Bhupen Hazarika- in the Voices and Words of famous Bengali Lyricists : Monjit Rajkonwar

Lyricist Pulak Bandopadhyay has seen the world of Bengali music very closely for more than a period of around fifty years. In his book Kothai Kothai Rat Hoye Jai where he talks about some of his famous lyrics, depicts his memories with legendary singers, music composers, lyricists, actors, and many potential artists. This book finds mention of Bhupen Hazarika with whom he spent some intimate moments and witnessed the creation of a number of his unforgettable songs. Based on this book published by Anand publishers, here is a report about Bhupen Hazarika’s association with the world of Bengali music.

with jayanta hazarika (2)     ‘Our neighbor, owner of the Parijat talkies, Mukti Bhai planned to make a movie. The name of movie will be ‘Asamapta’. There will be five lyricists and five music directors in it. I was the one who recommended the name of Bhupen Hazarika. I cannot recall exactly where I heard the songs of Bhupen Babu. They struck me with their novelty! Mr. Ramen Mukherjee of the Alaka talkies instantly backed my decision.
Receiving the invite at Guwahati, Bhupen Babu came to Kolkata with his wife Priyam Hazarika. At that time Bhupen Hazarika didn’t have a place of shelter to his own in Kolkata. He stayed at the residence of Lilluwa Chamatkar of the Parijat talkies. Met him very often there and listened to a lot of new Assamese songs that I didn’t listen before.
A song in the movie ‘Asamampta’ tuned by Bhupen Babu and written by me which was sung by Sateenath Mukhopadhyay became very popular-

‘Kanya tomar kajol dhulo ki se
Kon behaya khopa khule
Kusum dil elo cule
Laal holo gaal
Sansipaaner ranga kon rose mishe?’

Thus the journey of Dr. Bhupen hazarika in the cultural field of Bengal began’

The famous lyricist of Bengal, Pulak Bandopadhyay, thus recreates those times in his book entitled Kothai Kothai Raat Hoye Jai. That was in the year 1965. After his first step into the field of music in Bengal, Bhupen Hazarika wished to be a solo music director in a movie. He did not have to wait long for that opportunity. Soon came to him the movie Kodi O Komal. Pulak Bandopadhyay recalls that episode-

‘… The ex supervisor of the Eastern India Motions Pictures of Kolkata K.K. Choudhury started a movie. It was Kodi O Komal. While listening to his script at his house at New Alipur, I asked him- who have you chosen for music? He asked me instead- Who do you think would be a good choice? I suggested Bhupen Hazarika. K.K Choudhury was, actually, a Bengali gentleman from Guwahati itself. At the mention of Bhupen Babu he blurted out- Correct, this is final! Even I was thinking about the same person.

Bhupen Babu, by that time, had directed music in movies like “Erabator Sur”, “Shakuntala” etc.  He was at Taliganj then. He already had a good rapport with Lata Mangeshkar. Bhupen Babu said- Convince K.K Chaudhuri, I’ll make Lata sing for the lead female role in the songs. Lata Mangeshkar? I was astonished. By that time, lata mangeshkar had sung in a Bengali Movie, “Bouthakuranir Haat”, a Rabindra sangeet- “Shaon gogone ghor ghan ghata”. Before that, she also sang in the dubbed movie of V.Shantaram in Bengali, “Amar Bhupali”. This, by the way, is the first movie where Manna Dey recorded his first song. As far as I can remember, Lataji has probably sung a few more Bangla songs by that time, but not a single one written by me. So, I convinced the producer of the film with a lot of zeal! However, the film did not fare well. But the songs in the film became quite popular; especially the two songs sung by Lataji – “Teer bedha pakhi/ ami jege thaki/ ahat ekaki neere” and “Asta akashe diner chita jwale”…

The music of these two songs was taken from the Assamese songs Jonakore Raati Asomeere Maati and Osto Akashare Sopun Rohon Shani. However, he composed two more Bengali songs with this music which were sung by Lata mangeshkar. These were Jyotsnar Rati Pisu Tane Smriti and Asta Akasher Godhuli Rong. It is to be noted that the song Jyotsnar Raati was written by Bhupen Hazarika himself.

Shortly after that, he sang in the movie “Jiwan trishna” – Sagar Sangame Sator Ketesi Koto. This was his first Assamese song translated into Bengali. Gradually, he started making other singers of Bengal sing for his songs as well. Thus, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay sang in his music-  gumgum gumgum meghe oi garajai  and aka baka o pother ; pratima bandopadhyay sang- Tomay kena lagse eta sena ; Shyamal Mitra sang-  Chaitali Chand Jaak Dube , Dwijen Mukhopadhyay sang- Bor Bhoi Chilo  Abar Belai and Agami premika sukhi hoi jodi, Aparesh Lahiri (father of  Bappi Lahiri) sang- Joler Jahaj Kete Jai and thak thak pisu thak. Likewise, many more such songs. There are interesting stories behind them. Pulak Bandopadhyay relates a few background trivia:

‘Once the Black music band from abroad “Calypso” came to the hotel Grand to perform their music and dance. Bhupen Babu was captivated by their music. During the music break humming a tune he told me- Pulak Babu compose some lyrics in this music. I wrote the song inspired by that music of Calypso- “Ki en bolbe amay go/ ki kotha nayantaray go/ aha ki lajer badhay go/ se kotha bole gelo na/ ekhono?”

The song was recorded in the voice of Tarun bandopadhyay. At the other side of the record was a song based on Assamese Bihu music- “Kajallata meye shono”.  Radio was the only medium to listen to Assamese music at that time. That song was composed and sung by an employee of the radio. As the music company HMV did not give him due importance he destroyed a lot of beautiful songs of that time. The songs of Tarun Bandopadhyay had to bear the brunt of this conspiracy and were never released in public. However, Bhupen Babu had great faith on the music of the song ‘Ki jen bolbo’ and he penned out an Assamese song on it- “Manuhe manuhor babe/ jodihe okono nabhabe” and further translated it into Bengali as “Manushe manusher jonnye”

I saw huge “triple congos” for the first time in my life in this hotel. What an amazing rhythm these Black artists had played in! Bhupen da whispered to me even on that day – Pulak babu, do capture the rhythm. I wrote a song on that rhythm- “Kalo meghe domboru/ guru guru oi shuru”. Subir Sen recorded the song in the lively voice of Bhupen Hazarika. At the other side of the record was the song “Ogo shakuntala, cole jeona”. Bhuen Babu sang the Bengali song Kalo meghe later in Assamese as well- “dug dug dug dug domboru/ meghe bojay domboru”.

The voice of nightingale Lata mangeshkar sang lot of his Bangla songs. Noted among them were “Rangila bashite” , “Mone rekh”, “Bhalo kore tumi”, “Aparupa aparupa”, “Oho mach ranga pakhate”, “Udki dhaner mudki deb”, “Fele asa pothpane”. The “rangila rashite” was Lata’s first Bengali song during the time of Puja. Pulak Bandopadhyay thus records the background story of the creation of this song in his book ‘Rat hoye Jai” – ‘ Bhupen Babu took the responsibility of directing Hemant Mkhopadhyay’s film “Neel Akasher niche”. (Though it was later directed by Mrinal Sing instead) Lataji came to Kolkata for the muhurat of the movie. I reached Damdam to welcome her. At the airport, Lataji said, “This time I will record my first bangla song of Puja. I really liked the songs of your “Kadi o komal”. Please ask Bhpen da to give music for two songs.” A lot of people talked to lata and she told them “I will attend the muhurat tomorrow and will fly back to Bombay the day after tomorrow.” And she told me “I will record the songs before I leave.” I wondered when she will record then. Maybe, this is how the famous talk!
These were the tidbits of the story.

The next day, during the muhurat, Lataji said, “Everybody knows that I’m staying at the hotel Grand, but I’m actually staying at Bhupen da’s flat of Golf club at Taliganj. Come there tomorrow. I felt like I got back my lost treasure. Reaching there first thing I asked her was, “When will you record it? Aren’t you leaving tomorrow?” Lataji said with a smile- No, I’ve told everyone I would but I will not. I will leave only after recording on (this) date. Actually, all the musicians would have asked me to sing if they came to know about it. And whom will I refuse?”

This time I faced trouble. Bhpen da said annoyingly-
“Where is the song that is ready or is there time for a new song?”
: Why there is one – “Mone rekho ogo adho cand” – That I based on your music.
: I don’t remember the song. And I had given the harmonium for some fixing but they have not yet retuned it.

What can be done? I took Bhpen Babu to my elder sister’s house at Bhabanipur. There was an excellent harmonium there. Hemanta da created a lot of his melodies there. Bhupen Babu starting to work on the music of the song ‘mone rekh’, said- “Not done. No time left. Recording is cancelled. Now I have an appointment at the Janata Pictures. Right after that I’ll grab something to eat from the Sangwa restaurant and I’ll have to set out for some work.”

I did not resist any more. Both of us got down at Chaurangi. He went to the Janata pictures. I roamed around in Chaurangi for a while and went looking for him at the Changwa restaurant. Found Bhupenda in a cabin. Though surprised, he sat me by himself smiling, ordered for some food as well.  My purpose, however, was writing the song, not eating. Often heard a song of Bhupenda and extremely liked it. Remembered almost all the lines. The song was “Porohi puwate tulunga nawate”. I thought that a song can be written using this tune. I had a pen with me but no paper. Anyways, I wrote down the lyrics on the bill of the restaurant itself- “Rongila bashite ke dake/ ghum ghum/ nischum/ rater mayay.” Bhupenda’s face glowed at the song. He started singing there itself. Thus, the first Puja song of Lata Mangeshkar was created.”

Slowly, he started rendering his voice for other music composers as well. Noted among them are: ‘O malik sarajiban kadale jakhan’ of Suparnakanti Ghosh, Hemant Mukherji’s ‘E kon Bharatbarsh’, Lokman Fakir’s ‘Amay ekjan sada manush’, Prabeer Majumder’s ‘Ami bhalobasi manushke’, Aparesh Lahiri’s ‘Oi kajal dighi’, etc. Moreover he has sang for music composers like Angshuman Rai, V. balasara, Krishnendu Das, Anathbandhu Das, Aloknath Dey, Dinendra Chaudhuri etc.

Then came the freedom struggle of Bangladesh. Some songs of Bhupen Hazarika added fuel to the movement. His songs that depicted a common man’s attachment to the soil struck a deep chord in the masses. He grew phenomenally popular even in the villages of Bengal. Shivdas Bandopadhyay wrote about this period-
“… The time of the War of Independence of Bangladesh… During this time Santosh Sengupta, the in charge of HMV, made Bhupenda give music and sing a song written by me against my wishes. As soon as the recording was released, it created a huge stir. It started playing at every household- “Ganga amar ma padma amar ma”.’ (Prasad, July, 1987, page no 13)

‘Manush manusher jonye’, ‘Dola he dola’, ‘ai ai chute ai’, ‘ganga boish keno’ were the songs that made Bhupenda very close to the masses. He started translating and singing in a lot of Bengali songs from Assamese. The majority of songs were translated into Bengali by Shivdas Bandopadhyay. The prominent among these are, ‘Pratidhwani shuni’, ‘dola’, ‘somoyer agragrati’, ‘ekti kudi duti pata’, ‘bohudin agetei’,’ei gan hok’ etc. Moreover, ‘sahasrajane more’ translated by Gauriprasanna Majumder and songs such as ‘cira uchal dheu’, ‘shoishobete kheyali’ translated by Mintu mukhopadhyay are bright stars in the world of Bengali music!

Bhupen Hazarika can be called the pioneer of the so called songs about life or ‘Jiwanmukhi songs’ sung by singers like Naciketa, Suman, Anjan Dutta, Shilajit etc in present day Bengal. The humanitarian songs explain his popularity. When he stepped into the Bengali music the current scene was dominated by singers like Hemant Mukherji, Manna Dey, Shyamal Mitra, Manabendra Mukherji, Satinath Mukherji etc; but he was able to steal the heart of the audience in a very short span of time. Himangshu Sattopadhyay explains the reason: “how many more singers are able to express that universal, unexplained rhythm of the human heart- manuhe manuhor babe? How many more has that universal appeal of expression- “bator manuh apon hoise apon hoise por?” (Prasad, July, 1987, page 10)

Besides the love and blessings from the audience, he received many of rewards and lot of honor from the governments of Bangladesh and West Bengal. Pulak Bandopadhyay in this context has to say-
‘Bhupen Babu received the Dada Sahib Falke Award. This is known to all. But barring a few closed ones of his like me, very few people know that he has been able to receive awards globally. Once in an evening, the hotel authority of the hotel Grand offered him an antique drink from a box of oak wood and said- “This is a gift for you from our side. Please accept it.” The reason behind this gift was that Bhupen da proved that their drink was not pure with the help of a match stick and a thread. The then foreigner inhabited Hotel grand had to accept it with a smile and offered him a gift in return. I do not know of other such lucky ones to get even that kind of reward.”

Bhupenda’s music has an international appeal. The masses of Bengal, whose souls have ingrained his songs, call him theirs “amader Bhupen Hazarika” get sentimental when he claims himself as only belonging to Assam -“moi Asomorhe”. Similarly every Assamese breath that has lived with his songs regret, ‘he forgot us staying in Bengal for a long time.” These are trivial human emotions. In reality, he cannot be confined to any boundary of Assam or Bengal. The famous artist Hemant Mukhopadhyay has rightly said about him-
“Due to his long stay at Bengal he has naturally grown fond of Bengal. However, his attachment to Assam and its people has grown even stronger. According to me, he does not have a boundary. Today, he no longer confined to Bengal or Assam. He has become an artist of the entire world.”

Truly, our pride knows no limit when it comes to Bhupen Hazarika.

Translation  by Arunabh Sharma for Project Lipyontor