Sunday, September 2, 2012

Another facet of an icon

MONALISHA RAJKUMARI , The Telegraph, 24 Aug 2012

Bhupen Hazarika the journalist is often overshadowed by Bhupenda the artiste. Whenever one recalls him, it is his songs that come to mind rather than his contributions as a scribe. But to know the person in totality one cannot ignore his writings, which reflect another facet of his personality.

Paramananda Majumdar has thrown light on Bhupen Hazarika the writer in his book, Bhupen Hazarika: Gotir Pora Amar Protinidhiloi, a collection of select articles by Hazarika in Goti and Amar Pratinidhi, two Assamese magazines edited by the late maestro.

Looking at the singer, lyricist and filmmaker many forget that it was the same person who earned his PhD 70 years ago on his thesis, Proposals for preparing India’s basic education to use audio-visual techniques in adult education, a subject of mass communication.

Both Goti and Amar Pratinidhi were published after Hazarika shifted to Calcutta in 1955-56. First he published Goti and then Amar Pratinidhi, proving his journalistic adroitness besides reflecting his vision and observations on different aspects of contemporary society through his writings.

Amar Pratinidhi was published in 1960 and continued till 1980. Barring the initial five years (when Padma Borkotoky was the editor) Bhupen Hazarika was the magazine’s editor.

Majumdar has incorporated some selected articles and editorials by Hazarika in the book as suggested by the singer when he was alive.

From Assam’s flood problem to Asam Sahitya Sabha to workers of Berlin to Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen to an evening in autumn to Paul Robeson — the write-ups of Hazarika reflect the flight of his thoughts. Anybody who wants to peep into the mind of the person who raised himself to the level of a legend in his lifetime these write-ups are invaluable.

Till the end of his life, Hazarika had sung Paul Robeson’s We are in the same boat brother. The influence of the American singer and civil rights activist on the maestro was immense.

In the article Xilpir prithibi aji doridro hol (The artiste’s world is poor today) Hazarika describes the life of Robeson, how they got introduced and how Robeson illuminated him by saying that the guitar was not a “musical instrument” but a “social instrument”.


A few of Hazarika’s write-ups were about Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, the cultural icon of Assam under whose shadow Hazarika had grown and moulded himself. He wrote of Agarwala’s social satire, poems, songs and cinema and lamented that he had remained neglected despite his many contributions. Hazarika also wrote about Bishnu Prasad Rabha, another cultural icon of Assam whom he knew closely.

Though Hazarika cannot be called a successful filmmaker (in comparison to what he did with music), his ideas were evident from write-ups like Asomiya bolsobi-xilpor unnatir upay ki (What are the ways to develop Assamese film Industry).

All the write-ups in the book were written more than four decades ago but are still relevant. They reveal to the readers how one of the greatest Assamese icons looked at the world.

A must buy for those who want to know more about Bhupenda.

Book title: Bhupen Hazarika: Gotir Pora Amar Pratinidhiloi

Editor: Paramananda Majumdar
Publisher: Publication Board Assam
Pages: 456
Price: Rs 350