- Birth Date: 08 Sep 1926
- Birth Place: Sadiya, Assam
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.
Bhupenda is without doubt one of the greatest living cultural communicators of South Asia. He has swayed millions with the power and passion of his voice, and the message of universal brotherhood and humanism, which comes through in his songs. He has a genius for weaving a magical tapestry out of traditional Assamese music and lyrics, breathing new life into the language, synthesising old and new strands of music, and instilling a sense of pride among the inhabitants of the Brahmaputra valley. The waterways of Assam have been a the source of inspiration for Hazarika’s songs and lyrics all these years.
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 on to Banaras Hindu University to complete his B.A. in 1944 and his M.A. in Political Science in 1946.Hazarika showed signs of early musical genius even before he started singing on All India Radio in 1937, at the age of eleven. As a young adult, he swiftly made his mark as singer and composer. 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.
Few know that, during his time at Columbia University, Hazarika was a friend of Paul Robeson, the great black American singer, actor and civil rights activist. Robeson’s passionate crusade for social justice and black pride has permeated Bhupenda’s own worldview. Inspired greatly by Robeson’s powerful rendition of the song “Ole Man River”, Hazarika created his own moving ode to the Brahmaputra.
Bhupen came to Mumbai to work in the Indian People’s Theatre Movement (IPTA) with Salil Chowdhury, Balraj Sahni and other Marxist intellectuals. At IPTA he met Hemant Kumar took him around to meet all the big music directors and singers in Mumbai. He wanted Lataji to sing a song for his first film as a director, Tunes From The Deserted Path about a moonlit night in Assam. And she did it. The song became so famous she selected it as one of her personal favourites in her first golden disc. Incidentally with Hemant da Bhupen met Uttam Kumar. Uttam Kumar insisted him to sing a song in his film.Fortunately the song Sagor sangame became very famous. Later Gulzar translated it into Hindi in album Main Aur Mera Saaya. 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'.
He has rendered music, written lyrics and sung for numerous Assamese 'Era Batar Sur' in 1956, 'Shakuntala' in 1960, 'Pratidhwani' in 1964, 'Lotighoti' in 1967, 'Chick Mick Bijuli' in 1971, 'Mon Projapati' in 1978, 'Swikarokti' in 1986, 'Siraj' in 1988., Bengali and Hindi films from 1930s to the 1990s. Bhupen Hazarika has scored music and sung for the highest number of Assamese films made in the past 40 years.He also directed, and composed music for Arunachal Pradesh’s first Hindi feature film in colour 'mera Dharam Meri Maa' in 1977. He directed a colour documentary for the Arunachal Pradesh Government on Tribal folk songs and dances entitled 'For Whom The Sun Shines' in 1974.
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. He has also headed the Assam Sahitya Sabha, the literary bastion of the Brahmaputra valley’s dominant civilisation.
He has directed music in outstanding Bengali films, such as 'Jiban Trishna', 'Jonakir Alo', 'Mahut Bandhure', 'Kari o Komal', 'Asamapta', 'Ekhane Pinjar', 'Dampati', 'Chameli Memsaab', 'Dui', 'Bechara', and Hindi films like 'Arop', 'Ek Pal', and 'Rudaali'starring Dimple Kapadia, Raj Babbar, Amjad Khan and Rakhi. He has in 1995 given music for Sai Paranjype’s Hindi feature film 'Papiha' and Bimal Dutt’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 Shabana 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 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.
Hazarika 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. His songs are not limited to Assamese and Bengali, and Bhupenda’s rich baritone is equally at ease with Hindi, Urdu and English.Whereas he had been a legend in Eastern India for decades, it was his compositions for the film Rudali which won Hazarika recognition across the Subcontinent. At the age of 70, he retains the energy of a much younger man, and he is presently working on a television serial on the freedom movement in Assam.
In 1994, he was awarded the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest award in India for contribution to films. He has won the President’s National Award for the best filmmaker 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 Culture through cinema and music. He also won the National Award as best 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 Film Censors, Government of India for 9 years consecutively tell 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 and was a jury member several times from 1958 to 1990. He 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 is at present on the Governing Council for policy making decisions for the Film and Television Institute, Government of India, Pune.