Celebrated playback singer, lyricist, musician, singer, and film-maker from Assam, late Bhupen Hazarika, weaved melodies and introduced Bollywood to the folk music of Northeast India. President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday conferred the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, the legendary musician posthumously, along with former president Pranab Mukherjee and Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader Nanaji Deshmukh.
Hazarika was regarded as one of the greatest living cultural communicators of South Asia. He had been a poet, journalist, singer, lyricist, musician, filmmaker and writer. Bhupen Hazarika, the ‘bard of Brahmaputra' whose ability to weave magic out of traditional Assamese music gave us songs like ‘Dil hoom hoom kare' and ‘O Ganga behti ho', swayed and inspired millions across generations with the power and passion of his voice.
A poet, music composer, singer, actor, journalist, author and filmmaker, the self-proclaimed ‘jajabor' (wanderer) took the rich folk heritage of Assam and interpreted it beautifully for the world through his songs.
Born in 1926 in Sadiya into a family of teachers, the academically-talented Hazarika completed his basic education from Guwahati in 1942, BA from Banaras Hindu University in 1944 and MA (Pol Sc) in 1946. He did his PhD in Mass Communication from Columbia University. He also received the Lisle Fellowship from Chicago University, US to study the use of educational project development through cinema.
During his stay in the US, he met the legendary black singer Paul Robeson, whose famous number ‘Old man river' was successfully transformed to the megahit ‘Bistirno parore' (‘O Ganga behti ho' in Hindi), a virtual anthem for generations of pro-Left activists.
In an interview to a national daily many years ago, he attributed his singing to tribal music.
“As a child, I grew up listening to tribal music - its rhythm saw me developing an inclination towards singing. Perhaps, I inherited my singing skills from my mother, who sang lullabies to me. In fact, I have used one of my mother's lullabies in ‘Rudali',” the Dadasaheb Phalke winner had said.
He sang his first song ‘Biswa nijoy nojowan' (in the second Assamese film “Indramalati”) in 1939 at the age of 12.
In addition to his native Assamese, Hazarika composed, wrote and sang for numerous Bengali and Hindi films from 1930s to the 1990s besides other songs. He was also one of the leading author-poets of Assam with more than 1,000 lyrics and several books on short stories, essays, travelogues, poems and children's rhymes.
He produced and directed, composed music and sang for Assamese films like “Era Batar Sur”, “Shakuntala”, “Loti ghoti”, “Pratidhwani”, “Chick Mick Bijuli”, “Swikarokti” and “Siraj”.
His most famous Hindi films include his long-time companion Kalpana Lajmi's “Rudaali”, “Ek Pal”, “Darmiyaan”, “Daman” and “Kyon”, Sai Paranjpe's “Papiha” and “Saaz”, “Mil Gayee Manzil Mujhe” and M F Husain's “Gajagamini”.
“You paint through your songs. But I can't sing with my paintbrush. It's up to you to fill this lacuna in my artistry. That's why I've taken you,” Husain apparently told Hazarika after chosing him for the music score of “Gajagamini”.
(With PTI Inputs)