Dr. Bhupen Hazarika was a genius person, a great human being, a legendary music maestro, lyricist, writer, composer, film director, and producer. He is popularly known as the “Bard of Brahmaputra”. Although he left for heavenly abode on 5 November 2011 in Mumbai at the age of 85, he is the heart of millions in the world through his melodious songs as well as versatile activities. He was an erudite scholar also as he won a scholarship from Columbia University, New York and completed his Ph.D. in Mass Communication. He completed his doctoral degree on thesis “Proposals for Preparing India’s Basic Education to use Audio-Visual Techniques in Adult Education’. And later on from Chicago University, USA, he received the Lisle Fellowship.
Born at Sadia, in upper Assam on 8 September 1926, Bhupen Hazarika was influenced by his father Nilakanta Hazarika (school teacher) and mother Shantipriya Hazarika in singing with high moral value and character. The eldest of ten children, Bhupen Hazarika (as also his siblings) was exposed to music by his mother. At the age of 10 years, he sang a Borgeet (Assamese devotional songs) which greatly impressed Jyotiprasad Agarwala, the noted Assamese lyricist, playwright and Assamese filmmaker. And in 1936, Bhupen Hazarika recorded his first song at the age of 10 years at Aurora Studio in Kolkata 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 language film, directed by the great Assamese poet Jyotiprasad Agarwala.
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). And already mentioned he was awarded a Ph. D in 1952 from U.S.A.
From his early life, he was against the caste system as initially people talked about his caste, but he simply ignored them. It has to be agreed that one cannot great by caste. Greatness is proved only activities. Dr. Hazarika was singer, lyricist, musician, poet and film-maker and popularly known as ‘Sudhakantha’. His songs, written mainly by himself, are marked by humanity and universal brotherhood. While I was in Bangladesh I observed he was popular among the local Bangladeshis for his Bengali songs.
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 Mising 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, the first full-fledged film studio in Assam.
Dr. Hazarika’s activities were rightly recognized time to time by conferring various awards such as Dada Saheb Phalke, Sangeet Ratna, Padma Bhusan, Asam Ratna, Srimanta Sankardev etc. In 2019 conferring Bharat Ratna to him albeit posthumously even then a very factual decision as Dr. Bhupen Hazarika was a versatile person in all respects and without an inch of doubt the decision is praiseworthy. It is pertinent to mention that Assam Assembly had passed a resolution in 2010 urging the Centre to confer Bharat Ratna to him.
Dr Shankar Chatterjee
Former Professor & Head (CPME),NIRD & PR ( Govt. of India), Hyderabad, India
Former Associate Professor, EritreaFormer Assistant Prof, Govt. Degree College, Tripura, IndiaFormer Senior Planning Officer, Govt of Assam, India