Satish Kaushik: Actor, writer, director who made every medium his very own

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 09-03-2023 17:40 IST | Created: 09-03-2023 17:19 IST
Satish Kaushik: Actor, writer, director who made every medium his very own
Satish Kaushik (Image Source: Instagram) Image Credit: ANI
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He was in Mumbai for Holi on Tuesday, in Delhi to continue the festivities on Wednesday. And sometime early Thursday, Satish Kaushik breathed his last – a fitting adieu in technicolour for a consummate artiste of the screen and stage who acted, wrote, directed and produced.

His end almost as dramatic and poignant as a plot from one of his many films, Kaushik was also the man who made every medium his very own. Theatre, films, OTT and TV, the 66-year-old, who died after a heart attack on his way to a hospital in Gurugram, made his presence felt in all over a four-decade career. Adapting to changing times, almost as seamlessly as he slipped into his varied roles, Kaushik was beyond the laughs, the impeccable comic timing from classics such as “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro” and “Mr India”. He was also the foul-mouthed broker Manu Mundra in the web series “Scam 1992”, Tayaji to Shahid Kapoor's drug-snorting rockstar in ''Udta Punjab'' and the middle-aged staid Chanu Ahmed in the acclaimed British film “Brick Lane”. In theatre, his role as the brooding ''Mr Ramlal'' in Feroz Khan's adaptation of Arthur Miller's play ''Death of a Salesman'' earned him many plaudits. And in 2016, he featured in “Mr and Mrs Murarilal”, helmed by Saif Hyder Hassan.

The multi-hyphenate artiste walked the parallel, experimental road in his acting but mostly stuck to mainstream populist cinema in his productions and direction with his range of films, including “Tere Naam” and “Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai”.

Kaushik earned his comic actor stripes early in his film career with the memorable role of Calendar the cook in the 1988 film “Mr India”. He was so loved in that role that there was a time he was only offered comic roles. The names were many and catchy – besides Calendar was Pappu Pager from ''Deewana Mastana'', Airport in ''Swarg'', Panipuri Sharma in ''Andaz'', Harpal 'Happy' Singh in ''Pardesi Babu'', Sharafat Ali in ''Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan'', and German in ''Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain''.

Kaushik was often known as the master of improvisation – and not just as an actor. ''I have made different kinds of movies from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’ to ‘Tere Naam’. Some were hits and some were flops. I also fought for my identity because as a director I wanted to prove myself that I am not just a comic actor I want to say something important to the audience through my work,” Kaushik told PTI in an interview in 2021. ''At the age of 64, I have reinvented myself... I have it in me to change myself according to the current times,” he said ahead of the release of his directoria “Kaagaz” with Pankaj Tripathi. Kaushik, an alumnus of Delhi University’s Kirorimal College and National School of Drama and then Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India, was born in Uninda village in Haryana’s Mahendragarh district and grew up in Delhi's Karol Bagh locality.

Like millions of others, he had starry dreams of joining the showbiz industry. That journey began on August 9, 1979 in the Pashchim Express.

''...10th Aug was the first morning in Mumbai. Mumbai gave me work, friends, wife, kids, home, love, warmth, struggle, success, failures & courage to live happily,'' he said on Twitter on August 10, 2020, almost four decades later.

He recalled in interviews that he left for Mumbai with Rs 800, given to him by his brother-in-law, and the conviction that he would make it big.

A young Kaushik worked at a textile mill during the day and spent his evenings at Mumbai’s famed Prithvi Theatre.

He would eventually find work with Shekhar Kapur as an assistant on 1983 film ''Masoom'' before making a mark in acting and then direction.

And then happened ''Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro'', where he played the role of Ashok, the yes man of corrupt contractor Tanreja (Pankaj Kapur). The multi-dimensional artiste also co-wrote the screenplay with Ranjit Kapur. Over the years, he earned a lot of goodwill with friends such as Anupam Kher, Neena Gupta, Javed Akhtar and Boney Kapoor, who helped him branch out as a director, writer and producer.

His first film as a director was ''Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja'' in 1993 offered to him after his ''Mr India'' director Shekhar Kapur left the project halfway.

Mounted on the highest budget of reportedly Rs 9 crore at that time, ''Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja'' bombed at the box office.

The ever humble Kaushik apologised publicly for the poor performance of the film on its 25th anniversary in 2018.

“Yes 25 yrs ago it was a disaster at BO but it was my first child and will remain close to heart. Remembering madam #SrideviLivesForever and my sorry to @BoneyKapoor who gave me a break but was broke after the film. Celebrating #25yearsof RKRCKR @AnilKapoor @Javedakhtarjadu @AnupamPKher,” Kaushik wrote on Twitter.

The failure made him despondent but didn’t deter him. Films like “Hum Aapke Dil Me Rehte Hain” and “Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai” didn’t earn critical acclaim but were box office hits. As his career blossomed, his personal life took a tragic hit. His wife Shashi and he lost their two-year-old son Shanu in 1996. Years later, the couple welcomed daughter Vanshika through surrogacy.

''I couldn't really get time to even feel that loss. I used to be continuously busy with work and this would make me feel guilty: I didn't even have the time to mourn my son's death. All the unsettled emotions are somewhere settled with Vanshika's arrival,'' he had told The Economic Times.

Kaushik never forgot his alma mater. In 2015, he extended his support to FTII students, who went on an indefinite strike to protest the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s surprise appointment of television actor-turned-politician Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of the institute.

He got popular acclaim but not too many awards.

After spending 40 years in films, Kaushik won his first National Film Award for the 2019 Haryanvi film ''Chhoriyan Chhoron Se Kam Nahi Hoti'', which he also produced and starred in. The movie won Best Feature Film in Haryanvi Language at 67th National Film Awards.

Kaushik is dead but the filmmaker and the actor live on.

His last directorial was the 2021 film ''Kaagaz'', which he wrote, directed and starred in. In January, Kaushik announced he had finished work on the sequel. Still to be released are his acting credits – the period drama ''Emergency'', headlined by Kangana Ranaut, Salman Khan's ''Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan'', and Disney+ Hotstar series ''PopKaun''.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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