Omkar Prasad Nayyar, fondly called O.P.Nayyar or just O.P., was born on 16 January 1926, in Lahore. His father was a superintendent in a Government medical store. O.P. was never interested in studies. Music was his passion. At the age of 11, he was employed by AIR, Jalandhar. When he was just 17, he composed the track ‘Preetam aan milo…’. HMV recorded the song in C.H.Atma’s voice in 1945 and released the 78 rpm EP on Regal.
O. P. Nayyar started his career as a music composer in Bollywood by composing the background score for movies like Kaneez (1949) and Aasmaan (1952). His first soundtrack was also in Aasmaan, followed by Guru Dutt’s Baaz (1953). Unfortunately for Nayyar, in spite of the film having some great songs like ‘Zara saamne aa…’, ‘Maajhi albele…’, ‘Ae dil ae deewaane…’, and ‘Taare chandni afsaane…’, this was Guru Dutt’s weakest film ever.
O.P. then composed for Aar Paar (1954) which was a hit. The album comprised of the song ‘Babuji dheere chalna…’ which is very popular even today. In 1955, O.P. composed the music for Mr. & Mrs. 55, starring Guru Dutt and Madhubala. It comprised the hit song ‘Jaane kahan mera jigar gaya ji…’ sung by Mohd.Rafi and Geeta Dutt, besides other tracks like ‘Chal diye banda nawaaz…’ and ‘Thandi hawa kaali ghata…’. He then gave the music for Baap Re Baap (1955) and Naya Andaz (1956), both starring Kishore Kumar, and for Hum Sab Chor Hain (1956). O.P.’s next big compositions included ‘Aankhon hi aankhon mein ishaara…’, ‘Leke pehla pehla pyar…’ and ‘Kahin pe nigaahen kahin pe nishaana…’ from the famous Dev Anand – starrer C.I.D. (1956). With Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), starring Shammi Kapoor, O.P. gained more popularity. The tracks ‘Sar pe topi laal…’, ‘Yun toh humne laakh haseen…’ and ‘Chupne wale saamne aa…’ were instant hits. After that, O.P. never looked back.
In 1957, O.P. also composed the music for the blockbuster Naya Daur, starring Dilip Kumar. All songs including ‘Uden jab jab zulfein teri…’, ‘Maang ke saath tumhara…’ and ‘Yeh desh hai veer jawaanon ka…’ were big hits. He then composed for few films like Mai Baap (1957) and Sone Ki Chidiya (1958) which didn’t do too well. Phagun (1958), starring Bharat Bhushan and Madhubala, was another hit album by O.P., with popular tracks like ‘Ek pardesi mera dil le gaya…’ and ‘Piya piya piya na laage mora jiya…’. His next compositions were for Howrah Bridge (1958). ‘Mera naam chin chin chu…’ sung by Geeta Dutt became a huge sensation. O.P. then composed the music for films like Do Ustad (1959), Kalpana (1960) and Jaali Note (1960), which weren’t that famous. Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962), starring Joy Mukherjee and Sadhna, comprised of hit songs like ‘Bahut shukriya badi meherbani…’, ‘Humko tumhare ishq ne…’ and ‘Main pyar ka rahi hoon…’. Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon (1962), starring Joy Mukherjee and Asha Parekh, was another hit album comprising tracks such as ‘Laakhon hai nigaahon mein…’, ‘Aji kibla mohtarma…’ and the title track. O.P.’s successful track record continued with Kashmir Ki Kali (1963) which had fantastic songs like ‘Ishaaron ishaaron mein…’, ‘Kisi na kisi se kabhi na kabhi…’, ‘Deewana hua badal…’ and ‘Tareef karoon kya uski…’. Mere Sanam (1965) was one more hit album in O.P.’s kitty. ‘Pukarta chala hoon main…’, ‘Jaaiye aap kahan jayenge…’, ‘Yeh hai reshmi zulfon ka…’ and ‘Tukde hai mere dil ke…’ were truly great compositions. After this he did a few films like Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi (1966), Saawan Ki Ghata (1966) and Mohabbat Zindagi Hai (1966). They weren’t as successful as his previous albums. O.P. met with success again with Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966). The track ‘Aap ke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai…’ is one of his evergreen compositions. ‘Aao huzoor tumko…’ from Kismet (1968) was a huge hit as well. Humsaya (1968), starring Joy Mukherjee, Sharmila Tagore and Mala Sinha, comprised of some amazing songs like ‘Dil ki awaaz bhi sun…’ and ‘Woh haseen dard de do…’. O.P. then composed music for films like Dil Aur Mohabbat (1968), Sambandh (1968) and Ek Bar Mooskura Do (1968) which also did quite well. ‘Chain se humko kabhi…’ from Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye (1973) was a real gem. After this he composed for a couple of films, viz. Heera-Moti (1979) and Bin Maa Ke Bachche (1980). After 12 years, O.P. made his comeback with Nishchaiy (1992), starring Salman Khan and Karisma Kapoor. The album comprised of tracks like ‘Sun mere sajna sun re…’, ‘Chal mere ghode…’ and ‘Chutti kar di meri…’ which were quite popular during those days. O.P.’s last movie was Zid (1994), starring Jay Mehta and Raageshwari.
In 1958, O.P.Nayyar won the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director for Naya Daur (1957).
O.P.Nayyar was the first Hindi music director to receive 100,000 rupees for his compositions for a film. It was a quite a huge sum of money in the 1950s. Though Lata Mangeshkar was one of the best playback singers for many decades, O.P. never used her services, claiming that her voice never suited any of his compositions. Another reason was he was too egoistic to approach her. He instead worked with her sister Asha Bhosle, who sang some of her most famous songs for him. Asha was forced onto him by Pyarelal Santoshi. He brought the sarangi, an instrument traditionally associated with the mujrewalis and kothas, into mainstream film music and gave it respectability. His favourite musicians include Anil Biswas, Saigal, Master Ghulam Haider, the Burmans, Shanker-Jaikishen, C.Ramachandra, Roshan and Jatin-Lalit.
Apart from Hindi films, O.P. also composed music for a few South Indian movies, including Neerajanam in Telugu. Gajendra Singh included O.P. as a judge for his successful TV show, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Ahmed Wasi interviewed O.P. twice for Vividh Bharati and presented his life-sketch, through long episodes which lasted for six hours, collectively titled as Mujhe Yaad Sab Hai Zaraa Zaraa. Tushar Bhatia paid tribute to O.P. by composing in the latter’s style in Andaaz Apna Apna's ‘Elloji sanam hum aa gaye…’. He has been a successful homeopath of patients as charity. He has taught music in Patiala and Amritsar.
O.P. expired in Mumbai on 28 January 2007 caused by Cardiac arrest. He is survived by his three daughters and a son.