I have known Jaspal Bhatti ever since I have lived in Chandigarh, which now is almost 25 years. He was one of the first people I met in this city, and I found him very open and generous. His acceptance of people spoke of his largeheartedness.
I am still unable to internalise that he is gone. His brand of humour was sharp, full of ingenuity and hypnotic. It hit without being offensive. A walking newspaper, he took his imagination wherever there was an event that mattered. Be it the vegetable price rise or a political situation, he was on the spot and spot on with insightful comments. In his humour, there was never anger or venom, just the funny side of it.
His wit was intelligent; neither sexist, nor loud. He found his own space in cinema without being typecast. His work as filmmaker was on the same pattern: a social mirror that made people smile when they looked into it. His street theatre, stand-up comedy, persona, jokes, cartoons and films were extensions of each other.
His tremendous goodwill helped him in the world of cinema. He could get Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Om Puri to agree to work for him. His film "Power Cut", to be released on Friday, mocks at the electricity crisis in Punjab. People worked with him because they trusted him to make them look good.
His film training school, MAD Arts, runs on the latest technology. He would never ditch students by exploiting his fame. He gave them facilities and a fine platform to learn. The wound created by his passing away is too raw to open a debate on his legacy. He was a legacy by himself. What he did was contained within his personality. Whether or not there will be another Jaspal Bhatti, only time will tell. Today, it's a sad day in the world of laughter.
He had a voice that brought the television audience to the consciousness of what was happening around. They don't make people like him frequently. I say for him what was said of Charlie Chaplin when he died: an entire era is gone.
As told to Archna Matharu
(Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry is a Chandigarh-based eminent theatre personality)