By : Devajit Bhuyan, Career Consultant, The Assam Tribune
It is said that a genius is born, he is never be made. So also Bhupen Hazarika, the icon of Assamese music, cinema and literature was born in Sadiya, Assam. His father was Nilakanta Hazarika & the mother was Shantipriya Hazarika. He was the eldest child of the family. A child prodigy, he sang his first song in the second Assamese film, Jyoti Prashad Agarwala’s Indramalati (Biswa Bijoy No Jowan), in 1939 when he was 12 years old. As an alumni of Cotton College he completed his Intermediate Arts in 1942, and went on to Banaras Hindu University and completed his B.A. in 1944 and his M.A. in Political Science in 1946. He earned a Ph.D from Columbia University in New York in 1952. He was the President of the Asam Sahitya Sabha in 1993. As a singer, Hazarika was known for his baritone voice and diction; as a lyricist, he was known for poetic compositions and parables which touched on themes ranging from the erotic to social and political commentary; and as a composer for his use of folk music. Some of his most famous compositions were adaptations of American black spirituals that he had learned from Paul Robeson, whom he had befriended during his years in New York City in the early 1950s. A prominent figure in the Assamese film industry, he also sang in Bengali and Hindi. He was solely responsible for placing the fledging Assamese cinema on the all India and on the world cinema map. Bhupen Hazarika was also a renowned and film maker and ranked amongst the leading film makers of the country. He produced and composed the music of award winning hindi films like Ek Pal and Rudaali. The news of his death on 5 November 2011 is the most shocking and saddest news for not only to me during 21st century, but also to everyone living in North East India.
Women always played an important role in Bhupen Hazarika’s life to inspire his creativity. Apart from Shantipriya Hazarika (mother) and Priyambada Patel (first wife) , Kalpana Lajmi was the most important woman in Hazarika’s life. Kalpana Lajmi (born 1954) is an Indian film director, producer and script writer. Lajmi is an independent filmmaker working more on realistic films, which are known in India as parallel cinema. Her films are often woman-oriented films. She has been in a longtime relationship with Bhupen Hazarika. Kalpana Lajmi debuted as an assistant director under the veteran film director Shyam Benegal. She later went on to work as an assistant costume designer in Shyam Benegal’s Bhumika: The Role (1979) that starred Smita Patil. She made her directorial début with the documentary film D.G. Movie Pioneer in 1978 and went on to direct more documentaries like A Work Study in Tea Plucking (1979) and Along the Brahmaputra (1981). She debuted as a film director in 1986 with Ek Pal (one minute), starring Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah. She produced the film, took part in the film writing and had written the screenplay for the film along with Gulzar. She then took a break from directing movies and went to direct her first television serial Lohit Kinare (1988). She made her comeback to cinema in 1993 with the critically acclaimed Rudaali starring Dimple Kapadia. Kapadia won the National Film Award for Best Actress for her performance and Lajmi also won accolades for directing the film.
To tell about contribution of Kalpana Lazmi in the life of Hazarika, I would like to use an analogy that I read some years ago of the Japanese carp, known as the koi, to make the point. The fascinating thing about the koi is that if you keep it in a small fish bowl, it will grow to be only about two to three inches long. Place the koi in a larger tank or small pond and it will reach six to ten inches. Put it in a large pond, and it may get as long as a foot and a half. However, if you put it in a huge lake where it can really stretch out, it has the potential to reach sizes up to three feet. People, like the koi, will grow to the dimensions of their boundaries. And it was the Lajmi’s contribution to set the kind of boundaries that allow Bhupen Hazarika to reach his full potential, become a world citizen.
BHUPEN HAZARIKA and KALPANA LAJMI ARE 21st CENTURY JONKI-PANEI (ROMEO & JULIET) OF NORTH EAST INDIA COMPLEMENTING EACH OTHER. Even after so many criticisms, media abuse, pressure for different groups for years, Lajmi has never cared for anything and stood by Bhupen Hazarika till his last breath. This is really amazing and she should also get the credit for her selfless love.
The life and music of Bhupen Hazarika will continue to inspire people for generation as he was a musician for humanity. Let his immortal soul guide us for a better tomorrow where there will be no violence, hatred and every one will sing together Manuhe Manuhor Babe……..