Throwback Movies

The undying music of Bhupen Hazarika

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Bistirno duparer, oshonkho manusher; Hahakar shuneo, nishobde nirobe; O Ganga tumi! Ganga boicho keno? (Stretched on two shores where crores of people live; you hear their cries in silence and oblivion, O Ganges you! Ganges why do you flow in silence?)



The year was 1999, and I was watching a black-and-white image of a man, wearing something like a Dhaka topi, singing these words on Doordarshan. At the end of the song, the voice-over identified him as Dr. Bhupen Hazarika. The programme went on to showcase his extensive film work and praised the creative genius in him. It is 2016 and I am still hooked.



Ninety years ago on September 8, Bhupen Hazarika was born in Sadiya, Assam. The town, however, was completely washed away as the mighty Brahmaputra changed its course after the 1950 earthquake. Ironically, the legend, who passed away in November 2011, is known as the ‘Bard of the Brahmaputra’. But then, Ganga, Padma were part of his songs.



For a Bengali, whether in Bangladesh or in West Bengal, Bhupen Hazarika is a household name, for he inspired the mukti jodhas (freedom fighters) of the Bangladesh liberation war with his words. His works have been translated in Bengali, Hindi and English, reaching millions across the globe.





But what sets him apart is not the mere composition or his voice. It is the poetry. There was a purpose behind what he wrote. Through songs like Manuhhe manuhor babe (humans are for humanity) he questioned the humanity in us. The lyrics were always simple, but conveyed a strong message, just like the impact created by Bob Marley with hits like Get up stand up, stand up for your right.





A civil rights activist himself, he envisioned a classless society. Whether it is the bistirno dupare, inspired by Paul Robeson's Ol' Man River, or Ami ek jajabar (I am a gypsy), the depth of his thoughts always came out with ease. It was always about common men and their day-to-day struggle.





But Bhupen Hazarika wasn’t just a musician. He wrote, composed, sang, produced and even directed. He was spotted at an early age by Jyotiprasad Agarwala, who made the first Assamese film, Joymoti (1935). At the age of 10, he recorded tracks at Aurora Studio for the Selona Company in Calcutta. Assam did not have a recording studio then. There wasn’t anything that could stop him -- even under financial constraints and emotional turmoil, the creative person in him did not take a back seat.



It was probably his music in Kalpana Lajmi’s acclaimed movie Rudaali, starring Dimple Kapadia-Amjad Khan, that gave him a pan-India reach. Who can get over dil hoom hoom kare sung by Lata Mangeshkar and the master himself. Originally written as Buku hoom hoom kore, Gulzar retained the word ‘ hoom hoom’ while translating.





He directed many feature films and documentaries, including classics like Shakuntala, Pioli Phukan, Era Bator Sur, Pratidhwani, Chik Mik Bijuli, among others. Not to forget his immense contribution to the revival of folk music in the Northeastern States. He has won the National Award for music, the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the Padma Vibhushan and many other prestigious awards.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 7:03:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/The-undying-music-of-Bhupen-Hazarika/article14630713.ece

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