Sunday, December 7, 2008

Give me one good reason why I should marry Bhupen now?

By Vickey Lalwani
54-year-old Kalpana Lajmi bares her soul about her relationship of 37 years with the 82-year old Bhupen Hazarika

Within a few minutes of talking to filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi, one realises that she loves the 82-year-old Bhupen Hazarika more than anybody else in the world. Theirs is a relationship that has stood the test of time despite flouting all societal norms. Unfortunately, Hazarika has been unwell for quite some time now.
Needless to say, Kalpana is terribly worried but she tried to put forth a brave front and said, “I am not scared.” But one can't ignore that her voice trembles slightly when she talks about Hazarika with whom she has been living-in for 37 years.
Commenting on why they never felt the need to get married, Kalpana said, “A few months ago, my mother told me for the nth time that I should marry Bhupen now. And I turned around and asked her, ‘Why mom? Just because a piece of paper (read marriage certificate) will calm you down?’”
“Why should I get married? Bhupen and I never wanted marriage. Yes, my friends Soni Razdan, Neena Gupta and Kavita Krishnamurthy married late in life but I am not one to join the herd,” said Kalpana.
Kalpana first met Hazarika when she was 17 and he was 45. “My parents were traumatised when I told them about my feelings for Bhupen. My dad is a liberal man and even he gulped before he could digest it but my mom still hasn't come to terms with our relationship. But I will continue to live life on my own terms,” said Kalpana.
And what about children? Kalpana said, “I never wanted to have children. Thankfully, Bhupen too didn't demand kids from me. If I had kids, I would have to resign myself to being a housewife, which I never wanted. Give me one good reason why I should marry Bhupen after having lived with him for 37 years now?”
Coming to how the relationship started, Kalpana admitted that initially Hazarika wasn't too convinced about them living-in together. But, Kalpana was determined. “I left my house and told my parents that I was going to stay with Bhupen who was traumatised too. After a few days, he wanted me to go back to my parents. But I was adamant.”
“After a year, my parents came to Kolkata and stayed with us for a few days. They knew we were in a sort of 'marriage'. It was a tough time when they arrived, but I did not budge,” added Kalpana.
And parental pressure wasn't the only thing that Kalpana-Bhupen had to fight against. Hazarika was separated from wife Priyamvada with whom he had a son, Punaag. Incidentally, Punaag is older than Kalpana.
Didn't that deter Kalpana? She clenched her fist and said, “I was not Bhupen's rakhail (mistress). We had both mutually decided not to marry. Interestingly, Priyamvada and Bhupen again started talking to each other only after I entered his life.”
And what is the equation between the two women? Kalpana said, “Priyamvada is still in touch with us. In fact, she was very happy even when we met for the first time. She told me that I had brought light into Bhupen's life. Just a few days ago, Priyamvada called Bhupen and told him that even though he is 82 now, she wants him to be the same man she knew when she was 22 years old.”
Kalpana added, “Actually, they had a tumultuous marriage. They married when they were very young. They fell in love when they were together at Columbia University, New York.”
And what does she have to say about her relationship with Hazarika? It can't have been easy for Kalpana and Hazarika to keep their relationship going but they grew together with each passing day. “Bhupen is very hot-tempered. We both are strong personalities. It was definitely tough. It was love, hate, fights and turbulence. But you see, we have an amazing chemistry,” she said.
And quickly added, “Let me give you a classic example of what chemistry is all about. Chemistry is something that Kareena Kapoor has with Saif Ali Khan. Hasn't her passion and obsession for Saif in one year surpassed the passion and obsession she had for Shahid Kapur in the three years that she was with him?”
The Kalpana-Bhupen relationship hasn't just been about passion and all-consuming love. She has brought many changes in Hazarika's life. Kalpana said, “I think I organised his finances and made him understand the importance of money. He is from the old school of music where creativity meant less money.
He used to charge only Rs 35 for a show. When I once spoke to the organisers of a show and asked them to give him Rs 300, he was aghast. Later, I made him cut his first LP album. Sometime later, Bhupen told me, ‘Jab se tum mere zindagi mein aayi ho, Lakshmi to aa gayi hai lekin Saraswati chali gayi.’
Slowly but surely, Hazrika changed. “Bhupen calmed down. We put our finances in order and the financial stability eventually calmed him down,” added Kalpana.
Even today, Hazarika's family has not accepted Kalpana. She said, “Most of his brothers are not on talking terms with me. But I don't care. I have everything in the world as long as Bhupen is with me.” One can't help but touch wood.
Commenting on what ails Hazarika today, Kalpana said, “It's his age. He undergoes long spells of drowsiness. I have called the best neurophysicians to attend to him.”
And then suddenly, Kalpana smiled and said. “Tell me honestly. Today I am 54 and Bhupen is 82. Doesn't our age difference look far smaller than it did 37 years ago?”
Life is not easy for Kalpana. A lot of their earnings have been spent in taking care of Hazarika’s health. “A few days ago, the Assam Government gave a cabinet rank to Bhupen and a carte blanche whereby he can walk into any top hospital for treatment. But the last two years have taken a toll on our savings,” said Kalpana.
But as always, Kalpana and Hazarika will win this time too. The worst is hopefully over as Kalpana is getting ready with two films- one will be on astrology while the other is all about love. The ever-optimistic Kalpana said, “After darkness, there is light. I am going through a dark phase since a long time, three years to be precise. I have not been able to put a film together. Soon, I will see light.”
And then she drew open the curtains in her room and said, “Kyun ho gaya na?”
That's the spirit, Kalpana. The show must go on. And who could be a better example of this than you and Bhupen?
Source : Mumbai Mirror , 12 Nov 2008