« Back to articlePrint this article

'Ritz looked fine! Absolutely fine!'

Last updated on: February 26, 2024 12:48 IST

'He did some great work and people remember him from so many things, but he should have got some stronger parts.'

Lillete Dubey still can't get over the shock of losing her old friend Ritz, as she fondly called Rituraj Singh, who passed into the ages on February 20.

"What is 59? It's too young to go!" she tells Ronjita Kulkarni/, adding, "You know, it's not like we were meeting every day but it was a very old and affectionate relationship."


IMAGE: Lillete Dubey with Rituraj Singh and Amar Talwar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Lillete Dubey/Instagram

At the cremation, there was a bunch of us who have known Ritz since he was in his 20s.

We all belong to a theatre company called TAG, which had been set up by Barry John in 1974.

The original sort of founders were me, Siddharth Basu, Ravi Dubey, Rajiv Mehrotra and five or six more.

Then, new bunches kept coming. One bunch was Ritz, Deepika Amin...

Couple of years later, was the next round: Shah Rukh Khan, Manoj Bajpayee...

The members of TAG have a very strong connection with each other. It's the bond we formed long, long ago, and kind of stayed.

I first met Ritz when he was in his early 20s.

I saw him in a play called Whose Life Is It Anyway, in which he was brilliant. It's based on the famous film, starring Richard Dreyfus.

The play also had Shah Rukh.

Ritz played a character, who is paralyzed neck downwards.

Right from there, I used to think Ritz was a fantastic actor. Very intense, very nice looking in a dark, broody kind of way.

He had this wonderful personality. He was very warm and affectionate. He would hug everybody in sight! Very lovable, endearing, and very talented.

I remember him vividly because my mother had also asked, 'Who's that guy?' because remember, he had to act only with his face.

IMAGE: Divya Seth, Deepika Amin, Shah Rukh Khan and Rituraj Singh. Photograph: Kind courtesy Rituraj Singh/Instagram

My daughter Ira hadn't seen him for years but she has memories of him from childhood.

When she was six or seven, we were all going to some show and were travelling by train. I remember the person who kept her entertained on that journey was Ritz.

He was playing a game with her called See See My Playmate, and since then, she calls him See See My Playmate.

So you know, whoever he interacted with, even kids, he really connected with them.

After that, I came to Bombay in 1996 and stayed in touch with him a bit. but you know how it is.

Life takes over and you're doing your own thing.

Also, by the time he came to television, I had gotten out.

He was much younger than me. He and Shah Rukh are around the same age, more than a decade younger than me.

Later, when I would watch a film I'd done, I would see Ritz and be like, oh God Ritz was in this, but we are no scene together, so I didn't even know he was in the film.

We kind of lost touch.

IMAGE: Lillete Dubey with Rituraj Singh and the cast of On A Muggy Night. Photograph: Kind courtesy Lillete Dubey/Instagram

But when I came to Bombay, we did a play called On A Muggy Night In Mumbai, which ran quite successfully.

It was the first mainstream play on homosexuality, and was the first original play on homosexuality from Southeast Asia. Nobody had written a play on this. I'm talking about more than 25 years ago.

Ritz, Joy Sengupta and Denzel Smith were in it.

We had a lot of fun doing the play.

I spent a lot of time with him then and remembered the earlier days.

But we didn't work together again.

After a long time, at a mutual friend's son's wedding, not even two months ago, I met him and his wife and his daughter. We chatted a lot. And he kept saying, you know, we have to meet.

In fact, I was telling his wife (at the funeral), remember, we were saying we should meet, and we shouldn't lose touch like this.

He had said bring the girls, and I said my girls also have girls, I'm a grandmother now!

And he looked fine! Absolutely fine!

You know, he was his usual, robust, boisterous self, and we danced and had a great time.

And then I got a complete shock (when he died).

Photograph: Kind courtesy Rituraj Singh/Instagram

You know, it's not like we were meeting every day, but it was a very old and affectionate relationship.

I had known him as a very young actor, then we'd done some work together, then skip to when he came here, and we did this play together.

I always thought that he had been so good in that play with Shah Rukh.

I always felt that a lot of this is fate and destiny. The parts you get.

He was extremely talented. If he had got those roles, he would have shown his full calibre. But we don't always get those roles.

If you want to show your whole battery of talent, you have to get the part.

He did some great work and people remember him from so many things, but he should have got some stronger parts.

All the people who knew him from when he was really young were there (at his funeral), including Barry John.

Theatre is a medium, where you form very strong bonds.

I've just done this play called Jaya, and I can't tell you how bonded my actors, singer and dancers have gotten. One of them wrote to me and said, 'It's a bond for life.'

It's a very different bond. You don’t get such bonds while doing a film.

IMAGE: Rituraj Singh with Manoj Bajpayee. Photograph: Kind courtesy Rituraj Singh/Instagram

Ritz had two heart attacks that day.

The first attack came when he was in the lift of his building.

They rushed him to the hospital. He was taken to the ICU where he had another massive heart attack.

Ironically, he was to go for a routine medical check up just that day.

Some weeks before, he hadn't been too well, nothing serious, and the doctor asked him to come for a follow-up. And he was going to go for that.