Bhupen Hazarika’s golden voice falls silent

Mumbai/Guwahati: A golden voice of Indian music fell silent on Saturday when legendary singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika died of multiple organ failure at a Mumbai hospital, plunging millions of fans across the country, especially those in eastern India, into gloom. He was 85.

Known for his haunting, resounding melodies like ‘Dil hoom hoom kare’ and ‘Ganga behti ho kyon’, Hazarika, who was on the ventilator for four months and had been in and out of hospital, passed away at 4.37 p.m. at the Kokilaben Hospital.

His long-time companion, filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi, his nephews and some well-wishers from his home state of Assam were at his side when he died.

“His spirit was great, but what to do, his body gave way. It is a very difficult time for all of us. The doctors did a wonderful job,” she said.

Jayanta Saha, media relations in-charge of the Mumbai hospital, said that after Hazarika developed pneumonia on October 23, he underwent a minor surgery whereby doctors placed a food pipe into his system.

His family and friends were stunned, while gloom descended across Assam.

Impromptu prayer meetings were being held across Assam as fans and well wishers came out on the streets singing his popular songs and lighting earthen lamps at street corners.

“The voice of India, especially the eastern region, has come to a halt. But his songs would continue to live with us for generations to come,” said Arunim Das, a Hazarika fan in Guwahati.

Condolences flowed from top leaders of the country.

In her message, President Pratibha Patil said, “Dr. Hazarika was a creative genius whose deep baritone voice was instantly recognized by poetry and music lovers across the nation.”

Expressing his ‘great sorrow’ at Hazarika’s death, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “Dr. Hazarika’s extraordinary talent encompassed not only music and literature but also cinema acting and direction. His contribution greatly enriched our cultural landscape and his influence on Assamese art and culture was particularly profound.”

Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari recalled Hazarika’s association with the party as he paid tributes to him.

Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan in his condolence message described Hazarika as a ‘gift of Assam to the world’.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi termed it a ‘great loss for the country’. “His music was universal,” he said.

The singer’s body will be kept at the Mumbai hospital till Sunday before being flown to Guwahati for the last rites, a hospital official said quoting Hazarika’s family.

The Assam government has taken the responsibility to fly the body from Mumbai to Guwahati and organise the last rites, expected to take place in Guwahati on Wednesday or Thursday. It has also announced three days’ state mourning.

A Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner, Hazarika’s lyrics and voice lent a special flavour to several Bollywood songs and put the spotlight on music from Assam.

Hindi film industry remembered the singer and many paid condolences through social networking sites.

Said actor Akshay Kumar, “After Jagjit Singh, India has lost another musical wonder, RIP Bhupen Hazarika. The man who gave us ‘Dil Hoom Hoom Kare’ from Rudaali, truly our hearts recite this song with grief today.”