Czar of comedy
None of the maestros of various genres of the performing arts from the northern region had elicited as much love and blessings of people from all walks of life as Jaspal Bhatti, the comedy king who ruled the hearts of art lovers, particularly Punjabis, the world over.
A man of myriad talents, Bhatti cannot be introduced with a single sobriquet, for he was a gem of a performer, actor, director, writer and, above all, a hugely popular and fine human being. Born to Er N S Bhatti and Dhyan Kaur on March 3, 1955, at Amritsar, young Bhatti had his education there and got a degree in electrical engineering from Punjab Engineering college (PEC), Chandigarh, before joining Punjab Government Service, from which he took voluntary retirement in 2006.
An electrical engineer by profession, he was inclined towards the performing arts from his very childhood and later carved a niche for himself as a stage performer, TV and film actor and director, and emerged a legend during his lifetime. The fans, friends and followers of the celebrated artiste were therefore plunged into gloom upon learning of his sudden demise in a road mishap in the wee hours of October 25. He leaves behind his actor wife
Savita Bhatti, actor-son Jasraj, and daughter Rabiya, who is studying at a local college.
His close ones and admirers are still to come to terms with the void left by him and believe that Bhatti will continue to shine like a star in the realm of wit, humour and satire.
Dr Surinder Sharma, former Professor and Head, Department of Chemistry, Panjab University, Chandigarh, and a veteran comedy actor-writer with over 80 Punjabi and Hindi films to his credit, recalled his chance meeting with Bhatti during a judgment session at a function at PEC, “I noticed a spark of talent in the poker-faced student who was marking his stage presence with the execution of perfect timing in a comic spell, and with brilliant dialogue delivery in his natural but indomitable style. I was even more impressed when I learnt that he was president of the Nonsense Club, engaged in debating social issues of utmost concern to the common man. The club is still active.”
Meetings and associations resulted in more stage shows with Bhatti bagging a three-minute slot Rang Ch Bhang in a Chitrahaar programme beamed by Jalandhar Doordrashan in 1983-84. This small comedy spell virtually eclipsed the filmy grandeur of Chitrahaar and Bhatti was on his way to popularity in the region and emerged as a comedy star.
Encouraged by its success, he elaborated the texts of Rang Ch Bhang, which was followed by another hit, Ulta Pulta, which had nine episodes of crisp satire and humour.
His marriage to vivacious and versatile Savita on March 24, 1985, proved to be a boon and an association of intellect and the performing arts. Meanwhile, his cartoons came into demand with several local and national newspapers carrying them. Participation in more TV programmes on DD Jalandhar and Delhi followed with his satirical serial Flop Show winning national acclaim for Bhatti, as well as co-stars like Savita Bhatti, Vivek Shauq and others in 1990-91. The Bhattis became a household name with more serials like Full Tension, Jeete Ga Bhai Jeete Ga, Thank You Jija ji, Hai Zindagi, Bye Zindagi, etc being aired on national TV channels.
After cameos and some major roles in Bollywood films, Bhatti formally arrived in the film industry in 1999 with his own film production Mahaul Thheek Hai as a writer, actor-director and producer. The film, a powerful satire on policing, became an instant hit. “I sang the title song of the film, which immortalised my voice,” recalls Vinod Sehgal, a well-known ghazal singer and foremost disciple of ghazal king Jagjit Singh. Then followed roles in Bollywood films Mausam, Hum Tum Shabana, Chak De Phatte, Ek: The Power of One, Fanaa, Nalaik, Mera Dil Leke Dekkho, Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye, Kuch Naa Kaho, Tujhe Meri Kasam, Jaani Dushman, Koi Mere Dil Se Poochhe, Yeh Hai Jalwa, Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai, Mahaul Teek Hai, Aa Ab Laut Chalen, Jaanam Samjha Karo and many Punjabi films.
Earlier, in 2007, Bhatti launched MAD (Media and Digital Arts) school, which produced 52 episodes of Thank You Jija ji that was aired on Sab TV and was directed by him in close association of his talented young son Jasraj Bhatti. Jasraj came into news when he won a medal in filmmaking at the World Cultural Olympics held in South Korea in 2009.
Bhatti’s latest directorial venture, Power Cut, was released a day after his sudden demise. The film stars Jasraj Bhatti and Surilie Gautam, younger sister of Yami Gautam, the heroine of the film Vicky Donor. Bhatti was at the prime of his creative genius as an actor-director in Power Cut, opines wife Savita, who plays an important role in the film. The entire film is replete with humour and incisive wit and is a powerful satire on the governance and depraved political system, she adds.
Experts feel that the entertaining comedy engineered by Bhatti not only became the voice of the common man, whose ethos and day-to-day problems he represented, but was also a satirical comment on the anti-human approach of corrupt leaders and officials alike.
Proclaiming admiration for the sincerity and hardworking nature of the subjugated class, Bhatti always had a classic dig at the rich and powerful who grabbed opportunities at the cost of the innocent public. “We even used to get threats through anonymous calls and letters, but Jaspal never bothered about them,” shares his spouse. “We will certainly keep alive his legacy and strive to fight for justice for the needy and highlight social evils through his signature style and satire,” adds Savita.