• Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

A Tribute to Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

Bhupen Hazarika was an Indian playback singer, lyricist, musician, poet and filmmaker from Assam, widely known as Xudha kontho. He was born on 8th September 1926 and died on 5th November 2011.

Dr Bhupen Hazarika was born at Sadia, in upper Assam on September 8, 1926. He was influenced by his father Nilakanta Hazarika (school teacher) and mother Shantipriya Hazarika in singing. The eldest of ten children, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika (also his siblings) was exposed to music by his mother who was a progressive lady. At the age of 10 years, he sang a Borgeet, Assamese devotional songs & first composed by Srimanta Sankardeva, which greatly impressed Jyotiprasad Agarwala, the noted Assamese lyricist, playwright and Assamese filmmaker. Also in 1936, Bhupen Hazarika recorded his first song at Aurora Studio then Calcutta. Later on, Hazarika sang two songs in Agarwala’s film Indramalati, at the age of 12 years. It is pertinent to mention that Indramalati (released in 1939) is the second Assamese film, directed by the great Assamese poet Jyotiprasad Agarwala.

It was early-60s, and, at that time, he was the role model for each and every young man in Assam for his intellect mindset, creative talent as a poet, lyricist, singer-musician. Popularly known as Sudhakantha, meaning the nightingale, Dr Bhupen Hazarika — Assamese singer-composer, who was posthumously honoured with Bharat Ratna on Thursday — began his much-illustrious, over six-decade-long sojourn as a professional singer-musician-lyricist-music director during mid-50s and soon started making feature films in Assamese. After his debut as a film director in 1956, and till 1977, he had made 11 feature films of which five fetched him the President’s Silver Medal. Then he switched over completely to the world of music and continued his run relentlessly till his death. In fact, Dr Hazarika started his professional career as a teacher. Having done a Masters in Political Science from BHU, he went to the US for PhD on a government scholarship and earned a doctorate in mass communication from Columbia University. On return to Assam, he joined Gauhati University and after a short stint of about two years, quit to lead the life as a singer-musician full of struggle.

Dr Bhupen Hazarika completed his matriculation in 1940; Intermediate in Arts (IA) from Cotton College in 1942 and then joined Banaras Hindu University for higher study and subsequently completed his B.A. (1944) and M.A. (1946). He was awarded Ph. D in 1952 from the U.S.A. for his thesis “Proposals for Preparing India’s Basic Education to use Audio-Visual Techniques in Adult Education” and for pursuing PhD he got a scholarship from Columbia University, USA.

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika composed music in the renowned films directed by Kalpana Lajmi, inter alia of which are ‘Rudali’, ‘Daman’, ‘Darmiyaan’ and also MF Hussain’s directed ‘Gaja Gamini’.

Dr. Hazarika directed seven Assamese films, one Bengali and one Hindi film and composed music for 31Assamese, 14 Hindi, 15 Bengali and some Karbi, Bodo and Missing films. The first film directed by Dr. Bhupen Hazarika was Erabator Sur which was released in Calcutta in 1956. He also published books for the children viz., Bhupen Mamar Geete-Mate, A, Aa, Ka, Kha and a transcript autobiography — Moi eti jajabor. He was the architect to set up a film studio in Guwahati, a first full-fledged film studio in Assam.

It was early-60s, and, at that time, he was the role model for each and every young man in Assam for his intellect mindset, creative talent as a poet, lyricist, singer-musician, and, above all, the rare debonair that he used to carry along with him. Besides his immaculate and incomparable talent in the field of music, some other finer aspects had worked together to make his overall personality unique and ever flamboyant. His communication skill was unbelievably strong and even his sense of humour. Over and above, Dr Hazarika was a package of talent, knowledge, wisdom, sophistication, stylized personality.

He achieved various awards like — Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, National Film award for best feature film in Assamese. He sang his first song “Biswa nijoy nokowan” for the Assamese Film Indramalati.

In 1968, Assam Sahitya Sabha President Late Ananda Chandra Baruah honoured Assamese legendary singer, poet, music composer, filmmaker and a prominent litterateur Bhupen Hazarika with a title “HudhaKantha” at a programme held at Banshi Gopal Natya Mandir in Majuli.

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika always told about his country in his writings, songs. In 1968, a song written by Dr. Bhupen Hazarika sang by his brother Jayanta Hazarika which mirrors our feelings towards the Brahmaputra. We love it, hate it, scold it but it permeates every part of our lives.

Tapashi Gupta

Associate professor (Retd), Department of Zoology (HOD), Lumding College, Assam

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