The Google Doodle of today honours Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, an acclaimed Assamese-Indian singer, composer, and director who contributed music to hundreds of motion pictures, on his 96th birthday. In addition, he was a significant sociocultural reformer in northeast India, whose works and compositions brought people from various backgrounds together. The piece of art, which is illustrated by Mumbai-based guest artist Rutuja Mali, honours Hazarika’s efforts to popularise Assamese film and folk music.
On this day in 1926, Hazarika was born in northern India. His native state of Assam is a place where numerous indigenous tribes, including the Bodo, Karbi, Mising, and Sonowal-Kacharis, have long called home. Hazarika was exposed to songs and legends about life beside the huge Brahmaputra river as a child.
Young Hazarika caught the ear of famed Assamese lyricist Jyotiprasad Agarwala and director Bishnu Prasad Rabha, two giants of the state’s vibrant cultural past. At the age of ten, they assisted Hazarika in recording his debut song, which began his musical career. By the age of twelve, Hazarika had already written and recorded the music for two Indramalati movies, Kaxote Kolosi Loi and Biswo Bijoyi Naujawan. Hazarika over time produced a large number of compositions, with a preference for using songs to express stories of people’s joys and sorrows, bonds of friendship and bravery, love and loneliness, and even struggle and resolve.
Hazarika was not simply a musical prodigy when he was young; he was also intelligent. After receiving a master’s degree in political science from Banaras Hindu University in 1946, he continued on to Columbia University, where he received a PhD in mass communication in 1952.
He returned to India after completing his education in America to continue producing songs and movies that helped Assamese culture gain national and international recognition. Over the course of a six-decade career, Hazarika received numerous honours for his remarkable contributions to music and culture, including the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. The Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, was given to him posthumously in 2019.
He then served as the chairman and director of many boards and organisations, including the National Film Development Corporation of the Indian government.
Happy birthday, Bhupen Hazarika! Your songs and films continue to command respect for Assam’s rich culture.