Filmmakers, writers remember Kalpana Lajmi

Shyam Benegal | Filmmaker


"Kalpana made strong and abiding friendships"

Kalpana was related to me and I have known her since she was a child. When I came to Bombay, she hadn't even started going to school. I have seen her grow and she showed a great interest in cinema particularly and when she was in college, she decided to assist me as well. So I took her with me to a children's film that I was making at that time called Charandas Chor (1975) and she assisted me, and was absolutely suited for the job. She was then part of a series of children's modules that I did for the SITE programmes. Then in order to hone her craft, she started to work with Mahesh Bhatt, who gave her opportunity to make feature films. I really credit Mahesh for having that kind of confidence in her; she made several films for him. Then, of course, she fell in love with the great bard of Brahmaputra Valley [Bhupen Hazarika]. She was with him and became in many ways his muse, which helped him in his work and through his life. She gave up her own work. She was succeeding as a filmmaker and gave it all up for him. She was a good human being and she made strong and abiding friendships.


Kirron Kher | Actor and MP


"Kalpana became very lonely after Bhupen Hazarika passed away"

I did Darmiyaan with her and that was a very nice film to do with her, and it has a very unusual subject. I somehow feel she became very lonely after Dada [Bhupen Hazarika] passed away. Somewhere working with him and being with him was a lifeline to her, and I feel that somewhere she lost her anchor, which is bound to be because he was so much older than her. I enjoyed doing Darmiyaanand it is one of my most memorable films and is close to my heart. It's the first film I said yes to and then Sardari Begum.

AlthoughSardari Begum released earlier than this. That time we were very close. Actually, after Dada passed away we lost touch. She was very involved in his music, films, politics and she ran his shows. She used to bully him, instruct him, take care of him even though he was older. I also hope she somehow was aware of the Supreme Court's decriminalisation of homosexuality when she was ill because LGBT rights were something we all were passionate about. My deepest condolences with her mother and family.


Urmi Juvekar | Screenwriter


"Kalpana  was comfortable being the one making other people uncomfortable"

Kalpana is an extremely generous person. People like that are really difficult to come back. She agreed to work with a complete novice like me [during Darmiyaan: In Between (1997)]. She was driven and got things done but also was very accommodating. Her voice was very strong as a filmmaker and that came through in all her films. At that time, Mahesh Bhatt put me in touch with her. We did Darmiyaan, which took a long time to get done and finally it didn't get the kind of release it deserved. But the longer the film took the more time I got to spend with her. We worked on other projects and floated ideas. That generation of female filmmakers had it difficult in the space they worked in, and still holding their voices, being different and picking the subjects they did, is commendable.

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Her contribution to cinema is on many levels. I think Kalpana's biggest contribution is her choice of subjects and taking a risk at the cost of being notorious or trouble mongering. She was comfortable being the one making other people uncomfortable. Her work was like that. Look at the range of films she has made. There is no thematic connection you can find easily. She could get into things very few would dare to get in, and that fearlessness set her apart.

Santosh Sivan | Cinematographer


"Kalpana was full of energy"

The first film I shot with her was Rudaali. I had met her and Bhupen Hazarika, both are now no more. And we planned this film. It was written by Gulzar so it was very interesting. The energy levels were very high and I remember very well. She was full of energy. Later I collaborated with her on another film, Darmiyaan. After that, we were supposed to do something but it never worked out. She was very good at her job because she was trained by Shyam Benegal and others so her sense of cinema was in that parallel cinema space and she was very much in tune with that.


Onir | Filmmaker


"With Kalpana, I learnt not just about films but also music and life"

Our association started with Darmiyaan. She was the person who thought I had a very good sense of music and she wanted me to be closely associated with the music of her film so it was musical works that I started working with her on. Then in 1999, I initially joined Daman: A Victim of Marital Violence as an editor and then she said, 'Why don't you come and direct the songs for me?' so I went to the set and that was very special because it was the first film set I had been to. Soon she started asking me to direct scenes when she had something else to do, so it was also my first experience of directing actors like Sanjay Suri. In a way my journey into film started with Kalpana Lajmi. Apart from working, we both are foodies. So I would cook for her at home, especially fish. There was a lot of singing with Bhupen [Hazarika]. With her, I learnt not just about films but also music and life.


Sudarshana Dwivedi | Veteran journalist and writer


"She lived a life on her own terms and never compromised"

The way she dressed up, she didn't care at all. For ladies, it used to be proper kurta pyjamas but she didn't care and that was very interesting. In her debut, she touched a very good subject with Ek Pal, which is about a moment of passion, where Shabana Azmi gets pregnant but her husband accepts her. He doesn't think of it as an act of betrayal. Then she did Rudaali, which is an extremely critically acclaimed film which won many awards for Dimple Kapadia also, and that has many layers. In her first film her approach was nearer to Shyam Benegal but in her second film, she was nearer to Gulzar. In Daman, she was influenced by neither Benegal nor Gulzar but it has a raw and honest approach. She brought out the best in Raveena Tandon in that film. But after that, I don't know what happened. Finally, she did Chingaari and it didn't feel like the same person who made Rudaali. I don't know what happened, maybe it was her health that deteriorated or the pressure was high. I think she lost interest in making films after that. 

I salute the woman because she was a strong woman and she wanted to live her life on her own terms, she did the films that she believed in and never compromised. When she compromised, her films became a flop. 

I don't think she enjoyed a very high reputation in the industry. They never took her very seriously. It was a time when women weren't supposed to get important parts and people weren't very supportive of that but she went ahead. Rudaali (1993) was a commercial success and got a lot of respect from the industry but there was a lot of controversies around Daman and she was quite heartbroken about it.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 2:56:45 AM |

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