Monday, November 21, 2011

The bard will flow with the river

Written by Rahul Devrani , The Pioneer , 06 Nov 2011

Bhupen Hazarika (1926-2011)

Filmmaker Jahnu Barua pays tribute to legendary genius Bhupen Hazarika — who breathed his last in a Mumbai hospital on Saturday — and explains his lasting legacy in the national consciousness .

Bhupen Hazarika was our modern balladeer who kept the faith. That is why he revelled in befriending the man on the street in Moi eti jajabor, an ode to the gypsy wanderer for whom the world is a home.

That’s why he wondered at the eternal flow of the Ganga in a corrupt, sullied world, exhorting it to rescue mankind and help set it on course (Oh Ganga behti ho kyun?). It is the primal appeal of these words that made him a household name in the rest of India and inspired generations of not only Assamese but the country’s youth. A poet, journalist, singer, lyricist, musician, filmmaker and writer, he connected with everybody much before communication skills became a discipline that needed to be taught and acquired.

I respect and know him as second to none. He was my inspiration and the god of music. He composed five songs for my first film Aparoopa and back then I realised that he was also a teacher in his own way. He used to encourage me every time frustration crept in during the making of the film. With time I started looking at him as Dronacharya. He used to guide me saying there was no reason to be frustrated or disappointed. He would just say, “If you want to do something but are confused and unsure about it, don’t worry and give it a try. Only then can you know the impact. The world is not going to stop if you made one mistake. Move on, and prepare for the challenges ahead.”

For people like me he was a leader and will remain one. He was a trend-setter, the flag-bearer for people like us. It is because of him that we could convey our creativity to the entire country. His music is a symbol of creative progress, he acquired the much deserved recognition.

He was a temperamental person though. He used to get angry sometimes when things weren’t done properly. But that was only for the common good. Basically, he hated complacency and inactiveness. I remember on one occasion I was reluctant to use one of the songs he had composed for the film. He just replied in a sentence, “When you have not even used the song, how can you determine its success or failure?” He did not talk to me the entire afternoon and called me later in the evening. He asked me, what I didn’t like about his composition. I said the song didn’t come across too well. He then sang another one which he had made in such a short while and it was fantastic.

This incident became a turning point for me. While I made more films in future, his words were imprinted in my mind, that without trying one cannot predict the impact. The words reminded me that being experimental and incorporating fresh ideas is not only good “commercially” but gives an immense self-satisfaction. Your identity takes a deeper meaning somehow.

Besides, he was a rare musician. I don’t have a particular favourite song of his. He believed that “music is for people, not just for oneself.” Sample any of his songs and you will see that they are a creation of a lot of inspiring words. From a labourer to a poet to a businessman, everyone can identify with his songs. For example in his song Shitore sheroeka rati, which was also sung in Bengali, he talks of a worker struggling to sleep on a winter night. This makes the worker angry and that anger is burning inside him. Every worker who listens to this song can feel the pain and agony like his own.

His voice was timeless. Its texture could gel with the sound of an instrument like the sarangi for Hindi film music or go with the raw element in the sound of the harmonium for a Bihu song. Hazarika was one of the few performers of his generation who could sing comfortably inside a recording studio or in the open. The range of his voice was remarkable, deep and vast. It could transform and define any emotion owing to his easy approach to octaves, low and high. It was for this quality his song Ganga behti ho kyun became so popular. With his singing he could paint a picture of the playful nayika in Gaja Gamini and express the agony of a professional mourner in Rudaali most profoundly.

I am immensely saddened that he is no more with us but I am sure he would continue to inspire the younger generation and the ones to come. He’s left a tremendous spark of good music behind him and we need to cultivate that.