The news of well-known actor, satirist and film director Jaspal Bhatti's sudden demise gave a rude shock to city on Thursday. Notably, it was only two days ago on Tuesday that the celebrated humourist visited Ludhiana for the promotion of his film Power Cut that releases today (October 26).
The artist on Tuesday had visited Punjab Agricultural University as the chief guest at the PAU Golden Jubilee Youth Festival. "This was his maiden visit to the University and incidentally became the last," PAU vice-chancellor Dr Baldev Singh Dhillon said. Describing his death as a shocking and extremely sad incidence, Dhillon said, "We have lost a great comedian who highlighted the everyday problems of common man through his simple humour and satire. He was a crusader who spread awareness against corruption."
On Thursday, the concluding day of the Youth Festival, a two-minute silence was observed to pray for the peace of Bhatti's departed soul.
A shocked Jaswinder Bhalla, a city-based actor, who has had a long association with Bhatti and features in the ace filmaker's last film Power Cut, said he remembers Bhatti as not only an artist, but a true patriot.
"Bhatti Ji wielded the power of his pen and speech to raise socially relevant and important issues. He devoted his entire life to speak about the problems of the oppressed through his gifted talent. This makes him nothing less than a patriot, the nation was so proud of," said Bhalla, while sharing that he too was invited for the promotional event that happened in Bhatinda, but had not been able to make it due to his commitment to Punjab Agricultural University's concluding day of Youth festival.
Notably, the ill-fated drive back to Jalandhar from the event cost Bhatti his life, while his son Jasraj, the film's heroine Surilie Gautam and Bhatti's media adviser Navneet sustained injuries in the wee hours of Thursday.
Yesteryear star Satish Kaul said the void created by Bhatti will never be filled. "I met him a couple of months ago at the promotional ceremony of Punjab International Film Awards held at Chandigarh where we chatted for over an hour. I remember him as an excellent person and artist. It is my bad luck that I never had a chance to work with him, a dream that will never be fulfilled now," said Kaul.
Noted theatre artist from the city Nirmal Rishi said her day could have begun on a worse note. "I am still incredulous about his demise. I have had several chances when I met him, and loved every bit of knowing him personally. He was a humble, simple and truly talented person that the whole nation was so proud of," Rishi said.
Those who have known Bhatti for decades remember him as a personality par excellence. "Bhatti Ji's onscreen and off-screen persona had little dissimilarity. He was himself playing any character. Whenever I met him, I sensed the same warmth and humility in his persona. With his demise, the nation has lost someone who was working relentlessly towards changing the character of the nation," said Dr G S Dhami, an eye surgeon, sharing that his wife and Bhatti studied in the same school and had been neighbours, a family connection that had given Dhami a chance to know Bhatti personally.
City-based stand-up comedian Jaswant Singh Rathore said his dream of working with Bhatti would always remain a dream. "I have met him at several parties and always known him as a warm and humble person. He took satire and comedy to another level through his unparalleled shows and movies such as Flop Show, Mahaul Theek Hai and Ulta Pulta. It's difficult to digest the sad news," he said.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for Shiromani Akali Dal-Badal Maheshinder Grewal expressed grief over Bhatti's demise. "He has left a vacuum in the hearts of people that will take long to fill. It was incredible how he raised serious issues in such a light vein. He was a man with a cause. The whole SAD-B family joins me in remembering him as a great man," said Grewal.