Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bhupen loved Lataji: Kalpana Lajmi

Kalpana Lajmi, Bhupen Hazarika's companion for 40 years, speaks from Guwahati on how and why  the maestro's name was dragged through dirt after his death. 

You are in Guwahati for Bhupen Hazarika's barsi. When did you first hear about the interview that his ex-wife, Priyamvada, gave to an Assamese channel claiming that he had a roaring affair with Lata Mangeshkar? 
I left Mumbai on November 4. I had to catch a 6 am flight. I think the interview took place the night before. I watched it in Guwahati. But trust me, I wasn't shocked; nothing shocks me anymore, considering the industry we function in. But it's sad for Bhupen. Such a thing has been said at a time when he can't even retaliate. It seems like a well-planned action... 

You think the interview was pre-motivated? 
Everyone knew I was holding the shraddh. The ad had come out in the papers, inviting everyone. It was more of an open house. And what I saw (on TV) made me come to this conclusion. She (Priyamvada) looked provoked. Though she wasn't nervous, she didn't look fully in control. Then, suddenly in the midst of the interview, she had an outburst. It was her anger and frustration talking. It seems she was egged on by the channel or maybe, her son and close family members, who launched a tirade against Bhupen even in his lifetime. I fail to understand this why do people want to listen to a wife who has been estranged from her husband for 55 years? I think it's because of the 'wife' tag. Ninety per cent of people are so hung up on the term, wife, that they want to hear anecdotes given only by her. The lady is knocking on 90, has no evidence, the other party is dead, and she is made believable! 

You were the first one to have messaged Lataji...
I sent her a detailed message and assured her that I'll try my best in my own limited way to undo the damage. She is planning to take legal action and so will I. In between, since I was in Majuli ( Assam), where the network is very poor, I couldn't do much. It's only now that I have reached Guwahati. I'm the chairperson of the Bhupen Hazarika Cultural Trust. The trustees have met me and they want to protest against this planned attempt to tarnish Bhupen's image. Over the next few days that I'm here, I'll figure out what we are going to do. You know how the law is; so, we'll need the correct evidence. 

Lataji must have been really hurt...
By the time I messaged her, she had already read about it in a Mumbai newspaper. She is planning to send a legal notice to both Priyamvada and the paper. Why is it that papers and the electronic media have gone ahead with news that involves her, without taking a single quote from her? This is the same lady whom the country has bestowed with the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award.She was as puzzled with the news as I was. And now, she feels hurt and cheated. Priyamvada had nothing to do with Bhupen in these 55 years and now she is blaming Lataji for her break-up! All this at a time Lataji is going through the most troubled phase in her life. First, Ashaji's daughter killed herself. Then, she lost Yash Chopra, who was like a brother. Lataji is not young anymore. She is in her mid-80s and such a thing is uncalled for. It's distasteful. I'll call it blasphemous. How could Priyamvada be so vociferous about Lataji? My legal notice will go to the owners, the group editor and the anchor. 

So, you think Priyamvada Patel Hazarika had planned it out? 
She went on to say that Bhupen was characterless, a pervert and all his life, he went, 'women, women, women'! So, if it was about 'women', then why just name Lataji? To me and to most Indians, she is no less than Goddess Saraswati. There has to be some vested interest. If Bhupen had an affair with Lataji, I would have known. I have lived with him for 40 years. Sadly, Priyamvada is allowed to say such a thing in public. Do you think you would have been allowed to do that in the West? Or in the Middle East? Such a thing happens only in India. A woman who claims that such a relationship existed 60 years ago, is allowed to talk now, when the accused in not alive. Yes, Bhupen was in love with Lataji, but as a creator. He once told me, 'Kalpen, she is the greatest creator. There's divinity in her voice that rises above tunes.' And like Bhupen, there are millions in this country who love, revere, respect Lataji. Why is it that everything here boils down to sex? Can't a relationship be platonic? Or is it that everytime you are behind closed doors, it's only for sex? This happens here because India is a sexually repressed country. 

It's said, Lataji shared Bhupenda's flat in Tollygunge, Kolkata... 
The connotations are so lewd! She claimed that Bhupen exploited people, including Lataji! She added that Bhupen wanted to make the most of his association with Lataji. That was never the case. Bhupen was never in the Mumbai rat race. He would come down only for the recording of his Bengali and Assamese films and albums. Why would he need to rise above the rest when he was never there? I have seen Lataji and Bhupen's friendship evolve. She was in touch with him even in his last years and told me once that she was in love with his music. All this, when the other lady is still stuck in a time warp. 

You have even accompanied Bhupenda to Lataji's house. 
Yes, of course. Lataji has sung for Bhupen all her life. They shared a delicate friendship. It's shameful to put that friendship under the scanner now. I have heard that Priyamvada has worked as a diplomat... in Paris, Canada... and this is what she says. Shameful.