Jaspal Bhatti was more of a crusader than a comedian, who through his simple, clean, genial and understated humour won millions of hearts through decades. With much ease, freshness and simplicity, Bhatti’s realistic characters, caught in everyday situations, were identifiable and made instant connect.
Utilizing comedy as a tool of satire had been his forte ever since his college days when his ‘Nonsense Club’ became famous for street plays, most of them spoofs, ridiculing the corruption in society. Jaspal Bhatti had the distinction of being the first comic talent whose sitcom capsules Ulta-Pulta on Doordarshan became a rage among the viewers. When they were shown as an interlude during prime-time soaps, people waited for the break more than the serial! Every day it was a new situation, a new issue, but the focus was the same, the simple and naïve common man, pitched against the crooked and corrupt system. His other sitcoms, particularly Flop Show dealt with diverse issues of society and sent hard-hitting messages across with such polite finesse that they brought smile on the faces of even those who were the target of Bhatti’s wit.
Jaspal Bhatti had quite a successful stint with the film industry. He acted in a number of Hindi films. His first Punjabi film as director/actor/producer, Mahaul Theek Hai – a satire on Punjab Police – was very well received. And his second film that proved to be his last one is Power Cut. It will be released on October 26, 2012, a day after he was tragically killed in a road accident.
His was a mind steeped in wit and his panache for wordplay was legendary. A look at the titles of his works is enough to tickle your ribs: Nonsense Club – his college-time group; Joke factory – his Training School; Mad Arts – his Film Studio! Shahji ki Advice – TV serial, besides Ulta-Pulta and Flop Show (Remember the twisted (dis)credits, he used in this show?) Catch out; Full Tension; Hawala Party Zindabad – his audio cassettes!
Today when stand-up comedy has become synonymous with loud-mouthed, double-entendre, beeped out cuss words and when small-time comedians try to win applause by a blatantly berating the renowned; when young ambitious wannabes – the likes of Sudesh Lehri and Sugandha Mishra, have the guts to disparage veterans like Yash Chopra and Lata Mangeshkar, Jaspal Bhatti’s humour came as a whiff of fresh air, as he very deftly avoided taking names. Though the viewers could identify his targets, he never made it explicit. That made him the darling of all.
Jaspal Bhatti was an institution in himself; and at present there is no comic talent like him. Wish somebody would take this legacy forward.
Rest in Peace Jaspal Bhatti! You had each one of us in you; and you will live on in each one of us.
Narinder Jit Kaur is a retired Associate Professor from Patiala,who taught English Literature for 31 Years in various Government Colleges of Punjab. A writer and a translator, she has five books of translations, from Punjabi to English, to her credit Including Voices In The Back Courtyard(Rupa & Co.) -An Anthology Of Short-Stories By Punjabi Women Writers. She writes articles, poems and short-stories in English, Punjabi and Hindi. You can read more from her on narinderjit.com