'The moment he got to know that any comedian was struggling or and had not paid rent for months, he would immediately help because he himself had struggled.'
"I cannot process the fact that he is gone because we were all expecting him to revive. I also heard how well he was responding to treatment," Stand-up comedian Ahsaan Qureshi tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Rajul Hegde about his friend Raju Srivastav, who passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi on Wednesdat, September 21, morning, at the age of 58.
Qureshi last met Srivastav two months ago at an event called Hunar Haat in Mumbai, where artists were honoured by then Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
"I told him we should make a film which had all of us comedians. He agreed. We also decided that we could shoot in Uttar Pradesh, as we will get subsidies, since he was the chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Film Development Council. Unfortunately, this dream remains unfulfilled," he says.
"New comedians like Kapil Sharma, Krushna Abhishek and Sunil Grover, who have earned money and fame, should take it upon themselves and make a film. It would be like a tribute to Rajuji," he adds.
First meeting with Rajubhai
What I like about Rajubhai's comic skill is that he would fill life into lifeless objects.
Like, a fan saying, please give me some rest as its running round and round and feeling giddy or a remote asking a person to stop pressing the buttons, as it might hurt its body.
He had uniqueness in his comedy.
His comedy was not vulgar.
Before he appeared on television, we would listen to his comedy through cassettes.
I got to meet him 17 years ago on the stage of The Great Indian Laughter Challenge.
There were 12 top semi-finalists.
Rajubhai saw my performance, came backstage and asked where I was from. He praised my performance.
He asked me to meet him for tea at his place in Mumbai.
Rajubhai's father was a poet, so my unique shayari-style comedy was a hit in his family.
While purchasing my first house in Mumbai, I just mentioned to Rajubhai that I needed Rs 5 lakh for registration. He immediately gave me a cheque of Rs 5 lakh and said, 'I'm your brother, if you need anything in Mumbai, let me know.'
I repaid his money and the gesture of his helping me will always be my precious memory of Rajubhai.
He would help struggling artistes
Rajubhai gareebon ki madad karte the (he would help the poor).
The moment he got to know that any comedian was struggling or was new and had not paid rent for months, he would immediately help because he himself had struggled at one point.
Rajubhai had struggled a lot. He used to sit with coins at the payphone booth to approach people for work.
So if any struggling actor came on set, he would first ask them if he had his meal.
He knew it was not easy to get work or survive in the industry.
I learnt so much from him that I too have started helping struggling artistes.
He had the blessings of poor people, that's why he rose to the top.
Even Johnny Lever helps people. Both do this without anyone knowing about it.
It was always warm whenever we would visit each other's houses.
Whenever he would prepare a new skit, he would perform it for me and ask if the comedy punches were landing.
Our kids are friends too.
Rajubhai had come to Mumbai as a young Amitabh
When Amitabh Bachchan met with an accident on the sets of Coolie, people were praying for his recovery.
I saw the same happen with Rajubhai, who himself had come to Mumbai as a young Amitabh, dancing and talking like him.
We are heartbroken.
It feels like we have lost a member of our family.
I don't have words to express how I am feeling.
He was like an elder brother to me.
My deepest condolences to his wife and children.