By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Bengali star Jisshu Sengupta, who has been seen in a number of Rituprano Ghosh’s films and also played Ileana d’Cruz’s husband in Anurag Basu’s Barfi, is shattered by Rituparno Ghosh’s sudden death.
Jisshu was the son that Rituparno never had.
Says the young actor fondly, “Now I’ve no one too look after me. Right now I feel completely lost. I feel I’ve lost my friend philosopher and guide in the truest sense. Rituda was my parents after I lost my father and mother. After Rituda’s father passed away, there were only a few people he listened to. I was one of them. He was also very close to my wife Nilanjana. We used to meet every day. But in the last six months I had some problems in my office. So I couldn’t meet him every day. But I’d sms him constantly, make sure he took his medicines, etc. In fact I was ready to direct him in a script that I had written by the end of this year. Now, this has happened…”
His voice trails off. Then Jisshu is flooded with memories. “He was the only important person in my life after my wife and two children. I first heard from Rituda when he called me to star in Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam.I was stunned to get a call from THE Rituparno Ghosh.I was young and I was excited. We met. Unfortunately that project didn’t happen. Instead I did The Last Lear with Rituda. The experience made me a thinking actor.”
Jisshu says he owes his career to his surrogate-father. “Rituda taught me everything I know about acting. Before I met him I was just doing films for the heck of it.I was an honour for me to work with Rituda as a co-actor in Chitrangda .I got the opportunity to help him with his camera range,lighting ,etc…things that I had slightly better knowledge of. He knew he could trust this son of his.The equation between us had changed from director-actor to co-actors in Chitrangda.And I made sure I was there to guide him. I became more confident as an actor after this experience.”
When Jisshu signed Anurag Basu’s Barfi it was at Rituparno’s behest. “Anurag Basu decided to sign me after he saw me in Rituda’s Nauka Dubi.The part was to be done by Shiney Ahuja.Anurag is close to my wife. He called me up and offered me the role. As usual I went to Rituda for advice. Rituda not only told me to do the role he also informed the media about my Hindi debut.Rituda called up Anurag to ask about the role. I don’t think Rituda would ever do this for anyone else.”
Rituparno looked out for Jisshu as his own son. Recalls Jisshu, “He was instrumental in turning me and my wife into producers.When Star India approached him for a chat show he agreed on condition that I was made the producer. I shared my dream with him of becoming a producer and he made my dream come true. He was very protective of me. I didn’t sign any film without consulting him. And if he told me not to, I excused myself from doing that film. He was my guardian and mentor. And he was always there for me. I am sure he’s listening to this conversation right now.”
Tragically, Jisshu was not in Kolkata when Ritu passed away suddenly. “I was on a holiday in Thailand. I landed to hear this news. In a way I am happy I didn’t see him dead. I will remember him the way I saw him last… laughing , screaming , scolding caring….I met him a week before he passed away. I was supposed to get the television rights of Bhyomkesh (the film version of which Ritu completed before his death). We bantered over that project and parted. I left for Thailand. Little did I know that I’d never see him again.”
Recalling Ritu’s parental protectiveness ,Jisshu says, “He’d go out of his way to help me. I’d often ask him not to. But he would say, ‘If I had a biological son I’d do exactly this .’ Rituda would scold me. I was unable to do Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani and Satish Kaushik’s Gang Of Ghosts because of date problems (both done by Parambrata Chatterjee). Rituda was very unhappy that I missed out on these opportunities to further my career in Bollywood. I am glad I didn’t see him go away. I wouldn’t have been able to bear it. Now I’ve a storehouse of memories of all the things he taught me and shared with me. Someday I plan to share my experiences with the world. I was going to direct him. But who can play Rituda now? There was just one of his kind. God created him and broke that mould. Rituda was….Rituda. He was passionate impulsive mad genius. He was incomparable.”