The Illustrious Son of Luit: Dr.Bhupen Hazarika8 min read
“Aakaxi Ganga Bisora Nai
Nai Bisora Swarna Olankar
Nisthur Jibonor Xangramot
Bisaru Moromor Mat Exar….”
Perhaps very few people in the world had as profound an effect on the masses through songs as this man has. The eminent Assamese poet, writer, lyricist, producer and film-maker, Dr.Bhupen Hazarika, aged 85, passed away at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and Medical Research Institute, in Mumbai on 5thNovember, 2011. He had a multi-organ failure. He was a cultural icon of north-east India and was instrumental in creating a footprint of the Assamese film industry on the global map.
Dr.Hazarika was one of the last balladeer in India.With his trademark Nepali cap and an enthralling voice, he won the heart of millions across the world. His songs weaved political ideology and ancient traditions with popular culture. He was influenced by the folk music of the ethnic people from the region. The Dadasaheb Phalke Awardee was also an ambassador of peace and humanity which reflected in his compositions; which is ironic, in a way, considering he belonged to a region that was marred with insurgency problems.
Manuhe Manuhar Babe
Jadihe Akanu Nabhabe
Bhabibo Kunenu Kuwa Xamaniya
Manuhe Manuhar Babe……..
(If man does not think about man, with a little sympathy, who else will, say comrade).
His songs helped in uniting the people of the North-East India and garnered international attention.
Dr.Bhupen Hazarika was born on 8th September, 1926 in one of the farthest corners of Assam-Sadiya in the eastern district of Tinsukia. He was the eldest of the 10 children-seven brothers and three sisters. He did his schooling from Tezpur Government High School and his Inter (Arts) from Cotton College in Guwahati(1942).Later he went to Banaras Hindu University and completed his graduation (1944) and post-graduation (1946) in Political Science.
The music maestro once remarked that his musical talent came from his mother, Shantipriya. “Although listening to the rhythms of tribal music growing up developed my love for singing, I inherited my voice from my mother, who regularly sang lullabies to me as a child.” His father, Nilakanta, who was a teacher, inculcated the importance of education in him. He displayed his prodigious talent from a very young age. By the age of 10, he was already composing songs and a year later he performed in All India Radio.
A die-hard patriotic at heart, Dr.Hazarika was soaked into India’s struggle for independence. His interactions with intellectuals including the renowned Assamese poet and film-maker, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, who had directed Indramalati, enabled him to discover the symbiotic relationship between education and freedom. “I would attend secret meetings with those who wanted a free India,” he said. “Somewhere down the line, the revolutionary in me was born. My music and, later, my film scripts portrayed that ethnic anger I suffered from.”
After a brief stint at AIR as a producer, Hazarika went to the US on a scholarship to study for a PhD in Mass Communications at Columbia University, New York, in 1948. He sailed via France as he wanted to see other places. “I had a strong desire to meet Picasso,” he said. “An elderly guard informed me that if I managed to get up at 4am, I might catch Picasso taking a walk with his friends. I did what I was told and, to my surprise, I actually saw Picasso. I went up to him and said, sir, this is the best day of my life.”
Dr.Hazarika acquainted greats like Paul Robson when he was in the US. He was drawn to the civil rights struggle and tasted American folk music which later influenced his musical endeavours in later life.
He also met his wife Priyamvada Patel, whose lineage goes back to the well-known Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel family, while in the US, ( in Columbia )where he was pursuing his MA degree. They got married and had a son Tej Bhupen Hazarika in 1952. But after 13 years, their marriage was on the rocks and his wife finally left him.
He returned to Assam and began teaching at Gauhati University in 1953. The next big turning-point came when Hazarika went to Mumbai to work in the Indian People’s Theatre Association. He managed to arrange a meeting with India’s biggest singing star Lata Mangeshkar. “I wanted her to sing a song for my first film as a director, Era Bator Sur [Song from the Deserted Path] and she did it. The minute she sang for my film, distributors clamoured to buy my film.”
Hazarika put Assamese cinema on the map in the decades that followed that initial 1956 hit and in 1992 he was given India’s highest film honour, the Dada Saheb Phalke award, for his immense contribution. He was named best composer in India in 1977 for his music for the Assamese film Chameli Memsaab. He was a prolific and popular songwriter; his songs connected with the masses because the lyrics often touched on important social issues or promised a bright future.
Estranged from his first wife and son, Hazarika met Kalpana Lajmi in 1971. He helped her become a critically acclaimed film-maker and delivered songs for her movies, mostly notably the 1993 hit Rudaali (Weeping Woman), for which he won a best music award at the Asia-Pacific film festival. He also composed for television, wrote books and made a name for himself as a poet. He refused to retire and earlier this year sang for the experimental Bollywood movie Gandhi to Hitler.
He directed, composed music and sang for some of the greatest Assamese films of all times. Those were Era Batar Sur in 1956, Shakuntala in 1960, Pratidhwani in 1964, Lotighoti in 1967, Chick Mick Bijuli in 1971, Mon Projapati in 1978, Swikarokti in 1986 and Siraj in 1988.
He spread out beyond the boundaries of the state and directed a colour documentary for the Arunachal Pradesh government on tribal folk songs and dances entitled, “For Whom The Sun Shines” in 1974 and in 1977, he produced, directed, and composed music for Arunachal’s first Hindi feature film in colour, Mera Dharam Meri Maa in 1977.
He stepped into mainstream Indian films when he produced and composed music for the internationally famous award-winning Hindi feature film, Ek Pal, in 1986, directed by Kalpana Lajmi, starring Shabana Azmi, Nasiruddin Shah and Faroque Sheikh. In 1993, he came up with the haunting award-winning music score for Hindi hit Rudaali that starred Dimple Kapadia, Raj Babbar, Amjad Khan and Rakhi.
In 1995, he composed the music for Sai Paranjpye’s Hindi feature film Papiha and Bimal Dutt’s Pratimurti. In 1996, he composed music for Mil Gayee Manzil Mujhe, which was directed by Lekh Tandon and Saaz, directed by Sai Paranjpye, starring Shabana Azmi. In 1997 he composed music for Pan Pictures Hindi feature film Darmiyaan starring Kiron Kher and Tabu directed and written by Kalpana Lajmi. Then again, in 2000, he composed music and sang for MF Husain’s Gajagamini.
Dr.Bhupen Hazarika also made a mark in Bengali films with his music in Jiban Trishna, Jonakir Alo, Mahut Bandhure, Kari o Komal, Asamapta, Ekhane Pinjar, Dampati, Chameli Memsaab and Bechara. He also produced and composed the music for the extremely popular television serial for Doordarshan, Lohit Kinare directed by Kalpana Lajmi that was based on short stories of the state in 1988. He made the music for Kalpana Lajmi’s film Daman in 2001 and Kyonin 2003.
Honours and recognition followed Dr.Bhupen Hazarika at every step. He received the National Award for best film maker thrice for Shakuntala, Pratidhwani and Loti Ghoti. And in 1977, he bagged the National Award for the best music composer (Chameli Memsaab).
The nation bestowed its greatest honour on him, the Padmashree in 1977 and Padmabhushan in 2001 for his outstanding contribution in the field of culture. He received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1992 and back home he was conferred the highest honour when he was made the president of the Sahitya Sabha in 1993.
The Sangeet Natak Akademi honoured him in 1987 for his outstanding contribution towards Indian music and in 1999 he was appointed chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi for a period of five years by the president of India.
Dr.Bhupen Hazarika was the chairman of the Eastern Region of the Appellate Body of the Central Board of Film Censors for nine years consecutively till 1990. He was also the chairman of the jury of the National Film Awards in 1985 and a jury member several times from 1958 to 1990. The ministry of information and broadcasting bestowed the honour of Producer Emeritus on him.
It is impossible to even contemplate that the colossal void left in the socio-political sphere, after his demise, can ever be filled. However his evergreen songs will continue to inspire people of Assam, and the world at large-to put aside our petty differences and unite for the greater cause of humanity, endlessly like the flow of the mighty Brahmaputra
“Bistirna paarore, Axonkhya jonre,
Hahakar xuniu, Nixobde nirobe,
Burha luit tumi, Burha luit buwa kiyo?”
The land of Luit had given a great son to the world. Now he has left for his heavenly abode putting a culmination to an illustrious career.In the words of his long-time associate and admirer Lata Mangeshkar, “There will never be another Bhupen Hazarika.”