RIP, Kalpana Lajmi

India’s film world loses another stupendous talent.

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Filmmaker and screenwriter Kalpana Lajmi, niece of the legendary Guru Dutt and acclaimed for making women-oriented films like Rudaali, Ek Pal, Daman and Chingaari, died in Mumbai on 24 Sept following a multiple organ failure. She was 64.

Lajmi breathed her last at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital, where she was admitted in the intensive care unit six days before due to kidney-related issues.

President Ram Nath Kovind and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal paid condolences, as did a slew of well-known names like Hansal Mehta, Nandita Das, Soni Razdan and Raveena Tandon from the film industry.

Filmmaker and screenwriter – Kalpana Lajmi

“Sorry to hear of the passing of Kalpana Lajmi, a filmmaker of rare sensitivity. The repertoire of her work, from depicting strong and resilient women to cinematic renditions of Assamese life, was remarkable. Condolences to her family and well-wishers,” read a post from the official President of India Twitter handle.

Her contribution to Indian cinema will be remembered forever, said Sonowal.

Lajmi’s cremation took place the following day at the Oshiwara crematorium. Mahesh Bhatt, Soni Razdan, Shabana Azmi and Shyam Benegal were among those who were present.

Soni, who was her close friend, said, “Our dear beloved friend Kalpana Lajmi has gone to a better place. RIP my darling Kalpana. I shall miss you so terribly.”

Rudaali ~ A film by Kalpana Lajmi

Lajmi had been undergoing dialysis for a couple of years, and true to her indomitable spirit, had said in an interview last year, “My kidneys have failed, but I haven’t.”

She had forayed into filmdom as an assistant director under renowned filmmaker Shyam Benegal, following which she made her directorial debut with a documentary film D.G. Movie Pioneer based on Bengali filmmaker Dhiren Ganguly in 1978.

Her feature film debut came with Ek Pal. She also directed the TV serial Lohit Kinaare (1988) for Doordarshan and 26 episodes of a serial Dawn, on the freedom movement of India.

Lajmi’s last film as a director was Chingaari, based on the novel The Prostitute and the Postman by the late Bhupen Hazarika, her long-time companion.

Daman ~ A film by Kalpana Lajmi

She also penned a book, Bhupen Hazarika: As I Knew Him. It was launched on 8 September by Benegal and Lajmi’s mother, painter Lalita Lajmi.

The filmmaker, who was hospitalised at that time too, could not attend the event as her doctors had refused to allow her a long commute.

Known for fearless filmmaking with women in strong roles, Lajmi’s 1993 Dimple Kapadia-starrer Rudaali was even chosen as India’s official entry to the 66th Academy Awards.

Actress Raveena Tandon, who played the lead role as a battered wife in Daman, mourned Lajmi’s demise.

“You will be missed Kalpanaji. Was not your time to go… But may your heart now be at peace. Those days while shooting ‘Daman’ will be a treasured memory. Om Shanti.”

IANS