Bhupen Hazarika : Bard of Brahmaputra valley

Dr. Jagadindra Raychoudhury

Bharat Ratna Bhupen Hazarika, one of the renowned personalities of Assam who was a multifaceted genius, a great poet, singer, music composer, actor, author, journalist and film maker of the utmost status.

He had an in-depth knowledge in every aspect of his native place, Assam but that had been extended to his second home Calcutta (now Kolkata) where he spent several decades for bread and butter. He did most of his remarkable creation in Kolkata and able to touch the heart of Bengali communities, for which he became one of the most respectable, lovable and adorable artists amongst them. Bhupen Da became a national artist in time, and his melodious voice sparkled across India and abroad. Bhupen Hazarika spent his last couple of years in Mumbai where he could able to devote his creativity with greater extent.

Early Steps

Bhupen Hazarika’s artistic journey started when he got a chance to sing a song in the film ‘Joymoti’, the first Assamese film at the age of 10 years only. The film was directed by Jyotiprasad Agarwalla, the icon of Assamese culture. A very popular song was also sung by him i.e. ‘Biswa Bijoy No Jawan’ in the Agarwalla’s second film ‘Indramalati’.

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’s life was a struggling one as well as illustrious. He was the eldest of the 10 siblings and the family responsibility was bestowed on him but he could able toovercome all these hurdles for artistic aspiration. Bhupen Hazarika’s father’s name was Nilakanta Hazarika and mother Shantipriya Hazarika. He did his master degree in Political science from Benares Hindu University and Ph.D in Mass Communication from the Columbia University, New York, where he came in contact with and greatly influenced by Paul Robeson.

Bhupen Hazarika’s artistic endeavor made an affordable shape by the grace of three doyen of cultural field in Assam and they were Jyotiprasad Agarwalla, Bishnuprasad Rabha and Phoni Sarma. Bhupen Hazarika happened to be at Tezpur because of his father,who was working there as a teacher and that opportunity was fully seized by Hazarika to make a close contact with those versatile personalities.

He expressed as a child artist in the first Assamese film Joymoti and that trend was continued without looking back. Bhupen Hazarika started his career as a college teacher in B.Borooah College for a short span of time, then switched over to Gauhati University and joined as a professor but reigned from that post also.

Kolkata Calling

He went to Calcutta (now Kolkata) to try his luck as a professional artist. That struggling period was very hard even difficult to manage daily bread and butter. During this struggling period his wife and son left him forever. Bhupen Hazarika joined as a member of I.P.T.A (Indian People’s Theatre Association) which goal was to bring cultural awakening among people of India. Being a member of that association he introduced himself as a singer with other artists of Bengal.

The most important part was that he composed song himself and performed before the audience and that trend continued both in his native place as well as in Bengal. The selection of wording in almost all his songs was really a fantastic one and always giving more emphasis in pronunciation also. That was the secret and greatness of him with which he could be able to attract mass people during his performance.

Another attractive point was that he communicated with audience with some lovable words at the same time. Besides the singing pursuit he had some interest in film making and after overcoming crunch of money Bhupan Hazarika presented his first film, ‘Era Bator Sur’. The script, dialogue, lyrics and music was composed by him. The important part of the film was that under his composition melody queen Lata Mangeskar sang a beautiful song, Jonakore rati asomore mati. Renowned singer and music composer with national fame of then Hemanta Kumar Mukherjee introduced Bhupen Hazarika with Lataji for singing that song and he himself sang in Era Bator Sur.

Assamese Film Industry

Dr. Hazarika directed several films in Assamese like Mahut Bandhure(1958), Sakuntala(1960), Pratidhwani(1964), Lotighoti(1967), Chick mick Bijuli(1970), Mon Projapati(1978), Siraj(1988) etc. besides these he also contributed as a music director in Assamese(36), Bengali and Hindi films.

Honoring a Legend

He was awarded several National awards in music and extended his musical pursuit in National level. He was selected for the chairmanship of Sangeet natak Akademi and during his tenure he was able to recognize Satriya Dance as a National dance which was the brain child of Srimanta Sankardeva, the renowned versatile mentor of Vaishnavite movement.

Besides several padma awards, he was crowned by the most prestigious award Dada Saheb Phalke in1992 for which entire Assamese community and others across India feel proud of him.

Editorial Influence

During our school days we were eagerly waiting for the magazine, Amar Pratindhi which was edited by Bhupen Hazarika. His editorial was very much informative and encouraging for us. He also edited a miniature of a magazine called Bindu which was a smaller in size.

Being resident of chandmari area Bhupenda was very close to us and we spent many occasions with him in a homely manner. Whenever he came from Kolkata he used to spend several hours at one of the friends residence of our locality where we always sitting as a spectator.

Bhupenda was very lovable person for his smiling look and laughter was his additional characteristic for which everybody respects him. Bhupen Da always communicated with the mass people through his melodious song and he contributed in every occasion, so everybody loves him for his mammoth creativity in the field of art and culture.

Sometimes he confessed that simply honouring an artist is not sufficient for them but for livelihood they need money and that message was spread among the general people.

Bhupen Hazarika faced criticism many occasions but he never bothered about that, instead he devoted very seriously on his creativity. Bhupenda was an artist par excellence whom everyone loved and respected him, not only Assamese community people but also rest of the country. Bhupenda’s performance in abroad made him a legend for which he became a global artist.

Bharat Ratna

Bhupenda’s popularity could be counted when his mortal saw beeline for three days where he was kept in judge’s field, Guwahati. Bhupenda was awarded Bharat Ratna posthumously which delighted not only Assamese community but also entire country.

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika Samadhikshetra

To keep his memory vibrant Government of Assam constructed a memorial park where he was cremated at jalukbari, Guwahati. It is a general practice that every corner of life, people visited that place to pay their respect to Sudhakantha.

Forever in Hearts

Bhupen Hazarika was a part and parcel of Assamese community because he was the only artist whom every one love and respect and able to live in every body’s heart. His massive contribution towards art and culture will always make him immortal forever.

The writer is Guwahati based columnist and Secretary, Vidya Bharati Purvottar Kshetra.