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Rituparna Chatterjee
Saturday , November 05, 2011 at 20 : 50

Kalpana Lajmi-Bhupen Hazarika: A 40-year-old love story


If you remember Rudaali that won actor Dimple Kapadia her only National Film Award, you will realise why it is important to tell the enduring love story of Kalpana Lajmi, the director of the dark but brilliant film. Set in a village in Rajasthan, Rudaali is a poignant ballad that explores a woman's heart as she takes the decision that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

But the dark melancholy of the professional mourners in the film somehow mutates into an uplifting and inspiring story of personal choice and hope of its auteur in real life.

How do you describe a woman who left her home at 17, an age when most girls are trying to decide between pink and red nail polish and the relative merits of colleges, to live in with a man 28 years older than her? Unconventional? Misguided?

Whatever it is, 40 years later, filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi was by the bedside of 85-year-old singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika, her companion of four decades, when he breathed his last.

Ironically, when Hazarika turned 80 he offered to marry Lajmi, who politely turned him down saying if they didn't realise the need for a piece of paper to seal the bond these many years, what has changed now?

Lajmi, 57, said in an interview, her mother until recently kept persuading her to get married to Hazarika. Lajmi, who had Hazarika sing the heart-wrenching number 'Dil Hoom Hoom Kare' in Rudaali, couldn't have had it easy in a society that frowns upon such relationships.

There are many arguments in favour of and against marriage, and Lajmi must have faced every single one of them in her 40 years of relationship with Hazarika. If she had ever wavered in a moment of weakness, no one would know.

But Lajmi, a feminist, once said Hazarika never consumed alcohol or smoked and had remained faithful to one woman for the past 40 years, so what is wrong with staying in a live-in relationship with him?

She was 17 when she met Hazarika, 45 at the time. Lajmi herself said in interviews that Hazarika, a tremendously talented but insular and temperamental man, had reservations against their staying together without getting married.

Hazarika had separated from his wife at the time and was reluctant to get into another marriage. But Lajmi's perseverance triumphed. Lajmi was never apologetic or reserved about her feelings for Hazarika. That she loved him dearly was apparent to whoever spoke to her.

In a town near Guwahati, tactless reporters questioned her status, while she was shielding Hazarika from them during a video shoot. "Who is she to stop us from meeting Hazarika?"

"I'm his wife," Lajmi answered.

That is the truth. No matter what that piece of paper says or doesn't.


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More about Rituparna Chatterjee

In her 10 years in the media, Rituparna has worked both on the field as a reporter as well as off it, on the desk. Lover of cumin flavoured "authentic" Chinese food. God is watching but that's no compulsion to keep the desktop neat.