Guwahati: Music maestro Bhupen Hazarika and his companion Kalpana Lajmi are mired in a blazing controversy in Assam after images of the 85-year-old ailing singer being taken in a chair to the banks of the Brahmaputra river for a commercial shoot were carried in the local media.
"Bhupen Hazarika has been reduced to a commercial commodity and we are extremely saddened to see the images on TV and in newspapers of our elder brother being lifted by six people with bamboo poles placed on the side of the chair," Bhupen Hazarika`s younger brother Nripen told reporters.
The legendary singer and Dadasaheb Phalke award winner Monday acted in a commercial for a local cement brand. The frail Hazarika, who underwent a cardiac bypass surgery last year, was seen in the visuals being carried in a chair. The entire shoot lasted for about three hours on the river bank near Chandrapur in Guwahati.
"As ardent fans and well-wishers we went to the shooting site to seek his blessings, but were rebuked and literally pushed by Kalpana Lajmi and other crew members of the shooting unit," said Dwijen Kalita, a community leader in the Chandrapur area.
Kalita and about 300 locals gathered at the shooting site on hearing about Hazarika`s arrival.
"We were shocked to hear Kalpana Lajmi swearing at us, saying to us to get lost and using words like stupid people. She (Kalpana Lajmi), in fact, twice said she was his (Bhupen Hazarika) wife," an angry Kalita said.
Hazarika and Lajmi has been living together for the past nearly four decades, although there is no formal confirmation about the couple having got married.
"Only from newspapers and TV did we hear that Kalpana Lajmi is my brother`s wife. Although I am his younger brother, I don`t have any information about the two getting married formally," Nripen said.
"We have no problems with Kalpana Lajmi and Bhupen Hazarika sharing a relationship, whether married or not, but the fact of the matter is he is our pride, and we as people of Assam have every right to see that our pride is not used as a commodity for serving someone else`s business interests," said Prasanta Phukan, a Bhupen Hazarika fan and a lawmaker from the Bharatiya Janata Party.
There was no immediate reaction from either Hazarika or Lajmi over the controversy - an issue that has hogged headlines in the local media.
Singer, lyricist, filmmaker, and one of India`s best-known balladeers, Hazarika and Lajmi generally stay in Mumbai.
"Bhupso (Kalpana endearingly addresses Hazarika as Bhupso) did offer to marry me two years ago, but I said no," Lajmi, born in 1954, told reporters in an interview in February 2009.
"Maybe he wanted to give me the status of wife, but I was not interested. For me, the relationship, the trust and the respect that we share with each other are more important than marriage."
Lajmi, best known for her woman-oriented films like "Rudaali", "Daman", "Ek Pal", "Chingaari" and "Darmiyaan", says she met Hazarika through her uncle.
"We have been living together for the past 38 years now, although my mother never accepted the relationship, nor did Bhupso`s family members, barring Manisha (Bhupen`s younger brother Jayanta`s wife).
"Just about a couple of months back my mother asked me to get married to Bhupso. This is completely Indian mentality, you know," Lajmi said during the 2009 interview.