India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Jaspal Bhatti: Sardar of satire


How do you satirise an issue without hurting someone’s ego but at the same time ensure it hits its mark? Jaspal Bhatti, arguably the only man to have known the answer in India, at least enough to make a living out of it, is no more.

Bhatti died in the early hours of Thursday in a car accident while he was out promoting his film ‘Power Cut’ — a spoof on the pathetic power situation in India, especially in his home state of Punjab.

An engineer by qualification, Bhatti took to the subtle art of satire through a newspaper column in the 1980s and wrote street plays before venturing into the small screen. His poker face, witty one-liners and hilarious take on problems faced by the common man endeared Bhatti to audiences during what were known as the golden days of Doordarshan, the state broadcaster.

I remember watching his sitcoms ‘Flop Show’ and ‘Ulta Pulta’ as a kid. The familiar cast, an engaging storyline, the funny music, the punchlines — it was a treat for a child growing up in the 1990s without too many options for television viewing. I did not even understand the issues he was highlighting but loved the affable Sardar who could make me laugh so effortlessly.