His Life: Music as an instrument of change was his drive
- Year 1926 – Born in Sadiya, Assam, India.
- Year 1936 – Recorded his first song for Selona company.
- Year 1938 – Sang two songs for the movie Indramalati aged 12.
- Year 1939 – Wrote his first song Agnijugor Firingoti Moi aged 13.
- Year 1950 – Married Priyamvada Patel.
- Year 1967 – Elected as a member of Assam Assembly from Nauboicha constituency.
- Year 1975 – National Film Award for Best Music Direction.
- Year 1977 – Conferred with Padmashri.
- Year 2001 – Conferred with Padmabhushan.
- Year 2011 – Left for his heavenly abode.
- Year 2012 – Conferred the Padma Vibhushan posthumously.
“….during a time when music started taking a prime stand in people’s lives, a soothing wave irrespective of cast, race or color took shape, one that made music an instrument of change in the hearts of many.”
A poet, music composer, singer, actor, journalist, author and filmmaker, the self proclaimed wanderer took the rich folk heritage of Assam and interpreted it beautifully for the world through his songs. Bhupen Hazarika widely known as Sudhakantha was more than all the above stated designation as he portrayed what he was. His beliefs and his reliefs through his music which captured the hearts of the whole of Northwestern India and Bangladesh and that which later spread on to the entire country. His songs spoke of communal amity, universal justice and empathy.
Bhupen Hazarika was born in Sadiya, Assam to Nilakanta and Shantipriya Hazarika on 8th September 1926. He was the eldest of ten children. His father was from Nazira, however the family had to move in search of better prospects and Bhupen spent his early childhood in Bharalumukh region of Guwahati but later moved on to Dhubri and in 1935 to Tezpur aged ten where he was discovered by Jyotiprasad Agarwala, the first Assamese Filmmaker.
Hazarika attended the Sonaram High School in Guwahati before moving to Dhubri Government High School and matriculated from Tezpur High School in 1940. He completed his intermediate Arts from Cotton College in 1942, and his BA and MA in Political Science from Banaras Hindu University. After working for the All India Radio, he won a scholarship from the Columbia University and went to New York where he got a PhD.
Bhupen Hazarika married Priyamvada Patel in 1950 after meeting her at the Columbia University. They have a daughter together named Tez Hazarika born in 1952.
Hazarika was exposed to music by his mother who influenced him through lullabies and the traditional music of Assam. In 1935, he moved to Tezpur with his family. Then, Hazarika was only 10 yrs old and was noted by famous Assamese lyricist, playwright and the first Assamese Filmmaker, Jyotiprasad Agarwala in presence of whom he sang Assamese traditional devotional songs taught by his mother. In 1936, he recorded his first song for the Selona Company.
This was the beginning of his official career and his sprouting on to become one of the most influential music entities in India. He sang two songs for the film Indramalati aged 12 and wrote his first song Agnijugor Firingoti Moi aged 13. During his doctoral studies in New York, Hazarika befriended Paul Robeson, a civil rights activist. In him, Hazarika had found a true mate with whom he could share and express what he believed in and channelized his emotions by adapting Robeson’s Ol’ Man River in to his song Bistirno parore.
This went on to become quit influential and wide reaching. After education, he became a teacher at the Guwahati University, however he quit his job and moved on to Kolkata where he established himself as a successful music director and singer. This was his most successful years during which he became known for the trends that he had set in the Bengali music industry. He also made award winning movies and composed evergreen hit music during this time. He also composed music for films from Bangladesh too which received international acclaim.
In 1967, he was elected as a member of Assam Assembly from Nauboicha constituency and in 1993, elected President of the Asam Sahitya Sabha.
During the later years of his life, he mainly concentrated on Hindi Films directed by his friend Kalpana Lajmi who went on to assist him professionally and personally till the end of his life. He served as an MLA from 1967 to 1972 having won as an independent candidate however lost in 2004 due to his party alliances and of which he later regretted. He died on 5 November 2011 of multi-organ failure.
The most important aspect of Hazarika’s songs was his unflinching love for humanity. He describes in one of his songs “Sky is vast, sea is vast, but vaster is the heart of a mother”. This shows the power with which he poured out his emotions on to his songs, he wore his heart on his sleeve and depicted what really matters in life, the oneness, the spirit of being truly one irrespective of cast, color, race, sex and any ethnic or social diversity that divides humanity for that matter.
He was refused the hand of his sweetheart being considered beneath her; however he later goes on to marry from the same cast as a sweet revenge against such mindsets and beliefs existent at that time. He despised cast systems and discriminatory differentiation of the human mentality of which our society bore witness to and still continues to do so, he humbly pleads for a change.