February 18, 1927-August 19, 2019AND THE MUSIC STOPS
Veteran composer Khayyam breathed his last in a Mumbai hospital around 9.30 pm on Monday
He always had a furrowed brow, as if he was waiting to reach an errant melody he couldn’t quite perfect. When he did, his face would soften, he would dart a rare smile and get on to the next one, which perhaps would be recorded or stay with him.
There are scores of songs which did not reach us, and perhaps never will. His repertoire of unheard compositions have departed with Mohammed Zahoor Khayyam, who passed away on Monday night. The departure, I could see was coming, at the suburban hospital where he struggled to open his eyes at least for a flicker of a moment during a month-long stay at the Tulip cabin of the ICU unit. Yeh kya jageh hai doston, Hindi cinema could have well asked, but then I’m getting maudlin here.
The end is endemic as the last stanzas of the songs Khayyam saab had created, without ever caring for the A-listers of the geetmalas from the 1950s on to the turn of another century. To be sure, because of our limited memories, the 92-year-old icon—never called one during his lifetimewill be associated most of all with the ever-resonating soundtrack of Umrao Jaan.
If he was bitter to a degree, I suspect, about the Umraoexperience it was because he had topped it with the songs composed for its director Muzaffar Ali’s Kashmir-set love story Zooni. The film was left incomplete, but its songs are somewhere out there on tapes mouldering in the vaults somewhere.
Khayyam was not prolific by choice. If Yash Chopra called upon him to do Noorie, Nakhuda, Trishul and Kabhi Kabhie, it was obviously because the chartbusting music directors couldn’t have touched the composer who insisted on doing it his own way and wouldn’t be subjected to prolonged sessions at ‘sitting rooms’ as they are called. The Kabhi Kabhiescore especially had that extraordinary poetic quality.
When Khayyam was no longer in the Yash Chopra ‘camp’ so to speak, he kept silent. In show business, one has to move on. When I had asked him to comment on this, he had shushed me up instaneously with a have-youcome-to-talk-about-my-work-orgossip?
His music had the USP of pauses (check out Ae-Dil-e-Naadan from Razia Sultan). The orchestra comes to a standstill, when Lata Mangeshkar’s voice returns, it’s pure magic. Incidentally, stalwart writer Javed Siddiqui points that it was Khayaam who made the completion of Pakeezah possible. “Do you know he and his wife (Jagjit Kaur) kept trying to make peace between Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari. And they succeeded. The film was restarted only because of them.”
Right from Footpath and Phir Subah Hogi to Shagoon and Aakhri Khat, Khayyam’s track record is classic. He would agree to a TV serial occasionally but had stopped accepting film projects which would make him compromise with his signature style – soft, gentle, romantic and from the heart.
Khayyam saab has left the ICU unit. He can never leave us, ever, because without him will never be another subah, another song of such love and longing.
Khayyam with wife Jagjit Kaur at an event in 2017
The veteran composer who gave a lot of timeless hits in his four-decade old career earned around Rs 10 crore which will used to form Khayyam Jagjeet Kaur KPG Charitable Trust in 2016 . Khayyam aims to support artists and technicians who are looking to make it big in the film industry.
Khayyam’s decision came from his own hardships and struggles he faced during his initial years in the industry.