In the last week of August last year, my friend Sahana and I were talking about music composer Khayyam. The great man had passed on a week or so earlier, and we were saying how his work hadn’t been recognised or celebrated enough. Indeed, much of his work is lying forgotten today.
I therefore offered to write a series of posts on him and share some of my personal favourites from his entire body of work. But for different reasons, chief among them being sloth, I did not do it.
Over the next fortnight or so, I will write about this great composer in a series of snippets. I won’t post at a set frequency; I shall be whimsically erratic about this. Hope you don’t mind.
In my night sky, Khayyam is right up there with SD Burman. Over the years, both of them have illuminated my life with their soft brilliance.
I think of Khayyam’s music as a beam of moonlight. It doesn’t dazzle you or overpower you in any way. On the contrary, it gently wraps you in its soft folds which you are then reluctant to leave.
Khayyam was a poet among music composers. His music had the same bewitching turns of phrases, insightful pauses, bends and pace as any good poem. And like SD Burman, he was a master of minimalist music: his music said so much with so less.
Because his music had a certain nazaaqat (impossible to translate this into English), filmmakers often sought him out when their themes had anything to do with the finer things of life. In Khayyam’s films, the protagonists and other characters would often be lovers of art and literature. And for the same reason, the songwriters he worked with were attuned to the finer sensibilities of life. In fact, some of them were full time poets for whom films were a diversion. On film posters and sleeve notes of vinyls, tapes and CDs, it was common to see Khayyam’s name written alongside that of Jan Nisar Akhtar, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Naqsh Lyallpuri, Shahryar, Sahir, Kaifi Azmi and Nida Fazli. He even composed songs written by Makhdoom Mohiyuddin and Faiz.
Khayyam was the composer under whose baton Bhupinder sang his debut solo in Hindi films. Before this, he had sung his first ever Hindi film song “Hoke Majboor Mujhe” alongside Rafi, Talat Mehmood and Manna Dey for the film Haqeeqat. Two years later, Khayyam thought Bhupinder was ready for a solo and so, gifted us this soft club-jazz number. The man on the trumpet is Chic Chocolate (Antonio Vaz), a brilliant Goan musician who used to lead a jazz band at Hotel Taj Mahal in Bombay. He often played for Hindi film songs, too.
But who’s the young man strumming the guitar here?
Come, let’s listen to Rut Jawan Jawan from the film Aakhri Khat, which was released in 1966. Incidentally, this is the film where it all began for one Jatin Khanna urf Rajesh Khanna.
This is part of a multi-part personal tribute I am paying to the much-loved music composer Khayyam. If you haven’t read the other parts, please do so now.