Mohammed Zahur Hashmi, more popularly known by his adopted name “Khayyam” expired on Monday night leaving behind his grieving wife Jagjeet Kaur and millions of admirers of his soulful music. His work, spanning over a career of almost 70 years, may not be quantitatively very large, but if a composer is to be assessed on the number of classic songs in the entire repertory, Khayyam’s name will appear numero uno!
The recognition and glory didn’t come to him easily. He had to almost wait to reach his midlife before Kabhi Kabhie happened to him! A love saga spanning generations, Khayyam scored a masterpiece by composing all time classics like the title song and my personal favourite, ” main pal do pal ka shayar hoon” for one generation and ever popular and foot tapping ” chahe chale chhurian” and “tere chehre se nazar nahin hatti” for the next generation and he had the nation swooning to his numbers. Seldom in the history of Indian cinema music of a film has been celebrated the way Kabhi Kabhie’s music was , another instance coming to my mind being Pakeezah. Incidentally, if the folklore is to be believed, Khayyam and Jagjeet had facilitated a truce between Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari that led to release of Pakeezah some 10-12 years after start of its production. How Pakeezah won the hearts of cinegoers is a well documented fact and the movie remains an all time favourite classic movie of Bollywood !
Post Kabhi Kabhie came the finest phase for Khayyam when he was at his prolific and mellifluous best composing ditties for blockbuster movies such as Trishul, Noorie, Sawaal, Bazaar, Khandaan, Dard, Thodi Si Bewafai, Razia Sultan etc. The beauty lied in the fact that all these were original compositions based on our rich legacy of traditional folk and ragas and not imitation of previously recorded music. However, a specific mention must be made of “Umrao Jaan”, story of a Lucknow courtesan that gave an altogether different meaning to popular genre of ghazals. Whether it was Dil Cheez Kya hai or justju jiski thi or in aankhon ki masti ke, these compositions by Khayyam rendered soulfully by Asha have acquired cult status. No wonder both Khayyam and Asha won National film award for their respective contribution.
As the Bollywood music changed its mood again to fast beat westernised influence, a fiercely independent minded composer like Khayyam found himself to be misfit in a scenario requiring him to compromise his music! His later years were spent mostly composing music for stray private album or tv serials. In 2012, he faced a personal tragedy when their only son Pradeep died of a heart attack at a very young age. Inspired by their son’s helpful nature, a trust called “Khayyam Jagjeet Kaur Charitable Trust” was set up to help artists and technicians in need.
Someone just sent me a beautiful number sung by Lata from the movie Shankar Hussain ” Aap Yun Faaslon se”. This movie also featured an all time Rafi classic ” Kahin ek masoom nazuk si ladki” and one cannot but wonder how many heart touching, melodious and yet original compositions this non-assuming, simple but disciplined maverick could create in his lifetime. He could have done more work, earned more money and won more laurels, but he worked where he found personal happiness and satisfaction and not mere outward recognition.
It was a life well lived Khayyam Sahab! You may rest in peace in your grave, but your music will continue to spread happiness and peace to your millions of fans!