Peepli Live actor Sitaram Panchal breathed his last on Thursday morning after a long battle with Cancer. He was also seen in Bollywood films like Jolly LLB 2 and Pan Singh Tomar. The actor was ill since long and had appealed to his fans to contribute funds for his treatment.
Bollywood stars are in grief with his demise, his friend and actor Sanjay Mishra shared a heartfelt letter to Mumbai Mirror bidding goodbye his fellow actor.
The letter read as:
Sitaram Panchal and I met at the National School of Drama (NSD) decades ago. He was the late actor Nirmal Pandey’s roommate and I shared a room with filmmaker Tigmanshu Dhulia. We were on the same floor and the four of us would stay up till late, laughing and drinking even though Situ never drank too much. On August 10, Nirmal’s birthday, Situ bhai succumbed to lung cancer. On Nirmal’s birthday, we would get on the phone together and sing his favourite song from Sholay, “Yeh Dosti”. Now, every year, for the rest of my life, I will celebrate Situ and Nirmal with happiness.
Situ bhai was the happiest man in the world. Even after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, he would joke about his weight loss, telling me to wear his clothes to play the ‘poor man’ more convincingly on screen, pointing out that since he had just four months to live, he wouldn’t need too many clothes anyway. He was only 32 kg when he died but I remember him as the man who went with me the day I got divorced wearing my blue shirt and cracking stupid jokes to and from the court. While the rest of my family was pretty upset, he made my divorce a casual affair and never brought it up again.
Once, he curiously asked me if I was doing more than a film a year. When I told him, I was getting a lot of good roles, he was happy for me but told me he’d be equally cool if we had to beg outside Haji Ali. He never lost out on an opportunity to laugh at his poverty but never laughed about cancer, never wishing illness on anyone.
Few know that Situ and Uma had another son, Kabir, who passed away at the age of 16. He was a bright kid and his death destroyed them. Their second son, Rishabh, kept them going but the next year, Situ was diagnosed with cancer. I remember once, after wrapping up an international film in London, I invited Situ and Kabir home for dinner. They had never seen pounds before and I showed them the 300 pounds I’d earned. The next day, Situ called asking me to check if any of my notes were missing. They were and we learnt that Kabir had borrowed them to show his friends. I believed the boy but Situ beat him black and blue, insisting it was important to teach children never to steal. He was okay living in poverty with his head held high.
He had many small wishes in the last three years, some of which will remain unfulfilled. He wanted to buy a harmonium for Rishabh, who wants to become a musician. When a renowned surgeon agreed to remove a part of his kidney and putting him on a new medication that could have given him a fresh lease of life, he flatly refused, because he wanted to use the money to pay off a housing loan. He asked his wife to google Ayurvedic medicines which would lessen his pain and enable him to continue acting.
A year ago, I was spending the summer in Mathura. Situ who was diabetic wanted mangoes which were a strict no-no for him. He pestered his family, staff and me till I bought him the sweetest haapus. His disobedience didn’t stop there. A strict vegetarian who rarely consumed alcohol, he confided that he wanted to eat mutton and drink whiskey all night with me. He was the happiest I’d seen him in the longest time.
He’d been feeling better lately, having got medical funding from the Haryana government. I got him a father’s role in the upcoming film, Ikkees Tareek. Bouncers would pick him up from home and carry him to the set. He finished the film and on Wednesday celebrated his 26th wedding anniversary at his Mira Road residence. I’ll now have to dub for him.