Seasoned actor Ravi Baswani passed away this past week. His contemporaries recall some cherished moments.
Ravi Baswani who passed away this week was one of the unsung actors of the film industry that worships only its heroes. Belonging to the era when being an actor meant being away from the trappings of stardom, he brought a degree of spontaneity to his craft that has had few peers. Much loved for his character in Kundan Shah's “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”, a comic yet to be bettered by any filmmaker, there is a nice little anecdote associated with his character in the film. In a gag on Sudhir Mishra, his contemporary, Baswani's character was called Sudhir Mishra in Shah's film, something that did not rankle Mishra at all. Incidentally, Baswani was one of the inspirations for Mishra, who first met him outside the National School of Drama, only to be greeted by Baswani in half jest, “‘Aa gaye bachhu…ab halat kharab hogi!'”
Baswani worked with Naseeruddin Shah in theatre as well as films. And more than held his own. Of course, he carved out his own niche on television with “Idhar Udhar”. Blessed with good comic timing, he used his face to his advantage.
When I heard of his death I refused to believe it. He was hale and hearty and enjoyed life to the hilt. We worked together in “Jaane Bhi do Yaaron”, “Peecha Karo” and “Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa”. It's a personal loss to me. We gelled very well. He was on the threshold of directing a film which had to go on floor next month!
A fine actor and person, I remember we were doing a workshop with Sai Paranjpye in Delhi for “Chashme Buddoor”. When the shot was ready, Sai said to me, “You start now.”
I was surprised to see a matchstick thin, bespectacled man with an unlikely face for films. I started calling him Woody Allen of India.
Part of me
A kind soul, my first recollection of him was watching him act in the play “The Zoo Story”.
I feel I have lost a part of me. Fifty years later Ravi and “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron” will be remembered and not what the so-called big names did after that.
The casting for ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron' was dicey. I didn't know whom to take but when I saw Ravi in “Chashme Buddoor” and in a double role in a play called “Vallabhpur ki Roopkatha”, I instantly cast him as a photographer. He was very unpredictable with his take on his scene. We also did “Peecha Karo” and he sailed through this ‘different' film too well.