'I was living in sin, with God': Kalpana Lajmi's love & devotion for Bhupen Hazarika

Farhana Farook
·9-min read
'I was living in sin, with God': Kalpana Lajmi's love & devotion for Bhupen Hazarika

Late filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi gave her all to mentor and companion, maestro Bhupen Hazarika, and finally succumbed to a grave illness herself. Reviewing her #Tragic Tale on Yahoo.

Late filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi was someone who lived by her heart. At 17, she fell in love with renowned singer and musician Bhupen Hazarika, who was around 45 then. She took on social ire and moved in with him.

The relationship went through its share of tumult but survived the seasons… What stands out is Kalpana’s devotion as she nursed Hazarika through his ailing years.

More from Yahoo Tragic Tales series:

“That was the most difficult period of my life. The loneliness that engulfed me, my depleting finances, the creativity that eluded me – it was as if my life breath was slowly being sucked out,” she referred to the period when she was nursing her mentor in her memoir on the maestro titled – Bhupen Hazarika - As I Knew Him.

The void left behind by Hazarika’s demise followed by her own failing health… both crushed her. The only rainbow on her horizon was the impending release of the above mentioned biography. Indisposed Kalpana participated in the book launch from her hospital bed via a video call.

A fortnight later, she was no more. Maybe, she had fulfilled her karmic calling… Maybe her dreams and destiny were intertwined with him...

Late filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi once mentioned that a sense of melancholy lurked in her life. “Though I was from a grounded home, I was always restless. I was never happy with my surroundings and far ahead in thought as compared to my peers,” said the niece of the late actor/filmmaker Guru Dutt and daughter of renowned painter Lalitha Lajmi.

That explains why her films dwelled on the grey and the grim. Ek Pal (1986), based on a short story by Maitreyi Devi, was about a young wife, who ignored by her husband, seeks out her previous paramour

Rudaali (1993), based on a story by Mahasweta Devi, was about a professional mourner, who’s battling her own grief.

Darmiyaan: In Between (1997) was about an actress, who discovers her son is a eunuch. While Daman: A Victim of Marital Violence (2001) was about marital abuse.

Rudaali and Daman won Dimple Kapadia and Raveena Tandon the National Awards respectively. Kalpana’s last film was the Sushmita Sen starrer Chingaari (2006), based on Bhupen Hazarika’s novel The Prostitute And The Postman.


Her personal life too followed an unconventional trajectory. At 17, Kalpana met legendary Assamese balladeer, Dr Bhupen Hazarika, 28 years her senior, and fell in love with him. At 19 she had moved in with the 47-year-old musician, despite familial opposition. The relationship, going through its ebb and tide, survived four decades.

“Ours was an esoteric relationship… Bhupen’s detachment to the material world drew me to him. He was a fakir. Moreover, he gave me intellectual freedom. I could swim in the waters of creativity. That love was for me greater than someone holding my hand and saying ‘let’s get married’,” she once said in an interview.

“I didn’t ever have to fit into the idea of a perfect woman. Bhupen never made me feel fat and ugly. He’d chide me to eat less only for health reasons. It was never a male gaze,” she added.

Hazarika offered marriage to Kaplana in the later years. “He proposed to me to but I refused him saying, ‘I cannot accept your supposed love, which should have come to me when I was 35’… I too wanted to be independent. I was not the typical Indian girl. I didn’t believe in marriage,” she remarked.

What kept her hooked to Hazarika was his integrity. “He was an honest man, an honest artiste,” says she of the ‘Bard of the Brahmaputra’, whose legendary songs, are based on the themes of communal amity, universal justice and empathy.

Sharing an inspiring synergy, Hazarika’s classical and folk-based songs for Kalpana’s films include Dil hoom kare (Rudaali), Samay o dheere chalo (Rudaali), Jhuti mooti mitwa (Rudaali), Dhire se kuch bolna (Kyon) and Gum sum (Daman). His full-throated rustic voice lent character to her narratives.


Kalpana, who was passionate about making films, went missing from the scene in the 2000s. Her personal commitment had taken precedence. She was engrossed in looking after an ailing Hazarika.

“I disappeared from the film scenario. I only concentrated on Bhupen’s health. Other than having a ward boy wash him, I did it all for him… It was a huge battle, which I finally lost in losing him," said Kalpana. Hazarika passed away on 5 November in 2011.

Just before that Kalpana lost her father (late Captain Gopi Lajmi). “These two men were the most important in my life. The shock was difficult to overcome for her. Death shatters even the strongest,” said Kalpana who soon began facing health problems herself.

“I don’t regret my relationship with Bhupen. I regret my failure to take care of my health and my work,” she said candidly. The period of ennui and grief however gave birth to the memoir on her mentor - Bhupen Hazarika – The Way I Knew Him.“Maybe, I fell sick because I relived the trauma once again.”


Kalpana was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney. She underwent surgery where one of her kidneys was removed. After that she had to undergo regular dialysis, which cost a huge sum. Later, the other kidney was also removed.

She began suffering from poor vision as well. Finally, she was advised kidney transplant. “I’m exhausted. I’ve to be medically fit for the surgery. I can barely walk,” she lamented.

The burden of mounting medical bills also troubled her. A few close industry friends helped ease her financial duress.

“Soni Razdan and Alia Bhatt paid for the kidney surgery. They pay for my dialysis and the regular injections as well. It requires 10 lakhs a year to undergo dialysis. Soni, Alia and Mahesh Bhatt have stood by me… Soni loves me like a sister,” she confided.

Reportedly, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Karan Johar, Shabana Azmi and Neena Gupta also supported her. “When I’m able to walk, I’ll make a small film. I want to be on my own feet and look after my health,” she said expressing her desire to live with dignity.

What kept her animated through the three years of excruciating illness was the dream to release the chronicle - Bhupen Hazarika – As I Knew Him. Aiming to take Hazarika’s work of 75 years to a global platform she said, “I’ve touched upon Bhupen as a social reformist, a political analyst, a poet, a lover and one of the great music composers of the world.” The date September 8, 2018, also the bard’s 91st birth anniversary, was zeroed in for a launch.

Kalpana, who was in hospital, was to ply to the book launch and back in an ambulance. But seeing her fragile condition, the doctors refused to sanction that. She attended the event online. “I’d have loved to be there but my doctors advised me not to commute… because I might catch an infection,” she spoke via a video call. It was a soiree seeped in music and memories.

In the foreword of her book, she mentioned why only after Hazarika’s death she was given the respect she longed for. “Even as his family vented its ire at me, calling me a gold-digger and opportunist… the world outside congratulated me for having recognized Bhupen’s vision...”

"He had elicited a promise from me that… I would take him back to Guwahati and cremate him by his beloved Brahmaputra…. I had to forget my personal pain and give him the dignified farewell… Bhupen gave me in death what he could not in life: his acceptance and the status of his wife and consort," wrote Kalpana

Just a few days later after she had paid her final tribute to her mentor, Kalpana passed away due to liver failure. She was 64. “She had been suffering for a long time. But she fought very hard. Unfortunately, her body couldn’t handle it,” said friend Soni Razdan.

Kalpana’s body may have given up on 23 September 2018. But her soul had withered seven years ago.

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