Born in 1954, Kalpana Lajmi,an outspoken director, niece of the great Guru Dutt, assisted Shyam Benegal for a dozen yeats before founding a production company in partnership with the prolific Assamese poet-singer-composer, Bhupen Hazarika. She is one of the few female directors who have ever strained nerves with femminism and made film as the medium through which women's suppressed longings could be brought forth.
In "Ek Pal"(One Moment, 1986), her first film, there is already proof of her clear desire to paint, for the first time in Indian cinema, a completely different portrait of an Indian woman, who is capable of expressing her sexuality without regret . In the enclosed and luxurious world of the tea-plantations of Assam, Priyam ( One of Shaban's memorable roles), a somewhat reserved woman, marries Ved (Naseeruddin Shah), scion to a family of wealthy estate owners. Ved, a work-maniac who has to tour off and on, is not attentive to his wife's solitude and growing ennui. The situation is exacerbated by her inability to conceive following a miscarriage. She has a brief and satisfying sexual fling with the local playboy, Jeet Barua, who had courted her at one time, before her marriage. Now she conceives by her lover. Undeterred, she decides to keep the child, although scandal is inavoidable ,. She realises how vulnerable her position is when she sees how the wife of the estate gardener is victimised by her husband. Ved returns, after almost a year in the USA. He is overjoyed when he hears Priyam is with child, until she deliberately reveals to him that he is not the father of the child.
"Rudali"( The Mourner, 1992), is a realistic and captivating melodrama, in which the folk tunes and songs of Rajasthan blend with Bhupen Hazarika's music against a backdrop of beautifully filmed Rajasthani landscape, albeit with a somewhat glossy quality. Sanichari ( Dimple Kapadia) is a bitter, simple woman. The whole village looks upon her as insensitive, incapable of crying, for even when she was abandoned as a child, even though her marriage to a drunkard who supplanted her with a prostitite, Sanichari could not bring a tear to her eye. As irony of fate would have it, Sanichari is in need to be tutored to master the art of crying, done by the professional mourners. Bhikni ( Rakhi) comes to teach her but fails in the attempt. Sanichari later learns about Bhikni's death and also learns that Bhikni is her mother , who abandoned her. It acts like purgation, and Sanichari unloads her sedimented emotions into an outburst and becomes a "rudali" in true sense of the term.
Lajmi's "Darmiyaan"( In Between, 1997), once again with music by Bhupen Hazarika, reflects the ongoing debate about the "third sex" hermaphrodites, in a style which flirts with Hindi film melodrama. It may be noted that in the same year Mahesh Bhat made "Sadak" in which a character of "hizra" was there.