Punjab’s most loved comedian and satirist won over fans with his rib-tickling humour that focused on troubling social issues.

ASIT JOLLY

Time truly flies. “The Sardar with the poker face,” Punjab’s most loved comedian and satirist, the ubiquitous Jaspal Bhatti, who regaled his ever-growing legion of friends, admirers and fans with his rib-tickling humour and always touched a chord by invariably focusing on troubling social issues through his matchless street side satirical skits, left all of us in shock and tears five years ago. Bhatti was killed in a car crash outside Jalandhar City, early morning on October 25, 2012.

Fifty-seven-year-old Bhatti, an electrical engineering graduate from Chandigarh’s Punjab Engineering College, the institute that produced adventuresome Indians like astronaut Kalpana Chawla (who lost her life onboard the NASA space shuttle Columbia in February 2003), started out as an electrical engineer in the city. Bhatti however, chose for himself a completely different, rib-tickling orbit.

Thirty-five years ago Bhatti and his friends, then including the late Bollywood actor Vivek Shauk, launched what quickly became popular as Chandigarh’s Nonsense Club.

Its “grand opening” was played out on the dried out bed of the city’s Sukhna Lake and instantly drew public attention to the dying water body. Bhatti’s unique club became an institution-with-a-difference surviving entirely on its street performances and contributions from friends and admirers.

In 1995, for instance, Bhatti floated the “Hawala Party” on a sunny afternoon in Chandigarh’s Sector 17 commercial center, delighting passers-by with his original poker-faced take off on growing political corruption in the country. It was already a hotly discussed topic across the country in the context of the Jain-Hawala diaries.

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Even after graduating to becoming a much-loved comedian on television and in Bollywood films, Bhatti always returned to his original audiences in good old Chandigarh, never failing to thrill them. And Chandigarh was never tired of him. If you spotted a larger than usual crowd in the middle of Sector 17, you could be sure that “Bhatti sahib” or “Bhatti bhajee”, as the man was variously addressed, was at its center.

I once saw him telling people how he was going to start an academy to train young “Bhagat Singhs”, inspired by the spate of films on the martyr on the early 2000s. Once, amid a spate of dowry death reports, he arrived at the local women’s college with a retinue of “bridegrooms-for-sale”, each one with a price tag!

Bhatti was ready with a spoof for almost anything, even once applying for a poll symbol for a new party where only the corrupt would find entry. “You know it. We will be the largest political party in the country,” he declared before amused election commission officials in Chandigarh.

Few years later, the Election Commision actually hired him as a mascot! In time Bhatti carried his satire into popular TV features like UltaPultaMahaul Theek Hai and Flop Show, and a number of Bollywood films watching which, audiences would begin tittering even before he said his bit.

The Sardar who never failed to have his audiences in splits, left rather abruptly, with everyone in tears — in Punjab, the country and a multitude of fans across the diaspora.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

 

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