After Jaspal Bhatti, wife keeps the ‘Nonsense’ flag flying

By Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh, June 5 (IANS) He was comedy’s famous Sardar and highlighted all that was nonsensical in society in his trademark style. For nearly three decades, comedian-actor-director Jaspal Bhatti entertained – and touched – the masses with his ‘Nonsense Club’ by highlighting social evils. After his tragic death in a car accident last October, his wife Savita Bhatti, wants to keep the flag flying high.

Faced with his sudden demise, Savita Bhatti thought that it would not be appropriate for her to drown in sorrow in the memory of a man whose aim was to bring smiles to the people’s faces and to entertain them.

“It was a hard time for us after his sudden death. But I decided to keep his Nonsense Club brand and his comedy style alive,” Savita told IANS in an interview.

Starting with an event in April this year, the first one after Bhatti’s death, the Nonsense Club re-grouped to bring out a satire on the plight of the Indian woman.

“We urged the government to declare women a commodity. Indian women are already being treated like market items. By labelling them so, it gives us the licence to do anything with them – buy and sell them, trade them, molest them, hurt them, dispose them of for a newer model. Literally do anything with them,” Savita Bhatti said.

The satire was against the rising crimes, especially rapes, against women and girls – including some as young as two and five.

Nonsense Club veterans Vinod Sharma, Lally Gill and Gurtej Tej were joined by students of Mad Arts, Jaspal Bhatti’s Film School, to sing a parody: “Yeh desh tha veer jawano ka, lekin ab hai shaitano, haiwano ka, is desh ka yaaro kya kehna, jaha ladki ka mushkil hai jeena…” (This country was of the brave but it is now in the hands of devils. What to say of this country, where life has become miserable for girls).

The event was organized at Bhatti’s favourite spot for his earlier activities – Chandigarh’s Sector 17 commercial hub. As earlier, hundreds stood to watch as the Nonsense Club staged its event.

“Jaspal Bhatti was the voice of the nation. He will continue to be the voice of the nation. We owe this to him,” said Savita Bhatti, the CEO of the film school.

“The Nonsense Club is not going to stop. We don’t want people to pity us. We are not here to prove anything to anybody. We will keep his legacy on,” she said.

Bhatti and a band of faithful friends had set up the Nonsense Club way back in 1982. At that time, Bhatti was a student of electrical engineering at the Punjab Engineering College (PEC) – also the alma mater of astronaut Kalpana Chawla. It was a runaway success with common people and the media for the way it highlighted issues.

The unique thing about the Nonsense Club is that it has no building, no permanent or life members, no venue and not even any regular meetings.

“The Nonsense Club has survived and done well in these three decades – delivering social messages to highlight the plight of the common man,” Bhatti’s long time associate and actor Vinod Sharma told IANS.

Among the earliest of street shows Bhatti did was the one to highlight the silting and drying up of Chandigarh’s famous Sukhna Lake in 1984 when the water level at the manmade lake went down. Bhatti and his Nonsense Club members ran into the dry areas of the lake, pitched wickets on it quickly and started playing cricket.

Among the issues Bhatti’s club has highlighted are bride-burning, the sale of bridegrooms, fuel price hike, Diwali gifts, black-marketing of cinema tickets, adulterated food, high onion prices, heavy school bags and sycophancy.

During his peak “nonsense” days, Bhatti rode horses, wrote and sang songs, had people throwing money at him and even faced criminal cases for hurting religious sentiments.