It came as a rude shock to me when I learnt that Ravi Baswani is no more. He passed away today, due to a major cardiac arrest. In another 2 months he would’ve celebrated his 65th birthday, but fate had other plans.
Last week sometime I was reading an interview of his where he was questioned about the reason for doing such few movies and he candidly said that he did not wish to be typecast as a faltering bumpkin. All the roles that he got after the success of Chashme Buddoor and the critically acclaimed Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron was that of a comedian. But we all know that Ravi Baswani was more than a comic actor, he had potential for lot more, but no opportunity to showcase that.
In JBDY itself he portrayed a range of emotions, from being a scared-shit guy who does not wish to visit the park at night, to the dismayed guy at the railway station who does not wish to travel ticketless, to a harmless flirt who tries to woo ShobhaJi in his photo-studio, to an idealist who believes in the system and hopes something good will come of it. His act as ‘Sudhir’ was not just something we could relate to, but also somebody we could empathise with. JBDY was his best work to date, next only to his debut movie Chashme Buddoor.
In Chashme Buddoor, Ravi played the bike-riding college student so effortlessly. The scene where he gives lift to Wini Paranjpe and she just runs away into her boyfriend’s arms while he watches on, was fantastic. I am always in splits when I see this scene, not once it has failed to make me smile. The manner in which he begs for udhaari from the paanwala and promises to pay back the moment he receives money from his dad is so well done. Playing a typical student character is not that easy because there is more room to make it caricaturist, but he stopped short of that buffonnery. His foils in the bike and interaction with Deepti Naval is a laug-riot. The manner in which he escapes down the pipe of the building when Miss.Chamko comes home for a demo or the way he tries to start his bike, putting his whole weight on the ‘kick-start’ lever but being unable to start the vehicle, all so funny. He made us laugh so easily without looking or acting stupid. His comic timing was a gift.
Although both the movies had fabulous stars like Nasseerruddin Shah, Om Puri, Satish Shah, Pankaj Kapoor, Rakesh Bedi and many more, Ravi held his own. He wasn’t overshadowed by the other performances, in fact his performance became much better.
The last I recall his presence onscreen was in Laadla where he played the factory worker alongside Anil Kapoor. In all the scenes, he was seen mouthing famous tag-lines from ads; be it ye araam ka mamla hai, apan ka choice ka mamla hai or the pepsi tag yehi hai right choice baby during the factory elections; he mouthed them all with such aplomb.
Of course, there was an odd KHKN and Bunty Aur Babli, but nothing substantial to speak of. In his last interview he did say that he was planning to direct a movie, but that shall not happen now. His last wish to direct, to be behind the camera, will sadly go unfulfilled.
To me it seems as if Ravi did his best work in the very beginning of his career. JBDY and Chashme Buddoor will be counted amongst the most entertaining movies and that speaks a lot for the characters involved with it. And Sudhir, as an idealist, will be remembered for a long long time. So, will Ravi Baswani. Everytime someone laughs while watching his movies, it will be a homage to the comic talent of this man. May his soul rest in peace.
This post was first published on PFC