In no living year have we seen so many go. And only two of these extraordinary talents died of Covid.
1. Irrfan Khan: We lost him to cancer on April 29.And what a loss it was. My last interaction with Irrfan was just before the release of his farewell film Angrezi Medium. When I asked him for an interview he said he can’t speak and could I mail him my questions? I wondered why the affable Irrfan was acting so uppity. Little did I know he would be gone in less than a month.
2. Rishi Kapoor: A Day after Irrfan , on April 30 we lost another giant entertainer Rishi Kapoor. Till the end he remained in denial about his grave condition. I still haven’t had the courage to delete his number. I still read his Whatsapp chats. He would get angry and distrustful at the drop of a hat. He was never dishonest. If he didn’t like you, you would know. No covering up in sugar coating for this actor. Rishi was so versatile. So irreplaceable.
3. Wajid Khan: You are such a liar, Wajid. During your last conversation with me you said, ‘Good morning Sir good to hear from you. I am better than before. Sab Allah ka karam hai.’ I sent you Lataji’s song Do din ki zindagi kaisi hai zindagi. You replied, ‘Wakay hi do do din zindagi.” And then you were gone. Not fair.
4. Basu Chatterjee: Gone at 90, Basuda’s name evokes an all-round smile. His cinema spread sunshine. And so what if he’s gone? He will live forever through his wonderful films. I saw Chit Chor and Jeena Yahan after his death. Yes, he lives.
5. Sushant Singh Rajput: June proved the most cruel month this year snatching one showbiz personality after another. I don’t think the film industry will ever get over Sushant Singh Rajput’s sudden death. He was not close to me. But we were connected. I’ve read his last message to me over and over again after his death. It says, “Sir I remember that I have what all I want already, so I don’t offer any negotiation with my peace or smiles in any ones presence or absence. And we know that it could only get better from here good morning sir :)”
6. Saroj Khan: The next to go was the dancing queen Saroj Khan. Didn’t know her well enough to mourn for her. She came across as mooh-phat to the point of embarrassment. But she was to choreography in Bollywood what Sonu Sood is to migrants. What would Bollywood dancing have done without her?
7. Jagdeep: Comic virtuoso. He is best remembered for his entertaining Soorma Bhopali act. But there was a lot more to Jagdeep. I hope his sons are working on furthering his name.
8. Nishikant Kamat: This one I took very personally. Though I had never met him we shared a certain bonding. Whenever he called he would speak in that soft respectful voice and tell me that I should not mind if he doesn’t respond to my messages immediately as he travelled a lot. Now look where life’s journey has taken him. So far away where I can’t message him.
9. SP Balasubrahmanyam: What a voice, stilled by Covid. SPB lives through his songs. As fellow-singer Hariharan said to me, “Because SPB was an actor—he has played prominent roles in dozens of Telugu and Tamil films—he could emote in a song exactly the way it needed to be seen on screen. In that sense Bala Sir was like Kishore Kumar, always acting in his songs, adding things to a song that the composer couldn’t think of. His voice conveyed the unalloyed purity of a copper vessel.” RIP
10. Soumitra Chatterjee: One of India’s greatest actors, and according to my guru and mentor Pritish Nandy, THE greatest actor in India. We lost an institution, no question about it.