabhi paar. Anusha was next joined in by Sowmya and both sang the beautiful duet Jhuki jhuki pyar ki nazar from the film Johnny Walker. S uun suun Zalima and Jaane kahan mera jigar gya ji were perhaps the most entertaining duet offered by Salman and Sudha, they had the audience laughing and applauding at the same time. Another hit duet came from Sowmya and Sudha when they sang Huzure wala. The Geeta Dutt hit Mera naam chin chin choo from the film Howrah Bridge now became Anusha Kulkarni hit. Siraj pointed out, "Lyricist Qamar Jalalabadi, said many years later that he could not believe that he wrote such atrocious lyrics, which became household material. The lyrics are a concoction of Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, English and even Chinese." Qamar's professional relationship with OP Nayyar existed for 46 years. Other starlets include Selina Banerjee singing Balma khuli hawa mein from 'Kashmir ki Kali', whom Siraj introduced as 'Bangal ki kali', and Ami Shalabh dancing to the song from ' Howrah Bridge': Aayye Meherbaan sung by Sudha. Siraj thought of everything, a chorus, a medley - Chal akela sung by Raghu, originally sung by Mukesh in the film 'Sambandh' - A medley of OP Nayyar songs that have a horse gallop in the background like ( Tumsa Nahi Dekha, piya piya piya, zara haule haule, ye chand sa roshan chera, maahng ke saath tumara...) - and lastly Raghu ended the program by singing OP Nayyar's first hit, Preetam Aan Milo originally sung by C.H. Atma. The lyrics of this timeless hit song was reportedly written by OP Nayyar's wife. To give the song a dramatic effect the lights in the hall were turned off and instead light from the ignited flames ( dia's) illuminated the room and the audience was asked to sing along. Siraj managed to keep the audience alert by quizzing them sporadically song after song. Judging from the correct responses from the audience I was surprised that they really knew who the playback singers were, the actors, or what movie the song came from, etc.
Although none of the performers were professional singers yet they sang well, and between all seven of them they managed to deliver 28 songs.
The evening came to an end and the audience appeared to have enjoyed the whole show sitting on the floor with elongated pillows - I am sure the words of the song Bhaite bhaite jeene ka sahara ho gaya was now making sense to them. One last note, Siraj Khan also joined Sudha to sing the song from 'CID' - Ankhon hi ankhon mein Ishara ho gya.