Bhupen Hazarika, born on 8 September 1926, hails from Assam and is an Indian singer, composer, lyricist, music director and filmmaker. This child prodigy cut his first LP record at the age of 10 and started singing in All India Radio in 1937 at the age of 11. Other than his native Assamese, Hazarika has sung in many other Indian languages including Bengali and Hindi.
He has won the National Award for the ‘Best Director’ thrice before winning for ‘Best Music Director’ in 1977 for Chameli Memsaheb. He has also been honoured with awards including Padmasree (1977), Padma Bhushan (2001), Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1987) and Dada Saheb Phalke Award (1993). In 1993, Bhupen won the award for best music for the film Rudaali at the Asia Pacific International Film Festival at Japan. Likewise, Tezpur University honoured him with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 2001.
Better known as Bhupenda, his career in films began as a child actor in Indramalati (1939), the second talkie film to be made in Assamese. He completed his Intermediate Arts from Cotton College, Guwahati in 1942 and went on to complete his B.A. in 1944 from Banaras Hindu University and his M.A. in Political Science in 1946. He earned a Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Columbia University in New York in 1954. It was during his stay in America that he fell in love and married Priyamvada against his parents’ wishes. In this marriage that lasted 13 years and ended amicably, Bhupen has a son named Tez. On returning to India, he joined the Indian People’s Theatre Movement (IPTA).
Hazarika has composed and directed music for Arunachal Pradesh’s first Hindi feature film Mera Dharam Meri Maa in 1977. He has contributed as the music director to many Hindi films including Arop, Ek Pal, Rudaali, Papiha, Pratimurti, Mil Gayee Manzil Mujhe, Saaz, Darmiyaan and Gajagamini. His compositions can be found in movies including Indramalati (1939), Siraj (1948), Pioli Phukan (1955), Era Bator Sur (1956), Shakuntala ( 1961), Tita Sh Ekti Nadir Naam (1973), Mera Dharam Meri Maa (1976), Debdas (1979), Ek Pal (1986), Rudaali (1993), Darmiyaan: In Between (1997), Gajagamini (2000), Daman: A Victim of Marital Violence (2001) and Chingaari (2006).
A few of the tunes that he has sung include “Asomir Mukhate Hahi Nai Etiya” and “Amare Deshlhan Hol Morisali” (Pioli Phukan); “Phiriti Phiriti” (Siraj); “Jhuthi Muthi Mitawa”, “Samay O Dheere Chalo” and “Dil Huun Huun Karen” (Rudaali); “Nadiya Pe Lahren”, “Dekh Lun Jo Nazar Bar Ke”, “Koi To Jeena Ka Bahana”, “Pigalta Hua Yeh Sama”, “Hai Re Lahla Tera Jiyo Re Lehla” (Darmiyaan: In Between); “Bahar Hi Bahar Hai”, “Sun Sun Goria”, “Sar Sar Hawa”, “Bhagwati Songs”, “Hoon Hoon Pagal Pawan”, “Gum Sum” (Daman) and “Dank Maare” (Chingaari).
Multifaceted in his talents, Bhupen Hazarika is recognised as one of South Asia’s greatest living cultural communicators because of his contributions to cinema, music and literature. He represented India in Berlin at the World Conference of Composers who used songs as an instrument in social change. He was given the honour of inaugurating the World Seminar in Congress Hall with his own songs on the liberation of Bangladesh. His music is known for the social consciousness and humanism it espouses through its folk tunes.
Bhupen Hazarika was posthumously awarded Padma Vibhushan by Government of India in 2012. He died on November 5, 2011.