Satish Kaushik: This ‘Calendar’ has no expiry date

Satish Kaushik and Anupam Kher shared a Best Comedian award for Ram Lakhan. Seen here with Anil Kapoor. Photo: Video Grab

There are some celebrities you interview as celebs only a couple of times, but end up meeting them multiple times, at events or at screenings. And they leave an indelible impact on you, memories that are very warm and ultimately envelop you in a nice feel of sunshine. When such beautiful people as Satish Kaushik depart, it is firstly a sense of incredibility that envelops you—has such a jovial, ever-cheerful and smiling man really gone? Did he really have to go so early, like so many human beings I knew as gems from cinema?

As I read up the mammoth memories and tributes paid by his colleagues and associates and even by those who never worked with him in a movie, I realize the supreme irony yet again—of how someone never knows how he influenced or affected people to the extent that heartfelt accolades of such magnitude pour in after they have gone.

And I can only put Satish-ji’s (as I addressed him) greatness in a nutshell by stating that this is one ‘Calendar’ (his iconic character’s name in his first major hit, Mr. India in 1987) that actually has no expiry date! What’s more, he has been my Facebook friend for years.

I met him formally for an interview only twice—before the release of his directorial, Karzzzz (a remake of his friend Subhash Ghai’s iconic 1980 film) and when I was writing my book on Laxmikant-Pyarelal, the music composers of his first two films as a director, Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja and Prem.

“L-P taught me terms like intro music, first music, second music, crescendo, obligato and theme music. I learnt the mathematics of music there…” he had told me, adding that their hit song Romeo naam mera from the former film was based on his suggestion to them to make one inspired by the lezim, a folk dance from Maharashtra.

Revealing a rare desire, he had earlier told me, “I had always wanted to re-do Mehmood’s performance in Padosan when I became an actor. I got part-gratification with my South Indian character in Saajan Chale Sasural and even won an award for it. But one of my top favorite films was Subhash (Ghai)-ji’s Karz, and I am very grateful that I got a chance to make this tribute and in a way repay my karz (debt) to the cinema that inspired me to become a part of films. What a film! What great music it had, what fantastic performances and what high emotions!”

Asked whether he came to Mumbai to become an actor or a director, Satish had told me, “I come from a theater background in Delhi (National School of Drama). I came to Mumbai to become an actor, starting out with Masoom and Woh Saat Din in 1983. But I was not getting too many roles. I have never been able to sit back idle, so I went to the Film & Television Institute, did a special course, and assisted Ashok Ahuja in the making of the offbeat film Aadharshila that starred Naseeruddin Shah. I also wrote the story and screenplay of Pankuj Parashar’s Ab Aayega Mazaa and co-wrote the dialogues of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.”

He had added, “Those six months behind the camera taught me that the director was such an important guy and the true creator. The seed of becoming the captain of the ship was planted then, and I became associate director to Shekhar Kapur on Mr India. It was Boney Kapoor who then signed me for his next two big films as director, Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja and Prem.”

About his directorial break in cinema, he had stated, “To be honest, I was never aware of the business angle, because I was in a dream world! To be working with the best names in the business – Sridevi, Anil Kapoor, Laxmikant Pyarelal and Javed Akhtar – was the wildest dream-come-true for someone who came from a small nook in Delhi’s Karol Bagh and a middle-class family. I never even knew that films could be flops and could lose money for someone!”

However, his actual directorial debut was the 1985 TV series, Lifeline, which was a massive hit.

For someone who was among the rare Indian actors to act in films overseas, this “newcomer” was to launch many talents himself. Prem was the first to star Tabu as a leading lady, though not her first release, while Sanjay Kapoor was also introduced in the film. Tusshar (Kapoor) made his debut with Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai and Kareena Kapoor Khan got her first hit with that film as well. Tere Naam was Bhumika Chawla’s Hindi debut and Sachin-Jigar made their first songs for Teree Sang.

Having played innumerable memorable characters of all hues (including the grey-toned character in the English film Brick Lane or the recent bonhomie-laden businessman in condoms in Chhatriwali), Satish was a man who mixed the mainstream with mid-stream effectively. He also did TV and web series (Sumit Sambhal Lega, Bloody Brothers, Guilty Minds, Scam 1992) with consummate skill and one of his best performances was in the Feroz Abbas Khan stage play, Salesman Ramlal, in the title-role.

Winning the Best Comedian award for Ram Lakhan (1989) along with his best friend-in-showbiz Anupam Kher, he also won the OTT Award for Best Supporting Actor in an Original Film for Thar last year. His last directorial was the offbeat Kaagaz in 2021.  My personal favorite among his directorial projects was the whacky Subhash Ghai-production, Shaadi Se Pehle (2006), a comedy featuring Akshaye Khanna, Suniel Shetty, Ayesha Takia, Aftab Shivdasani and Mallika Sherawat that can be repeatedly watched, though it was only an average success when released.

I had finally asked him the vital query: was he humorous or serious in real life? And he had replied, straight-faced: “My humor is instinctive and I can create it from any situation. But I don’t recall jokes. I am a student of drama and I take it as a compliment when people tell me that my films are opposite to my comic persona!”

For someone who spread so much laughter in real and reel life, I am still trying to figure out that last part.

And the tributes have not yet stopped coming—from filmmakers and media across the board, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Satish-ji’s closest friend Anupam Kher, Subhash Ghai, Boney and Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Salman Khan, Kangana Ranaut and more.




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