Music legend Bhupen Hazarika dies at 85
golden voice of Indian music fell silent Saturday when legendary
singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika died of multiple organ failure at
a Mumbai hospital, plunging millions of fans across the country,
especially those in eastern India, into gloom. He was 85.
Guwahati: Music lovers
would have been denied the magic of Bhupen Hazarika's hauntingly
powerful voice in songs like "Dil hoom hoom kare" and "Ganga behti
ho kyun" if he had gone ahead and become a lawyer like he
But destiny willed otherwise.
Hazarika, who died of multiple organ failure in a Mumbai hospital
Saturday at age 85, was a master balladeer and touched millions
with the passion of his songs.
He was one of India's oldest performing singers who entertained
music lovers all over for more than seven decades - his songs are
at times like letters from home, had revolutionary promises,
sometimes angry, but always had that soothing touch in his
From Tokyo to Mumbai and Alaska to Assam, those who heard Hazarika
could never ever forget his powerful renditions.
"When I go to Japan, students of music want me to sing 'Manuhe
Manuhar Babe' (For Man). When I reach California people say you
are our Paul (Robeson), please sing 'We are in the same boat
brothers'," the legendary musician told IANS in an interview in
2006 just before a stage performance in Guwahati.
It was mid-way during that stage performance that Hazarika
suffered a mild stroke and later had to undergo a bypass surgery.
But the cardiac arrest failed to deter his spirit - Bhupen Da, as
he was endearingly addressed by one and all, continued singing
until about two years ago when his failing health stopped him from
composing new numbers.
"I always think I am young," Hazarika again told this writer while
celebrating his 84th birthday last year.
"I don't feel like retiring as music has no retirement age.
Throughout my life I have been trying to interpret Assam and India
to the outside world through my songs," Hazarika said.
He began singing when he was just 10 years old and churned out
hits after hits numbering more than 1,500 songs until his health
failed about two years ago. At 13, he sang about building a new
Assam and a new India - the lyrics were his own, very powerful and
A singer, lyricist, actor, and a filmmaker, Hazarika was born in
1926 in one of Assam's remotest corners - Sadiya in the eastern
district of Tinsukia. He grew up in the northern town of Tezpur
and later went to Banaras Hindu University and completed his
graduation and post-graduation in Political Science.
He studied with an aim to pursue a career as a lawyer in Assam,
but destiny made him a mass-based singer.
In 1948, Hazarika went to the US on a scholarship to study Mass
Communication at Columbia University, New York.
It was there that he got soaked in American folk music and later
on that influenced him to bring in the folk elements in his songs
- although he mostly sang the folk tunes of Assam.
Always adorned with the trademark Nepali cap, the Dadasaheb Phalke
Award winner's passion for music was unrelenting.
Hazarika had composed soulful music for films like "Rudaali", "Saaz"
Not just singing, Hazarika dabbled in politics as well - his
remarkable popularity brought him to the Assam Legislative
Assembly as an Independent member in 1967, where he was solely
responsible for installing the first state owned film studio of
its kind ever in Guwahati, the Jyoti Chitraban.
He again tried his hand in politics - this time as a Bharatiya
Janata Party candidate for the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat in 2004. He
was, however, unsuccessful and lost the election.
Hazarika's personal life is as chequered as his professional life.
For close to 40 years, Hazarika had been in a live in relationship
with filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi.
Kalpana Lajmi was just 17 when she fell in love with Hazarika who
was 45 at that time.
When the music maestro turned 80, he offered to marry her, but
Lajmi turned down the offer saying the 'wife' tag was unnecessary
to their relationship.
'Bhupso (Kalpana endearingly addressed Hazarika as Bhupso) did
offer to marry me when he was around 80, but I said no,' Lajmi,
told this writer in an interview.
"May be he wanted to give me the status of wife, but I was not
interested. For me, the relationship, the trust and the respect
that we share with each other are more important than marriage."
Lajmi, best known for her woman-oriented films like 'Rudaali',
'Daman', 'Ek Pal', 'Chingaari' and 'Darmiyaan', says she met
Hazarika through her uncle.
"We lived together for the past more than 40 years, although my
mother never accepted the relationship, nor did Bhupso's family
members, barring Manisha (Bhupen's younger brother Jayanta's
In Lajmi's own words, Bhupen Hazarika had always been the darling
of many beautiful women.
"Bhupso had a lot of beautiful women in his life," Lajmi said.
Hazarika's estranged wife Priyam is settled in Canada and their
son Tej is settled in the US.
Hazarika had produced, directed, composed and sang for Assamese
language films like 'Era Batar Sur' (1956), 'Shakuntala' (1960), 'Pratidhwani'
(1964) and 'Lotighoti' (1967).
So was Lajmi able to make a difference in Hazarika's life and
"I think I'm 95 percent responsible for Bhupso's career flight. He
was an intoxicant (alcoholic) and I helped him get rid of that
She devoted her entire time and energy nursing him ever since he
became bedridden some three years ago.
Hazarika might have passed away - but his soulful music coupled
with his powerful lyrics would continue to entertain and capture
the imagination of generations to come.
Hussain can be contacted at email@example.com)