The sudden death of Amit Ralli, the leading man of the film "Page 3", has left its director Madhur Bhandarkar and his unit shocked and bewildered.
Says Bhandarkar, "He was suffering from jaundice. Lethally, he contracted Hepatitis which is really bad news for jaundice patients. I can't believe the boy is gone!
"We all noticed how yellow his eyes were getting. The next thing I knew he said he wanted to go back home to Delhi to be looked after by his family during his illness. I allowed him to go, of course, with the promise that he'd be back May 15.
"He was actually feeling better, had called to say he'd resume shooting on time...and then he slipped into a coma! We're in a shock. I've shot only for four days with Amit. But what a promising career he had!
"I selected him after auditioning so many other guys. He had great ambitions. He confided in me that he had left his modelling days behind and was looking forward to acting seriously."
Bhandarkar had shot a major party sequence with Amit where real-life socialites like Dolly Thakore mingled with actors. The film is about metropolitan socialites and a woman journalist's relations with the beau monde.
"Now I'll have to get the combined dates of 40 actors as soon as I find a replacement for Amit. It's hard to believe he's gone! I've also shot major dramatic scenes with him and the principal actors. I've already shot 75 percent of my film. We've to re-shoot his scenes with Konkona Sen and Rehaan Engineer."
Such a sudden death of a young actor has only occurred once before in Bollywood - when Divya Bharati plunged to her death one night, leaving several projects in the lurch.
Bhandarkar has already started looking for a replacement. "My next schedule is from May 17. I've to find another guy in the next 48 hours because 'Page 3' has to go to all the international festivals, including Locarno's international panorama. All my actors are busy elsewhere doing so many things. I can't afford this delay."
As they say, the show must go on.
Says his "Page 3" co-star Bikram Saluja: "Though we didn't really shoot together much, he was a very nice guy. He had done plenty of ramp shows and ads, including the new ones for Eno and Mercedes.
"He had one of the best bodies I've ever seen. So sudden, it shakes you up."