Guwahati: Death is never an easy notion to accept. But when a veteran music composer, director and musician of the likes of Mohammad Zahoor Khayyam Hashmi pass away, it sure becomes a hard pill to swallow.
The music maestro breathed his last in an ICU at Sujay Hospital in Suburban Juhu, Mumbai on August 19. At 92 he passed away after battling a lung infection for 10 days.
To know more about the legend, EastMojo contacted eminent writer Anee Hazarika who had the opportunity to have a meeting with Khayyam on April 27 last year. Hazarika was born and brought up in Jorhat, Assam and is currently working in Mumbai. She constantly contributes to the local newspapers of Assam and also has a column in Asam Bani newspaper titled ‘Mumbai Mail.’
“I always wanted to meet Khayyam and so when I got his landline number while surfing the Net last year I wasted no time in trying to reach out to him,” said Hazarika. “It took me around seven to eight months and finally his wife Jagjit Kaur invited me over to their house for the interview,” she said.
Recounting her first impression Hazarika said that Khayyam was very sharp. “He recounted instances from the year 1943 down to the last detail,” she added.
Taught by Pandit Amarnath and his brothers Husan Lal and Bhagatram, Khayyam flourished in the music field at a very young age. “Back when Pakistan and India was just one country Khayyam even tutored under Baba Ghulam Ahmed Chishti who loved his voice when he sang,” said Hazarika. Khayyam learnt a lot under his tutelage and decided to stay with him in Lahore for six months.
On an unknown fact about the legend, Hazarika said, “Well, back in 1943, Khayyam joined the Indian military. Those were the years of the second world war. However, his love and passion for music pulled him back to Baba Chishti.”
Known for his works in movies like Biwi, Footpath, Phir Subah Hogi, Heer Ranjha, Trishool, Umrao Jaan, etc, Khayyam was also fondly remembered by his pseudonym Sharma Ji.
It was the Raj Kapoor and Mala Sinha-starrer movie Phir Subah Hogi that brought Sharma Ji to extensive fame and attention. The evocative music in Kabhi Kabhi mere Dil mein won him the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director in 1982.
“For the movie Phir Subah Hogi, Sahir Ludhianvi wanted Khayyam sir as the music director. Raj Kapoor even tested him where Khayyam surprised them by amalgamating six different surs in one song,” said Hazarika.
She reiterated the time when the iconic film Umrao Jaan became a challenge for Khayyam and Asha Bhosle. “Asha Bhosle sings with a high pitch and the songs of Umrao Jaan needed a much lower pitch. This scared Asha and Khayyam actually tutored her to sing the songs. She was so shocked with the outcome that she didn’t even realise that it was actually her who sang the song,” said Hazarika.
Born in 1927 in Rahon in the undivided Punjab state, Khayyam was quite particular with his songs. “He does ample amount of research for each of his songs which may even stretch to months which actually garnered him the reputation of being too choosy and moody. He researches even the kind of background needed, the location, the location’s culture and folk music attributed to it to imbibe that perfect emotion in the song which is remembered till date,” recounts Hazarika.
Perhaps this dedication led Khayyam to be honoured with Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2007. Four years prior to that in 2011, he was conferred with India’s third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan.
On his 90th birthday, Khayyam donated Rs 12 crore to the Khyaam Jagjit Kaur KPG Charitable Trust. “He knew the financial difficulties that budding singers without a well off family faces while they attempt to make their name in the highly competitive Indian music industry,” Hazarika said.
“Bharat Mata has given me a lot so we should also try to give something in return” was his thought process behind it, recounted Hazarika about the maestro.
His death brought in reactions from various notable figures including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar who took to Twitter to condole his death.
No matter how large the void his death has created in the music industry, Khayyam’s song will always continue to reverberate across the hearts of all Indian’s. His musical contributions to the iconic films will be etched in our memory in times to come.