This morning I spent time listening to the late Bhupen Hazarika’s compositions in Ek Pal, a film that introduced me to the wonderful directorial acumen of my dear much-missed friend Kalpana Lajmi. We became friends soon after. I don’t remember who introduced us. I think it was Prakash Jha. But Kalpana was one of my first friends in the Mumbai film industry. She was feisty and well-connected. The formidable Shyam Benegal is her uncle and the even more formidable Guru Dutt was also an uncle. Kalpana personally rang up Jaya Bachchan and introduced us. She was that kind of large-hearted warm human being.
Yup, Kalpana was well-connected. But when she made her first film the underrated hauntingly romantic Ek Pal she sought no one’s help. She approached the mighty trio of Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah and Farouq Sheikh and all three said yes to her not because of who she was but because of what she had to offer. In a world dominated by patriarchy and nepotism, Kalpana made it on her own steam.
After Ek Pal came the stunning Rudaali. I was hooked.
Today the industry has all but forgotten her. In her last painful days she had no money to pay the hefty hospital bills. You know what they say. If the disease doesn’t kill you, the bill will. She blew up all her savings on the medical care of the love of her life Bhupen Hazarika.
"And you know what? If I had to do it again, and again and again...I'd happily do it. Every last penny every ounce of my blood I'd give to bring him back," she told me during our final conversation. Even in that critical condition, she didn't forget to ask about Lataji.
She knew what true love was.
She survived on the largesse of some industry folks who still have some core of humanism left in them. What the film industry needs is a solid health fund for ailing artistes, so we don’t have talented filmmakers dying for the want of the best medical care.
Why can’t the Indian film industry take care of its own? Make sure that its denizens are looked after in their lean days. Kalpana Lajmi should have got the best medical treatment by right.
As Kalpana lay alone in her illness did she regret spending all her savings looking after her mentor and beloved Bhupen Hazarika?
Image source: SpotboyE archives, Instagram/filmfare/mybhubaneswar