The Song of Bhupen Hazarika’s Life

Bhupen Hazarika

Bhupen Hazarika

His voice speaks a language which communicates melody without the crutch of words. This Padma Bhushan recipient is as complex in the interpretation of his messages as he is simple in the spontaneity of his feelings.

For this singer, composer and poet, life is resonant with the rhythm of recognition. Yet, he has also suffered the jarring notes of destiny. Sanghita Singh unplugs the philosophy of a man who is as much a moving force for music as music is a moving force for him.

I was born into a family of teachers: I was born in 1926 in Sadiya, a village in Assam. We were six brothers and four sisters. My grandfather established the Bankshidhar Hazarakia School at Sibsagar. My father, Neelkantha Hazarika, taught at this school and, later, at Cotton College in Guwahati. I grew up in a family of teachers and was always inclined towards journalism. I was the first child of my parents and my grandmother’s favourite. I attended Tejpur Government High School.

My brother’s death still pains me: Whenever Gandhiji and Pandit Nehru came to Assam, they would request my father to send me and my brother brother, Jayanta, to sing for them. Jayanta succumbed to cancer. His death was a shock and I took a long time to overcome my grief. Even today, I feel his absence.

Tribal music made a singer of me: 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. As a singer, I have also been influenced by Vaishnav thinker and Assam’s most famous reformer, Sankardev, who is known for his devotional songs. I learnt music from Bishnu Prasad Rabha, who trained me in the Bhatkhande school of music. But I could not continue my lessons for long.

I became a revolutionary: Between 1936-40, I accompanied Assamese poet and film-maker Jyoti Prasad Agarwala on his trips to Calcutta. He introduced me to the works of George Bernard Shaw. After school, I secured a degree in political science from BHU, where former PM Chandra Shekhar was my junior. We attended meetings at the Sangeet Bhawan in Benaras. Somewhere down the line, the revolutionary in me was born. My music and, later, my film scripts portray the ethnic anger I suffer from.

I was too timid to pursue my love: I fell in love with a girl in Assam — she was 16 and I was 21. She sang so well that it struck a chord in my heart. Both of us worked at the local radio station and, on many occasions, we communicated through songs. But when our love blossomed, her parents had already found a suitable match for her. I blame myself for being a coward — I could and should have fought for her hand.

I wanted to see the world: In 1949, I secured admission to the mass communications course at the University of Columbia. Wanting to see other places on the way, I didn’t take a direct flight. I first went to Colombo, from where I sailed to Marseilles aboard the Champolean. I became friendly with a French traveller called Andre, who was depressed. One night, Andre jumped off the ship. I was both shocked and saddened.

I met Picasso: Once in France, I had a strong desire to meet Picasso. An elderly guard informed me that if I managed to get up at 4 am, I might catch Picasso taking a walk with his friends. I did what I was told and, to my surprise, I actually saw Picasso. I went up to him and said, ‘Sir, this is the best day of my life.’ His reply was rather jocular: ‘Hazarika is going to America after gathering information about me!’ Picasso wanted to test my knowledge and asked me which of his paintings was my favourite. I told him I liked his works from the Blue period. He was pleased and blessed me.

I felt humiliated in America: In America, I was taken to an island where a banner reading ‘For war prisoners’ had been put up. The officers there asked me why I wanted to study journalism in America when I had already been to Leeds. Questions such as ‘How will you solve the problem of poverty in your country?’ were thrust upon me. After interrogation, I was brought back to New York. Initially, America was a shock. The positive side was that I interacted with students from other countries and this gave me a global perspective.

I found my soulmate in Priyamvada: At Columbia, I became friends with Priyamvada, who was pursuing an MA degree in political science. She belongs to a well-known Patel family and is of the same stock as Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. We fell in love, but my parents opposed the match. So, before we returned to India, we got married in America.

But we were not meant to be together: Priyamvada’s father, MM Patel, worked in Uganda but was subsequently removed from office. The family was in a precarious position and drifted from the UK to America. Meanwhile, we had returned to Assam and although I managed to sustain Priyamvada on my salary as a teacher, I did not deem it right to stop her from accepting a job in Canada. We had been married for 13 years when we separated. But we parted on good terms and still meet once a year.

I regret neglecting my son: I still regret the fact that I never spent enough time with our son Tej Bhupen Hazarika when he was a child. I am sure he regrets this as well. Today, we have come to know each other better as father and son. Tej has adopted Buddhism and stays in the US with his American wife. I try to meet my son and daughter-in-law as often as possible.

I became an MLA for a cause: After returning to Assam from America, I joined the Indian People’s Theatre Association and was involved with music as a movement. I sang ‘Ganga Behti Hai Kyun’ for Indira Gandhi. The song conveyed a message — of silent rebellion against the system. In 1967, someone suggested that I could make a difference by joining politics. I wanted a national theatre and a national art gallery for Assam. I believed that by helping set up a government-sponsored studio for films in the North-East, both tribals and non-tribals would feel they were in power. I contested the elections and became an MLA.

Kalpana, my secretary, is my adopted son: Since I never really nurtured my own son, Kalpana Lajmi, my secretary, has come to be my son. I met her for the first time through her uncle, Guru Dutt. In my 40-year-long association with her, she has been like a shadow. She has become my secretary and never lets me bother about my programme schedules.

MF Husain has given me my best compliment: MF Husain called me up from England and requested me to compose music for Gajagamini. I was surprised that he preferred me to music veterans such as Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan. He said, ‘Bhupen, you paint when you sing. Your music paints, but my brush can’t sing.’ I think this is the ultimate way to describe my music.

Music is my life: Music elevates me to an indescribable feeling — a time when I feel weighty, yet modest. I am grateful to God for whatever I have attained. I only hope that music and the lyrical aspect of my life grows further.

Source from Times Of India


Bhupen Hazarika – The Golden Voice of Assam

Bhupen Hazarika

Bhupen Hazarika

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika is a stalwart in the annals of India’s cultural heritage today.
A multifaceted genius, he is an outstanding poet, music composer, singer actor, journalist, author and film maker of the very highest repute. He is one of the living pioneers of the Assamese film industry in the Northeast, and has been therefore, rightly hailed as the uncrowned king of North-Eastern India’s cultural world.

Bhupen Hazarika was born in 1926, in Sadiya, Assam. An extremely academically prolific person, he did his Inter (Arts) in Guwahati in 1942, and went to the Banaras Hindu University to complete his B.A. in 1944 and his M.A. in Political Science in 1946.

Soon after, he left for New York, USA where he lived for five years and received his doctorate (PhD) in Mass Communication from Columbia University. He also received the Lisle Fellowship from Chicago University, USA to study the use of educational project development through cinema.


Bhupen Hazarika is ranked amongst the leading film maker of the nation. He is probably the only living pioneer who is solely responsible for placing the fledging Assamese cinema all over India and also on the world cinema map. He has been the only person in the past 40 years to propagate for a better cinema movement and has integrated all the seven north-eastern states, including the tribal culture and traditions,through the medium of cinema. His remarkable popularity brought him to the legislative Assembly as an Independent member between 1967 to 1972, where he was solely responsible for installing the first state owned film studio of its kind ever, in India in Guwahati, Assam.

Bhupen Hazarika began his career in films as a child actor in the second talkie file to be made in the pioneering years of 1939 in the film “Indramalati”.

A prodigy whose genius was acknowledged from a very early age he wrote and sang his first song at the age of 10 after which there has been no looking back.

He has produced , directed, composed the background score and also featured on the tracks for the films “Era Bator Sur” in 1956, “Shakuntala” in 1960, “Pratidhwani” in 1978 , “Loti Ghoti” in 1967, “Chick Mick Bijuli” in 1971, “Mon Projapati” in 1978, “Swikarokti” in 1986, “Siraj” in 1988. He also directed , composed music and sang for “Mahut Bandhure” in 1958. He produced, directed and composed music for Arunachal Pradesh’s first Hindi feature film in color “Mera Dharam Meri Maa” in 1977. He directed a color documentary for the Arunachal Pradesh Government on Tribal folk songs and dances entitled “For Whom The Sun Shines” in 1974.

He produced and directed a documentary “Emuthi Saular Kahini” based on the co-operative movement for the Govt. of Assam entirely in a lyrical format. He produced and directed a half-hour documentary for Calcutta Doordarshan Kendra in 1977 on the folk songs and dances of north east India entitled “Through Melody and Rhythm”, he produced and composed music for five reeler color documentary to promote tourism for the Govt. of Assam in 1981. He produced and composed music for the internationally acclaimed award winning Hindi feature film “Ek Pal” in 1986, directed by Kalpana Lajmi, starring Shabana Azmi, Nasiruddin Shah, Faroque 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 as also the Music Composer for the recent award winning film in Hindi “Rudali” starring Dimple Kapadia, Raj Babbar, Amjad Khan and Rakhi.

He has won the President’s National Award for the best film maker thrice: for “Shakuntala”, “Pratidhwani”, and “Loti Ghoti” in 1960, 1964 and 1967 respectively. He won the Arunachal Pradesh Government’s Gold Medal in 1977 for his outstanding contribution towards Tribal Welfare, and Upliftment of Tribal Culure through cinema and music composer in India in 1977 for the Assamese film “Chameli Memsaab”.

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika has been the Chairman, Eastern Region on the Appellate Body of the Central Board of the Central Boad of Film Censors, Government of India for 9 yrs. consecutively till 1990.

He is on the Script Committee of the National Film Development Corporation, Eastern India.

He is the director on the national level on the Board of Directors of National Film Development Corporation, Government of India.

He was the Executive Council Member of the Children Film Society (N’CYP) headed by Mrs. Jaya Bachchan . He is the member of the Board of Trustees for the Poor Artists Welfare Fund, Government of India. He was the Chairman of the Jury of the National Film Awards in 1985 to 1990. he is at present also on the Governing Council for policy making decisions for the Film and Television Institute, Government of India, Pune.

The information and Broadcasting Ministry, Government of India bestowed the honor of Producer Emeritus on him.

Bhupen Hazarika was also a member of P.C.Joshi Committee appointed by the Information Ministry for revitalizing software programming through television for the coming 21st century.

He has rendered music in outstanding Bengali films, such as “Jiban Trishna”, “Jonkir Alo”, “Mahut Bandhure”, “Kari o Komal”, “Asamapta”, “Ekhane Pinjar”, “Dampati”, “Chameli Memsaab”, “Dui”, “Bechara”, and Hindi films like “Arop”, “Ek Pal”, and “Rudaali”. He has in 1995 given music for Sai Paranjype’s Hindi feature film “Papiha” and Bimal Dutta’s Hindi feature film “Pratimurti”.

In 1996 he has composed music for Plus Channel’s Hindi feature film “Mil Gayee Manzil Mujhe” directed by Lekh Tandon starring Meenakshi Sheshadri.

In 1996 he has also composed for Plus Channel’s Hindi feature film “Saaz” directed by Sai Paranjype starring Shaban Azmi.

In 1996 he has composed music for Pan Pictures Hindi feature film “Darmiyaan” starring Kiron Kher and Tabu directed and written by Kalpana Lajmi.

In 1998 he has composed music for Hindi feature film “Gajagamini” written and directed by eminent painter Mr. M.F.Hussain.

He had produced a 52 episodes tele serial titled “Dawn” for telecast on Star TV, The serial casts Shabana Aazmi, Mona Ambegaonkar, Deepa Lagoo, Tom Alter and others.

He has also produced another 18 part documentary entitled “Glimpses of the Misty East” on the soio 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.

In 2000 he has composed music for Hindi feature film “Daman” and had written the story of the film “Chingaari” directed by Ms. Kalpana Laajmi.


He is considered today the last of the great mass singers and the only great ballad singer alive in India. Involved in the Indian movement from his very childhood, till today he writes and composes masterpieces teaming with social consciousness which are in striking contrast to his famous love songs. besides being associated with films, Bhupen Hazarika has won the hearts of the entire Indian people through his discs through which he has rendered some of his finest compositions.

For Bhupen Hazarika music has always been his first love. He met Paul Robson with whom he became closely associated between 1949 and 1955 in USA. It was during this period he was awarded a Gold Medallion in New York as the best interpreter of India’s folk songs by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Bhupen Hazarika sings in numerous languages but writes his lyrics and poems in his home language, Assamese.

Bhupen Hazarika has rightly been hailed as India’s Cultural Ambassador abroad for placing the folk music of Eastern India on the map of world folk music.

He has traveled widely as a Delegate to Conferences on Mass Communication, Poetry, Music, Performing Arts and Cinema from the Belgium Congo to Samarkand, from the Mississipi to Danube, to Europe, Canada, South-East Asia, Japan, USA, UK, and Australia.

He represented India in Berlin at the World Conference of Composers who used songs as an instrument in social change. He was given the honor of inaugurating the World seminar in congress Hall with his own songs on the liberation of Bangladesh.

Bhupen Hazarika’s popularity is so tremendous as performing artist,that for the last 50 years he has been the biggest crowd puller and was honored for the Golden Jubilee of his singing career in 1991.


Bhupen Hazarika has been conferred the highest honor by making him the president of Sahitya Sabha in 1993.
He is one of the leading author/poets of Assam and has to his credit more than one thousand lyrics and more than fifteen major books on short stories, essays, travelogues, poems and children’s rhymes.

He is an extremely popular Journalist and editor for the past two decades of the popular monthlies “Amar Pratinidhi” and “Pratidhwani”.


The country bestowed its greatest honor on him, the Padamshree in 1977 for outstanding contribution to the field of culture in India.

In 1977 he won two awards in West Bengal. The Bangla Chalachitra Prasar Samity and the Bangla Chalchitra Purashkar Samity for being the best music director of the film ‘Dampati”. In 1978 he won two awards from Bangladesh Journalists Association and the Bangladesh film industry.

The Gramophone Company of India bestowed on him the Gold Disc for his outstanding contribution towards Indian Music in 1978.

In 1979 and 1980 he won the Ritwick Ghatak Award as best music directors for two theatre plays “Mohua Sundari” and “Nagini Kanyar Kahini”.

In 1979 he won the All India Critic Association Award for the best performing folk artist in India.

In 1987 he was conferred the National Citizen’s Award at New Delhi for his outstanding excellence in music.

Source from