Mohammed Zahur Khayyam

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Mohammed Zahur Khayyam
Mohammed Zahur Khayyam.jpg
Khayyam at his 85th birthday bash in 2012
Born(1927-02-18)18 February 1927
Died19 August 2019(2019-08-19) (aged 92)
Occupation Music director, film score composer
Known for Umrao Jaan
Kabhi Kabhie
Razia Sultan
Thodisi Bewafai
(m. 1954)
Honours Padma Bhushan

Mohammed Zahur Khayyam Hashmi (18 February 1927 – 19 August 2019), [1] better known mononymously as Khayyam, was an Indian music director and background score composer whose career spanned four decades. [2] [3]


He won three Filmfare Awards: for Best Music in 1977 for Kabhi Kabhie and 1982 for Umrao Jaan , and a lifetime achievement award in 2010. He was awarded the 2007 Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Creative Music, by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance and Theatre. [4] He was awarded the third-highest civilian honour, Padma Bhushan, by the Government of India for 2011. [5]

Early life

Khayyam was born to a Punjabi Muslim family [6] on 18 February 1927 in Rahon in Punjab, British India. [7] [8] As a boy, Khayyam ran away to his uncle's house in New Delhi. There he was trained under classical vocalist and composer Pandit Amarnath. [9]


Khayyam went to Lahore looking for roles in films. There he met Baba Chishti, a famous Punjabi music director. After listening to a composition by Chishti, he sung to him its first part. Impressed, Chishti gave him an offer of joining him as an assistant. Khayyam assisted Chishti for six months and came to Ludhiana in 1943. He was only 17 then. [7]

After a stint in the Army in the Second World War, Khayyam went to Bombay to fulfil his dream [9] and made his debut as Sharmaji of the Sharmaji-Varmaji composer duo with the film Heer Ranjha in 1948. [7] He went solo after his co-composer Rahman Varma went to the newly created Pakistan post partition. [7] One of his earliest breaks was in the film Biwi (1950) in which the song "Akele Mein Woh Ghabrate To Honge" sung by Mohammed Rafi was a hit. "Shaam-e-Gham Ki Kasam" sung by Talat Mehmood from the film Footpath (1953) struck a chord among the masses. [10] He gained greater recognition from the film Phir Subha Hogi (1958) starring Raj Kapoor and Mala Sinha, in which songs written by Sahir Ludhyanvi and sung by Mukesh and Asha Bhonsle were set to tune by Khayyam. [11] Notable amongst them are "Wo Subha Kabhi To Aayegi", "Aasman Pe hai Khuda Aur Zameen Pe Hum" and "Chin-o-Arab Humara". [11]

Songs from the film Shola Aur Shabnam (1961) written by Kaifi Azmi established Khayyam's reputation as a composer. [7] From the Chetan Anand directed Aakhri Khat (1966) "Baharon Mera Jeevan Bhi Sawaron" by Lata and "Aur Kuch Der Theher" by Rafi were huge hits. Other notable songs are from the film Shagoon (1964) which had Khayyam's wife Jagjit Kaur sing "Tum Apna Ranj-o-Gham" and "Tum Chali Jaogi". [12]

The 1970s saw Khayyam team up with Sahir Ludhyanvi once again to work in the Yash Chopra-directed Kabhi Kabhie (1976). [1] The songs showed Khayyam's versatility with hits such as "Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein Khayal Aata Hai" (Sung by Mukesh and Lata), "Tere Chehre Se Nazar Nahin" (by Kishore & Lata) and "Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Hoon" (by Mukesh). [13]

Khayyam provided music to the films of the late-1970s and early-1980s. Songs from Trishul, Thodi Si Bewafaai, Bazaar, Dard, Noorie, Nakhuda, Sawaal, Bepannah, and Khandaan are some of his best works. [1]

Khayyam was still to deliver his best, and the opportunity came in Muzaffar Ali's Umrao Jaan in 1981. [14] He had Asha Bhonsle sing the songs "In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke", "Ye Kya Jagah Hai Doston", and "Dil Cheez Kya Hai", which are evergreen. [14]

Rajesh Khanna liked the songs of the film Kabhi Kabhie so much that he gifted Khayyam one of his cars. [15] Subsequently, Khayyam composed music for Thodisi Bewafai, Dard (both 1981) and Dil-E-Nadaan (1982), all of them starring Khanna in the lead. [16]

Khayyam created music for the Kamal Amrohi directed film Razia Sultan (1983) and his song "Aye Dil-e-Nadan" sung by Lata is considered as a milestone. [17]

Khayyam in 2012 Khayyam visits Rajesh Khanna's home Aashirwad 24.jpg
Khayyam in 2012

He also composed non-film songs. Some of them include "Paaon Padun Tore Shyam, Brij Mein Laut Chalo" and "Ghazab Kiya Tere Vaade Pe Aitbaar Kiya". [1] He also gave music for Meena Kumari's album, I Write, I Recite (1971) featuring the "nazms" written and sung by her. [18]

Khayyam always preferred to work with poets rather than film lyricists. [19] That is the reason one finds poetry playing an equal role in Khayyam's compositions as the music or the singer. [19] Khayyam prefers to give full freedom to the poets for expressing their views thereby making the expression of songs more poetic and meaningful. [19]

He worked with both his contemporaries in the field of poetry. [19] That's the reason one finds in his account the work profiled by Mirza Ghalib, Daagh, Wali Mohammed Wali, Ali Sardar Jafri, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, and among the new ones Naqsh Lyallpuri, Nida Fazli, Jan Nisar Akhtar and Ahmed Wasi. [19]

Khayyam's music had the touch of ghazal but was rooted in Indian classical music. The compositions were soulful, melodious and emotional, the songs were rich in poetry and purpose and the style was noticeably different from the popular brand of music in those days, which used to be either semi-classical, ghazal or light and peppy. [20]

On his 89th birthday, Khayyam announced the formation of a charitable trust, Khayyam Jagjeet Kaur KPG Charitable Trust, and decided to donate his entire wealth to the trust to support budding artists and technicians in India. His wealth at the time of announcement was valued at around 10 crore (US$1.4 million). [21]

He decided not to celebrate his birthday after the terrorist attack on India's border post of Pulwama and donated 5 lakh (US$7,000) to the kin of the martyrs. [22]

Personal life and death

Khayyam married Jagjit Kaur in 1954 in one of the first inter-communal marriages in the Indian film industry. [23] They had a son, Pradeep, who died of a heart attack in 2012. Inspired by their son's helping nature, they started a trust, "Khayyam Jagjit Kaur Charitable Trust" to help artistes and technicians in need. [24]

In his last days, Khayyam was suffering from various age related ailments. On 28 July 2019, Khayyam was admitted to Sujay Hospital in Juhu, Mumbai due to lung infection. He died on 19 August 2019 following a cardiac arrest at the age of 92. [25] He was buried the following day with full state honours. [26]

Awards and nominations

Khayyam being awarded Padma Bhushan by President Pratibha Patil in 2011. The President, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil presenting the Padma Bhushan award to Shri Khayyam, at an Investiture Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on March 24, 2011.jpg
Khayyam being awarded Padma Bhushan by President Pratibha Patil in 2011.




Music Director Khayyam presenting a book titled "Khayyam: The man, His Music" to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh Khayyam The man His Music.jpg
Music Director Khayyam presenting a book titled "Khayyam: The man, His Music" to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh
Music director

Further reading

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