Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ravi Baswani – RIP my friend

What one word would I choose to describe Raviji? Quickwitted? Generous? Talented? Arrogant? Eccentric? All these and more come to mind. But all of them together don’t do justice to him. ALIVE is the one word that I most associated with him.

When my producer Nikhil Panchamiya introduced me to Ravi Baswani and announced that he would be writing dialogues for my film I didn’t know what to make of it. I knew, was even a fan of his work as an actor, but dialogue? I wasn’t so sure. My first meeting started with me asking him how he’d like to be addressed. Being from the advertising business I found the ‘ji’ business of Bollywood tiresome. Also, as a first time director I didn’t want to start the project being either servile or impertinent. ‘Call me Ravi’ he said, dismissive of the need for any pre or postfixes. He had neither the time nor patience for such trivialities. In time I learnt to address him as Raviji not because it was expected off me but because I liked to.

Quick to find a laugh Raviji had a razor sharp wit. Having often borne the brunt of his wicked wit, I learnt that the only way to deal with him was to keep giving back as good as you got. Loud and raucous laughter amid passionate disagreements made an average day of working together.

I hit it off with him from the first day itself. One of the first things that worked for us was a passion for being punctual. In a business where time has a stretchable quality, he set very high standards. Arriving 5 minutes before a meeting, we would both sit on the stairs outside the producer’s office waiting for time to tick down while we cracked inane and sometimes insane jokes. Our laughter, I am sure, let those inside know that we had arrived much before we walked in the door. Working with him was a pleasure as he never said never. Rewrites and more rewrites were delivered by him even as he passionately argued and fought with me over each written word. The script was turned upside down and inside out as he expected the same work ethic from me the scriptwriter. His commitment to the project saw him work way past writing just dialogues. He became my unofficial script editor and a very loudly vocal critic. Our association continued into the postproduction stage as he would come to the dubbings as a guardian of his words and end up coaching actors and supervising every little nuance.

People who knew him would know that Raviji wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. To like him one needed a thicker skin than normal, luckily I have a rhino’s hide, as he was brutally honest (sometimes too honest and too brutal), opinionated and never afraid to express himself. Many would say Raviji wasn’t an easy guy to like. But a lot of people, like me, liked him for the very same qualities that made some people uncomfortable.

The last conversation I had with him was about 15 days back. Towards the end of the conversation he casually told me that his directorial debut was about to take wings. I knew it was a long cherished dream and to hear that he was about to embark on this journey made me very happy. I joked with him about writing dialogue for his script. He laughed and told me that if I wrote dialogue he would end up with a Punjabi film. As it turns out fate had other plans for him. I wish him peace where ever he is.