NEW DELHI // Jaspal Bhatti, India's pioneering TV comedian, most famous Sikh funnyman and one of its greatest satirists, died yesterday morning, aged 57.
Reports say Bhatti was being driven by his son Jasraj near Jalandhar to promote his latest film Power Cut, when their Honda Accord left the road and hit a tree.
His body was cremated yesterday, the Press Trust of India reported, the day before Power Cut is due for release.
Bhatti became a household name with his 1980s and 1990s shows Ulta Pulta and Flop Show.
"He is the first person I can remember watching, laughing at, admiring and thinking what he did was amazing. I continue to think so," said Vir Das, host of the TV show Now Not Showing.
"He was an amazing satirist. His Flop Show kept many kids including myself company during the afternoons once we were done with school."
Bhatti's son, who makes his movie debut in Power Cuts, was also injured, as were the film's lead actress Surilie Gautam and publicist Navneet Joshi.
Bhatti was born on March 3, 1955, in Amritsar. He graduated from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh as an electrical engineer.
During his college days his Nonsense Club, which produced street plays ridiculing corruption in society, gained him popularity.
After graduating, he joined the Punjabi government as an engineer before taking a job as a cartoonist with the English daily, The Tribune, in Chandigarh.
Bhatti's satire on the Punjab police, Mahaul Theek Hai, was his first venture as director in the Punjabi language. He played the role of Jolly Good Singh, a guard, in the movie Fanaa, and starred in the comedy Jijaji.
Bhatti and his wife Savita competed in the reality show Nach Baliye in 2008 and he appeared on TV shows as a contestant and judge. He also founded a film school.
"He used to instantly think of ideas and would put up a satire show at a public place within hours," said Vinod Sharma, a theatre actor and a close associate of Bhatti for more than 25 years.
"People liked the way he highlighted the issues. We are all shocked and stunned that he is no more."
Amandeep Dhillon is office manager at the Jaspal Bhatti Film School in Mohali, Chandigarh, which was founded by the comic five years ago.
"He had a really down-to-earth personality, even with his employees," Mr Dhillon said. "When you see him on the screen, the kind of a comedian he is, personally, he was like that all the time - jolly mood, smile on his face, full of life.
"He was the same person on screen as he was in real life."
Bhatti was also known for his political rallies that highlighted issues such as corruption, power outages and inflation in his own characteristic, tongue-in-cheek humour.
He is survived by his wife and two children.
Gunjan Joshi, a home maker in New Delhi, said; "As a child of the 90s, I grew up watching Jaspal Bhatti on TV. In fact, he is one of my first memories of an Indian comedian and he was so funny. His untimely death is a loss for the whole country. Even now we are able to relate to him, and the topics he picks. I am proud to say that even my children love to watch his old videos on YouTube."
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* With additional reporting by Reuters, IANS and Press Trust of India
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