With his memorable roles, the actor-filmmaker Satish Kaushik, who came to Mumbai to fulfill his dreams of becoming a Hindi cinema actor, has made a name for himself. The actor got his first break in Bollywood with Kundan Shah's comic classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Later, he gained popularity for his appearance as Calendar in Mr. India.
After more than four decades on the screen, Kaushik has proven to be a dependable performer with a range of notable roles to his credit. And his latest offering was K. K. Chaddha in Sharmaji Namkeen, the swan song of Rishi Kapoor.
In conversation with ScoopWhoop, Satish Kaushik talked about being a part of a film that made cinematic history, the fading of typecasting, and the impact of OTT on actors.
Sharmaji Namkeen, Rishi Kapoor's final film, stands out as a one-of-a-kind film since it stars two actors in the same role. After Kapoor's demise, Paresh Rawal took on the role of Brij Gopal Sharma, the protagonist of the story. And the film turned out to be unique experience for both the viewers and those engaged in the making.
Naturally, it was an unforgettable experience for Kaushik, who played Chaddha, a friend of Sharmaji, and worked closely with both Kapoor and Rawal on the film.
It's a special film because it's Chintu Ji's [Rishi Kapoor] final film and a homage to him. For me, it was much more special after seeing him in Bobby as a fan. When I was a college student we travelled to Faridabad to see his movies. It [Bobby] was one of the most popular romance films at the time. Seeing him on-screen, then becoming his colleague and friend, and then being a part of his final film. For me, it was an emotional journey.
As a reason, when he praised his co-actor's work in the film, he did it as both a contemporary and an admirer.
He was perfect for that role, and his presence was filled with empathy and emotion. He was well-suited for the role as a performer and actor.
Not only the 'original' Sharmaji, but Kaushik also praised the actor who took on the role and continued it rather seamlessly, that is Paresh Rawal.
It's also special since it's the first time in cinematic history that two actors have portrayed the same character. You forget there are two actors after a time. Paresh Rawal has done an excellent job by accepting this challenge and doing his act of generosity as an actor and a colleague. And the film was good; it was a slice-of-life film with good performances and a new movie, a film about retired life, that you had never seen before. It has turned into a special film for everyone.
Sharmaji Namkeen is a comedy-drama about ageing parents and their shifting connection with their children. Hitesh Bhatia's film conveys the notion that age is just a number and that there is no timeframe for new beginnings. In a nod to his own career path, the actor claims that if you have the desire to start over, each day will bring fresh opportunities.
It is a film that will inspire common people to acknowledge that age is just a number. Even in the film industry, we constantly fight [for oppoutunities] when people reach that age. It's happened to me as well. Though, from Udta Punjab to Soorma to Scam 1992 to now Bloody Brothers or Sharmaji Namkeen, I have the courage and power to reinvent myself.
Bollywood, on the other hand, has a reputation for producing scripts that fail to cast seasoned performers in age-appropriate roles. Neena Gupta and Ashish Vidyarthi, two of Kaushik's contemporaries, have spoken out about it.
Just because one has reached a certain age doesn't mean he'll be out of work. Nobody should think like that. In any case, as you get older, you get wiser and more balanced, and you do everything with experience.
Nevertheless, as times and narratives have changed, there has been a distinct shift in casting. By starring as the protagonist duo in Baadhai Do, Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao set a precedent, defying several prejudices. In fact, Satish Kaushik has also reinvented himself in recent projects such as Udta Punjab, Scam 1992, Bloody Brothers, and others.
It has happened to me. At the age of 66, I'm completely occupied with so many projects. I'm working from sunup to sundown, and I'll be busy for the next two years. My energy used to take everyone in the crew by surprise when I was directing Kaagaz. They'd ask where you get your energy from. I'd say focus on the mind and heart rather than the physicality. I'm energetic because I'm passionate about something. I'm energised because I want to prove that I'm brilliant over and over again. We're not in the sort of government job where you can retire.
Many erstwhile actors have returned to the screens owing to a rush of OTT ventures and fresh narratives. Kaushik, on the other hand, has never left the screen space and has seen it all. And the actor in him appears to have been relishing the drastic change.
Neena Gupta has done Badhaai Ho and now doing films back to back, at this age. She was saying, "Kaushik, yaar kaam nahi milta". But because of your talent and your will that you don't lose your zeal for life. Continually proving yourself and the world. The fact that everyone is busy [with projects] is a very wonderful thing. I've never had the kind of fan base that I have now, at this age.
Although stereotypes and cliches are steadily fading from the cinematic landscape, we can still see them in some films. However, the actor assured us that typecasting, a formulaic feature of Hindi cinema, no longer exists.
I believe that the lines of demarcation and classification have gone. Actors are now just actors. It's Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Anupam Kher, Sanjay Mishra, and many more actors who have broken the barrier. Pehle yeh classification hoti thi ki "Hero" aisa hota hai aur "Villian" aisa hota hai aur "Comedian" aisa hota hai but now characters are the heroes. Today, a common man [on screen] is a bigger hero than a concocted hero. Cinema has changed and people want to know the stories of characters and want actors who can easily transition into those roles.
Kaushik, like many other actors, saw the second innings in his acting career with digital projects that boosted his already enormous fame. The actor essayed the role of 'The Cobra' in Hansal Mehta's Scam 1992. The series, which follows Harshad Mehta's life, has a devoted fan base now.
I had no idea Manu Mundra, The Cobra, would be so popular. "My God, Satish, what a performance you gave. You were absolutely different," people would tell me. Despite the fact that it was a brief role. The character's power and my performance were noted. That is the change in the new cinema. People will notice you no matter what you do. And, because of OTT, it has gone global, allowing your work to be seen all over the world.
OTT, as per the actor and filmmaker, has emerged as a terrific platform for the appropriate kind of content. He stated that the platform benefited him because his own film Kaagaz received worldwide exposure as a result of it.
Because of the digital wave, the audience has become very intelligent. People are more aware of world cinema, and actors are no longer the mysterious creatures they once were. Everyone now understands how movies are made, including special effects, sound recording, and cinematography. Because the entire world is now just a click away, you must provide something fresh and unique, even in terms of story, and the quality of the product must be great. Those days are gone, when you had to scream and shout and put on emotionally charged or over-the-top performances.
Aside from the abundance of films and shows, digital platforms have also plucked actors from a limited pool of opportunities. Actors are now being encouraged to show off their many abilities as a result of the plethora of options available. Satish Kaushik is one of the actors who has had the chance to break stereotypes.
When people tell me how a person who did Calendar could be Manu Mundra, I think it is great. They have two very different personas. Earlier, if you just did one comic role, you were cast in similar roles only. All you'll do is make people laugh. There were a set of actors for the roles of 'heroes', 'villains', 'bhabhis', 'brothers', and 'comedians'. Today, everyone is experimenting with actors, even filmmakers, in order to get diverse performances from them. Or else how could someone was Calendar and Pappu Pager now be featuring in Udta Punjab, Scam, and Bloody Brothers? It's such a great shift that it's impacting every actor.
He now sees enormous room to explore himself and reinvent his work, not only as an actor but also as a filmmaker.
When you're trying to reinvent yourself, you want to do things that make you feel good. My next film will be about a societal issue, and it will be both entertaining and gripping. I'm also producing a couple of films, but I haven't decided which one I'll direct yet. I'm into content, which makes me recognise that I'm competing with the younger generation and attempting to connect with an intelligent audience. I need to make something that, first and foremost, pleases me, makes me believe in it, and also has an impact on people in terms of both content and technicality. As a creative person, this is the best time of my life.
Satish Kaushik will next be seen in the judicial drama Guilty Minds, starring Shriya Pilgaonkar and Varun Mitra as leads.