Multi-faceted genius and ‘The Golden Voice of Assam’ - Dr Bhupen Hazarika, turns 83 today. Bhupenda, as he is lovingly called by millions, is recognised by many as one of the greatest cultural figures that Assam has produced, next only to Sri Sri Sankaradeva, the Vaishnavite preacher of the 15th century, and Rupkonwar Jyoti Prasad Agarwalla, the early 20th-century singer-composer.
Ranked amongst the leading filmmakers of the nation, Bhupenda is probably the only living pioneer who is solely responsible for placing the fledging Assamese cinema on the all India and on the world cinema map. He is a good poet, music composer, singer, actor, journalist, author and filmmaker of the very highest repute.
He is immensely popular, touching on reverence, in the states of Assam, West Bengal as well as in neighbouring Bangladesh.
In addition to his native Assamese, Hazarika has sung in many other Indian languages, including Bengali and Hindi. Born in 1926 in Sadiya, Assam, Bhupen Hazarika began his career in films as a child actor in the second talkie film to be made in the pioneering years of 1939 in the film Indramalati.
A prodigious genius he wrote and sang his first song at the age of 10 after which there has been no looking back. An extremely academically prolific person, he did his Inter (Arts) in Guwahati in 1942, and went on to Banaras Hindu University to complete his B.A. in 1944 and his M.A. in Political Science in 1946.
He earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University, New York, in 1954. 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, Naseeruddin Shah, Farooque Shaikh.
He produced and composed the music for the extremely popular television serial Lohit Kinare directed by Kalpana Lajmi, based on famous short stories of Assam for the prime time National Network in 1988.
He has been the Executive Producer, Music Composer for the award winning Hindi film Rudaali starring Dimple Kapadia, Raj Babbar, Amjad Khan and Rakhi. In 1996, he composed music for Hindi films Mil Gayee Manzil Mujhe (1996), directed by Lekh Tandon starring Meenakshi Sheshadri; Saaz, directed by Sai Paranjype starring Shabana Azmi and Kalpana Lajmi’s Darmiyaan starring Kiron Kher and Tabu.
He also composed for eminent painter MF Hussain’s Madhuri Dixit starrer Gajagamini (1998) and Kalpana Lajmi’s Daman (2000) and Kyon (2003). He had produced a 52 episodes tele-serial titled Dawn for telecast on Star TV. He has also produced another 18 part documentary entitled ‘Glimpses of the Misty East’ on the socio economic and cultural progress in North Eastern India from 1947 to 1997, assigned to him by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt of India for celebration of Fifty years of India’s Independence.
He has won the President’s National Award for the best filmmaker thrice in 1960, 1964 and 1967 respectively. He also won the National Award as best music composer in India in 1977 for the Assamese film Chameli Memsaab. He was awarded the ‘Padamshree’ in the same year for his outstanding contribution to the field of culture in India.
In 1992, he was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for lifetime achievements in cinema. In 2001, he was honoured by the Government of India with the Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian award. Bhupen Hazariaka, who has directed music in many outstanding Bengali films, is cherished in Dhaka as much as he is in Guwahati.
His song on the war of Bangladesh’s freedom, Joi Joi Naba Jata Bangladesh (hail the newborn Bangladesh), is a stirring marching tune which was on every Bengali’s lips during those harrowing days. He has also been at the helm of affairs of Assam Sahitya Sabha, Sangeet Natak Akademi and has also dabbled in politics.
His remarkable popularity brought him to the legislative Assembly as an Independent member in 1967, where he was solely responsible for installing the first state owned film studio of its kind ever, in India in Guwahati. However in 2004, he lost the parliamentary poll as a BJP candidate. He was recently honoured with the highly prestigious Sangeet Ratna award of the Sangeet Natak Akademi.
For the last few years, he is not keeping well and he is to undergo a by-pass heart surgery in August. Despite this, the national award- winning musician has already signed two films as music director, which is perhaps a record for any music director at the age of 83 years.
With Inputs from News Tomorrow