Ten of my favourite Khayyam Songs

… and Khayyam, too, is no more. One of the last stalwarts of the Golden Age of Hindi cinema (and one who, like SD Burman, was able to reinvent himself and his music beautifully) passed away earlier this week, on August 19th.

Born on February 18th, 1927 in Rahon (Punjab), Mohammad Zahur ‘Khayyam’ Hashmi was so interested in music from a young age that he ran away to Delhi to become an actor, and ended up being enrolled to learn music—not an endeavour which lasted long, since his family hauled him back home to complete his studies. Khayyam did not show too much interest in studies, however. At the young age of 17, having gone to Lahore to learn music from the Punjabi music director Baba Chishti, he so impressed the man that Baba Chishti took him on as assistant music director.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Khayyam came to Bombay and the film industry, initially working as part of a team: as the Sharmaji of ‘Sharmaji-Varmaji’ (Rahman Varma was the ‘Varmaji’), he made his debut with Heer-Ranjha, in 1948. Varma left for Pakistan shortly after, and Khayyam struck out on his own, notching up, though slowly, some of Hindi cinema’s loveliest songs over the decades to come.

One of the most laudable things about Khayyam’s music, I think, was his ability to create good music even at a time when music in Hindi cinema was going down the drain. When I think of film music from the 1980s onwards, I invariably cringe—but Khayyam it was who gave us the exceptions for that decade: gems like Aye dil-e-naadaan (Razia Sultan, 1983), In aankhon ki masti ke, Dil cheez kya hai and Justju jiski thhi (Umrao Jaan, 1981), Dikhaayi diye yoon (Bazaar, 1982)—plus, of course, some very good songs through the 1970s. In fact, most of Khayyam’s awards came during or after the 1970s and 80s: Filmfare Best Music Director (Kabhie Kabhie, 1977 and Umrao Jaan, 1982), National Film Award (Umrao Jaan), and later, Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award (2010), the Padmabhushan (2011) and the Hridaynath Mangeshkar Award (2018).

So, by way of tribute, ten of my favourite Khayyam songs. Since my blog focuses on the era before the 1970s, all of these songs are from pre-70s Hindi films that I’ve watched. And, to make this a little more challenging for myself, just one song per film.

1. Shaam-e-gham ki kasam (Footpath, 1953): A young man waits for his beloved to come to him. The night stretches on, deserted and hopeless, and he struggles with his restlessness. Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics convey the despair of the frustrated and lonely lover, and Khayyam’s gentle, soothing music really showcases the lyrics—as well as Talat’s voice. I love that the song is not drowned out by much orchestration: the musical instruments are so few that they allow both the singer’s voice and the lyrics to shine forth.

2. Woh subaah kabhi toh aayegi (Phir Subah Hogi, 1958): I must admit to having faced a serious dilemma when choosing only one song from Phir Subah Hogi. This film had some excellent songs, including the brilliantly cynical Chini-o-Arab hamaara and Aasmaan pe hai khuda, and the sweetly romantic Phir na keeje. After much thinking, I eventually settled on this, because I have a particularly soft spot for Woh subaah kabhi toh aayegi. Khayyam again lets the voices (Mukesh’s and Asha’s) and the lyrics (Sahir’s) take centre stage, with the musical instruments only providing a gentle, sublime backdrop for the song. I love the way this tune goes: so restrained, so quiet and even tentative in the beginning (as if these people, though singing of hope, are still fearful of expressing that hope…) and then building up into a crescendo—as if now convinced that yes, that dawn of hope and happiness will come. The perfect tune for a song of hope.

3. Pyaas kuchh aur bhi bhadka di (Lala Rukh, 1958): When it comes to the score of Lala Rukh, the song which probably immediately comes to the minds of most people is the very popular Hai kali-kali ke labh par, sung by Mohammad Rafi. While that is a delightful song, the film had a lot of other good songs too—including this one, which occurs in two versions, happy and sad. In the first (happy) version, the lovely princess Lala Rukh (Shyama) is wooed by the handsome and enigmatic poet (Talat) whom she meets while en route to her own wedding.

A lovely romantic duet (Asha Bhonsle and Talat), but for me even better is the second version of the song, the sad one that’s a solo, sung primarily by Asha, with Talat joining in only at the end with the refrain. Lala Rukh, broken-hearted and separated from her lover, about to be married to a ghastly bridegroom whom she despises, sings achingly for the man she loves to come to her… the same tune, but by stripping it of most of its instrumentation, Khayyam raises it a couple of notches higher.

4. Hum jahaan ke kaarobaar dekhte chale gaye (Mera Bhai Mera Dushman, 1967): Another Khayyam song picturized on Shyama. Mera Bhai Mera Dushman was a  forgettable film, a story about a thuggish man who stoops low enough to betray his own elder brother, who’s trying to break into the world of prizefighting (yes, that at least is a novelty—I don’t think I’ve come across any other Hindi films from that era which had prizefighting as an important plot element). The film had several good songs, though, and this is a favourite of mine. A distressed heroine, hemmed in by a bullying sister and brother-in-law, and with her lover labouring under a misunderstanding, uses a party to air her woes. The music is lilting and lovely, and Asha’s voice is full of emotion.

5. Tum apna ranj-o-gham (Shagoon, 1964): What is the ultimate expression of love? Not the ‘I will bring the stars down for you’, not the ‘I will lay down my life for you’—but a more practical, more real assurance: that one will stand by the loved one. In this sad but oddly defiant song of love (written by Sahir Ludhianvi), the woman (played by Nivedita) is well aware that the man she loves does not love her; he is married to another—but she tells him, nevertheless, what he means to her. And that, come what may, he can rely on her loyalty and her love to shield him from the cruel blows of the world. She wants his woes for her own, she wants his sorrow and his distress.

Not just beautiful lyrics and beautiful music, but also beautifully sung by Jagjit Kaur, Khayyam’s wife, who sang in several of his films and even assisted him in some films.

One thing I especially appreciate about the music of this song (besides the fact that—almost trademark Khayyam—it has subdued music that allows the singer’s voice to be in the limelight) is that the piano which appears onscreen has a prominent presence in the music too. There are other instruments too, but it’s the piano that is most obviously there.

6. Jaane kya dhoondti rehti hain (Shola aur Shabnam, 1961): Kaifi Azmi and Khayyam worked together on several films, including Lala Rukh, Shola aur Shabnam, and Aakhri Khat. Earlier this year, in my song list to mark the birth centenary of Kaifi Azmi, I listed Jaane kya dhoondti rehti hain as one of my favourites. That song appears again here on this list, because it is not just an example of fine lyrics, but also an example of excellent music. The first stanzas of the song—until almost the very end—are sung gently, softly: a despairing man’s insistence that he is not the one a woman should love. Then, as the despair mounts, his voice rises into a frantic wail, a crescendo of pain: what can one who has himself been sold, hope to buy in this marketplace? An inspired and thoughtful use of music to reinforce the lyrics of a song.

7. Hum aapko hi chaahein (Purdah, 1949): Purdah, starring Rehana in the lead role as the woman whose innocent beauty drives a ‘paraaya aadmi’ to lust after her—and leave a trail of dead bodies in his attempt to have her for his own—was a regressive and irritating film that was redeemed mostly by the many songs that Khayyam (credited as Sharmaji, though by now Varmaji was gone) composed for the film. Besides a couple of qawwalis, a mujra, a good devotional (Sarkar-e-Madina, Mukhtar-e-Madina), and more, there’s this song, which I liked a lot. Chand Burque’s character, heartbroken to find that the man she loves is still in love with his childhood sweetheart, sings a song full of pain: she will go on loving him, it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t. Zohrabai Ambalewaali sings this beautifully, and the tune has some lovely variations, especially in the interludes.

8. Thaheriye hosh mein aa loon (Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain, 1965): I watched this film for this song. Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain turned out to be a bit of a dud as far as the rest went, but at least the music was wonderful. Jo humpe guzarti hai is another lovely song, but for me the best song of this film is this lovely duet. Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur are wonderful, and the romance is heightened by the way she hums through much of the song.

9. Rut jawaan jawaan raat meherbaan (Aakhri Khat, 1966): In a complete about-turn from all the other songs on this list is this one, a superb example of Khayyam’s versatility. If Khayyam could do the very soft, very Indian songs, he could also do Western tunes. From Aakhri Khat itself, there’s the very peppy Hai kuchh bhi nahin o my darling—and there’s this one, both sung by and picturized on a very young Bhupinder. I love Rut jawaan jawaan raat meherbaan: there’s a sensuousness to it, an uncluttered feel that is very elegant. And what with the famous Chic Chocolate himself on the trumpet, it’s also a rare glimpse of a song where two of the main onscreen musicians play exactly the music that’s supposed to be in the song.

10. Ab kahaan jaayein ke apna meherbaan (Pyaar ki Baatein, 1951): And, to end, a song from one of Khayyam’s earlier films. The music director of the Nargis-Trilok Kapoor starrer Pyaar ki Baatein was Bulo C Rani, but he fell ill after composing some of the songs, and asked Khayyam (then working under the pseudonym of ‘Sharmaji’) to compose the rest of the songs: Khayyam composed two, and this one—the first song Lata Mangeshkar sang for Khayyam—was one of them. A classic ‘sad song’, Ab kahaan jaayein is a simple, uncomplicated tune, and even though the orchestration here is more than in most of Khayyam’s later songs, it still allows ample scope for Lata’s voice to shine forth.

Thank you, Khayyam Sahib, for the music. Your songs will live on.

P.S. Edited to add: Have a look at this sweet little tribute by Amul.
Amul-Banner

 

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46 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite Khayyam Songs

  1. THE LAST OF THE GIANTS OF THE MUSIC WORLD HAS DEPARTED . TODAY’S SOCIAL MILIEU IS SO VITIATED THAT IT IS A MIRACLE IF LIKES OF KHAYYAM , RAFI , NAUSHAD, KAIFI, MAJROOH TALAT ETC CAN HAVE THEIR PLACE UNDER THE SUN . AU REVOIR KHAYYAM SAHEB

  2. Good Morning Madhu ji,

    Beautiful selection and you are absolutely right,

    “One of the most laudable things about Khayyam’s music, I think, was his ability to create good music even at a time when music in Hindi cinema was going down the drain”.

    I want to add one song, with your permission.

    बहारों मेरा जीवन भी संवारो..Lata_Kaifi Azmi_Khayyam_Aakhri Khat 1967..a tribute

    Blessings
    Uma

  3. You write so beautifully. I always struggle to find the right words to describe why a piece of music works for me. Really lovely post. I must look up some the songs.

  4. Obviously I have a big place in my heart for cheesy 80s dance tracks (some were good I swear), but I agree with you. Khayyam’s stuff from the 70s and 80s is just so mind blowingly good even compared to his music in general, I don’t know why anyone else tried. I don’t know his earlier music that well, so thanks for this.

    • You’re welcome! And yes, I agree about Khayyam’s music in the 70s and 80s – I think he was one of the very few who was able to stay with the times (or, more aptly, stay on top of the times, considering he composed some of the best music of those years).

      But I know what you mean about some of those cheesy dance tracks from the 80s. Some of them are pretty peppy and good. ;-)

  5. What a lovely post!

    Agree that in 80’s cringeworthy era, Khayyam was breeze of fresh air.
    So some of my favourite songs from late 70s and 80s. I have deliberately excluded Kabhie Kabhie or Umrao Jaan as they are well known.

    “Fir chhidi Raat” from Bazaar

    “Mana Teri nazar Mein” from Ahista Ahista

    “Nazar se phul chunati hai nazar” from Ahista Ahista

    “Kabhi Kisi ko mukammal jahan” from Ahista Ahista

    Unbeatable combination of Yesudas and Khayaam in “Aap ki Mehki Hun” from Trishul
    Just look at the expressions of Sanjeev Kumar and Waheeda hi. No wonder both are considered geniuses.

    “Yeh mulakat ek bahana hai” from Khandan

    “Ahl-e-dil Yuhni Nibha lete hai” from Dard

    “Na Jane Kya hua” from Dard

    “Pyar ka dard hai” from Dard

    “Tumhare palko ki Chilmano Mein” from Nakhuda

    • I had forgotten that these songs had all been composed by Khayyam (well, barring the one from Bazaar, of course). And a couple of the songs were new to me. Thank you – quite a treasure trove there.

  6. Thank you Madhuji for the collection of lovely songs. Khayyam was a great composer, though he remained underrated. He continued to stick to the melody even after the western influence encroached Hindi films.
    So his songs in 70s-80s are wonderful too. With Kabhi Kabhie he started second innings, and succeeded too.
    A few songs on the list were new to me, but I liked those songs. Thank you so much.
    Apart from Dikhai Diye Yun, one more song from Bazaar is my favourite.

    phir chhidi raat baat phoolon ki

    • Thank you for Phir chhidi raat – lovely song!

      I disagree with one thing you state, though. :-) “He continued to stick to the melody even after the western influence encroached Hindi films.”

      For me, the Western influence was not a bad one at all – after all, some of my favourite composers (like SD Burman, Salil Choudhary, Ravi, OP Nayyar, RD Burman and C Ramachandra) have used – to a greater or lesser extent – inspirations from Western music in their own music. For me, the problem arose in the 80s, when much Hindi film music became screechy and dominated by too much instrumentation.

      • Yes,
        The western influence was not all bad. I agree. And majority of the composers composed songs, inspired from that. But the music turned noisy later.
        Khayyam did not let that happen to his songs. That’s what I wanted to say.

  7. Dear Madhuji,

    It is not clear whether you have left Non-Film Songs (NFS) out of the ambit of your write-up. If not, the following two may be considered :

    and

    With warm regards

    PARTHA CHANDA

    • I do not include non-film songs in my lists, but I’m more than happy to have readers link to them, so thank you for these! I wasn’t familiar with either of these, so am listening to them right now. Ghazab kiya tere waade pe is giving me gooseflesh as I’m listening. Brilliant music, and brilliantly sung.

  8. I love your outside-of-the-box selections, Madhu and am glad to see that someone other than me has watched “Mera Bhai Mera Dushman.” :-)

    Since Shyama appears a couple of times in your list, here’s another lovely song featuring her from the1953 film, Gul Sanobar.

    Kabhi tum khwaab mein chupke se – Gul Sanobar/Meena Kapoor/Nazim Panipati

    And from the much maligned 80’s, one of my all-time favorite songs.

    Kabhi kissi ko muqammal jahan nahi milta – Ahista Ahista/Asha Bhonsle/Nida Fazli

    • Shalini, I am glad somebody other than me has watched Mera Bhai Mera Dushman! Hehe. I should’ve guessed you would have been the most likely to have seen it. :-D

      I had forgotten that Kabhi kisi ko muqammal jahaan was Khayyam’s work. Superb. I wasn’t absolutely sure which songs of Gul Sanobar had been composed by Khayyam, so didn’t try picking one song out from that – so thank you very much for pointing me to Kabhi tum khwaab mein: it’s a gorgeous song, and I did like it a lot from the first time I heard it a few days back while researching this post.

  9. I’m glad to see our tastes are quite similar. :) Hum aapko hi chaahein is new to me. Lovely song; thank you for introducing me to it.

    I echo your point about Khayyam’s music playing second fiddle almost to the singer. Takes a very secure composer to do that, I think. And I also think he was the only composer who knew how to make use of silences – not minimal orchestration but actual silences. My favourite example of that is
    Ae dil-e-nadaan from Razia Sultan.

    Some of my other favourites include:
    Ye kya jageh hai doston from Umrao Jaan

    Aap yun faaslon se guzarte rahe from the little-known Shankar Hussian

    Kab yaad mein tera saath nahin from Anjuman

    After Faiz, Ghalib. :)
    Ye na thi hamari kismat from Mirza Ghalib, the TV show.

    • I remember you mentioning Khayyam’s use of silences in your post (or was it in the comments?) and yes, Ae dil-e-naadaan is a fine example of that. That long pause – really long – says so much.

      Thank you for the songs! Especially for Kab yaad mein tera saath nahin – that was new to me, and it was so good to hear them singing together. And the Shankar Husain song – ages since I heard that! Love it. :-)

  10. Ever since I heard of Khayyam sahab’s demise, I was searching all the regular blogs for a “shraddhanjali” post. I knew one would come somewhere. Thank you. Your selection is great.
    My own all time Khayyam and in fact Mohd. Rafi. favourite is “Kahin ek massom nazuk si ladki” from Shankar Hussain.
    He also gave music to a lot of non-film songs, including bhajans. Here are my two favourites. I know you are not really that into bhajans. But just listen to these for range of Khayyam’s music. I learnt about them when last year Rajkumar Keswani wrote a series about Khayyam in Dainik Bhaskar. Lyrics of both are by Madhukar Rajasthani.
    “Paaon padun tore shyam”:

    “Shyaam se neha lagaye”:

    • I am intending to do a list of my top favourite devotional songs, so these are not at all unwelcome! ;-) Thank you so much – these are really beautiful. Hadn’t heard either of these before.

  11. Time passes, and with it values change. In this unstoppable flow, somethings stand out. One is our old cine music, especially of the B&W era, when taste dictated to and overcame technology. When noise is marketed as music with all the hype, it is a great relief to be able to visit some old gems of songs. Khayyam was one who did not float with the times but stood his ground and stuck to some standards. Primacy to voice, emphasis on lyrics and minimum invasive orchestration- I think these were his hallmarks. Your picks here are good. Khayyam’s music grows on one with the passage of time. The last pillar of the golden era has fallen. We are so sad.
    For me, I like that sweet “Thandi pawan chale” from Footpath immensely. The voices of Premlata, Ashima and Talat blend so beautifully, and Talat is super sweet. The music of Phir Subah Hogi will live for ever. Sahir Ludhianvi mocked at Browning, penning ‘Aasman pe hai khuda aur Zamin pe hum, aajkal wo is taraf dekhta hai kum’, as against Browning’s ‘God is in his heaven and all is right with the world’, but the music is heavenly and will always make us feel that things are all right! Great Khayyam Saab!

    • “Primacy to voice, emphasis on lyrics and minimum invasive orchestration- I think these were his hallmarks.

      So very true! I couldn’t have put it better myself. As Anu mentioned in her comment, it takes a composer who is very secure in himself to do that.

      I also echo your comments about Thandi pawan chale and Aasmaan pe hai khuda – both are superb songs. In fact, Aasmaan pe hai khuda was the song I posted on Facebook and Twitter when I first heard of Khayyam’s passing.

  12. Excellent post as usual!

    Most of my favorites from Khayyam sab’s creations are after the scope of this blog, but as I had mentioned earlier, I think in the Kaifi Azmi post, “Jaane kya dhoondti rehti” is my mom’s ultimate favorite (and mine too). And “Rut jawan jawan” is absolute velvet! All the songs from “Aakhri Khat” are wonderful, but I am partial to this song.

    He lived to a ripe age, but my heart hurt a little after I heard of his passing. A talent like his comes once in a blue moon. May he rest in peace.

    • “He lived to a ripe age, but my heart hurt a little after I heard of his passing.

      I know! Mine, too. :-(

      And thank you for that adjective – ‘absolute velvet’ – to describe Rut jawaan jawaan. If I remember, the next time that song appears in a list, I am probably going to quote you on that. It’s such a perfect description of the song!

  13. I was waiting for someone to post this song, but since its not been done yet, here it is
    Parbaton ke pedon pe, from Shagoon, music Khayyam Sa’ab obviously and lyrics by Sahir..

    • Yes. This is such a beautiful song. I’d been dithering between this one and Tum apna ranj-o-gham, and eventually settled for the other, so I’m glad to see some love for this here! I love the song, as well as the picturization.

  14. I do like this from Noorie as well, uske khel niraale…
    In the current article 370 brouhaha, its a poignant reminder of what Kashmiri Muslim-ship (I don’t think I could call it Islam) was… with the Hindu lady being part of this (almost kirtan/sufi) musical call to the divine

  15. Could this perhaps be the first appearance of a qawaali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in an Indian movie… Ali Maula Ali from Nakhuda…

    Very experimental and decisive of Khayyam Sa’ab to use such a complex, difficult to appreciate, composition in a film of the 80s, where we had come to almost a stand still in musical appreciation (as a time in history)..

    • “Very experimental and decisive of Khayyam Sa’ab to use such a complex, difficult to appreciate, composition in a film of the 80s

      Agree totally! That is the sort of song I would have thought wouldn’t have appeared in a Hindi film till perhaps well into the 90s. If then.

  16. And while on Nakhuda, Suno ik Baat Bolein was also quite popular on the radio those days. (Like tumhari palkon ki chilmano mein)

  17. And all songs of Shankar Hussain …. the two better know ones are already posted, but this one is no less…Apne Aap Raton Mein…

  18. Final song, a qawwali (?) from Shankar Hussain, Achcha Unhe Dekha hai ..Aziz Nazan.. slightly reminiscent of Phir Tumhari Yaad Aayi Ai Sanam (which I guess points to this as a format of the qawwali?)

  19. Dear Madhuji,

    It may not be too late to add one more song, in fact the song that made him a household name all over the Country, from the Film BIWI (1950). While in College in the early sixties, this was the anthem song of some of us who had a sweetheart back home :

    With warm regards

    PARTHA CHANDA

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