By: Mohnish Singh
Veteran actor Satish Kaushik, who also directed, wrote, and produced several successful films, passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest early Thursday. He was 66. Kaushik made his mark in the Indian film industry with his captivating performances and unique sense of humour.
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, streaming space, and TV, the 66-year-old made his presence felt 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”.
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, 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.
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 the 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 yesman 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.
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.
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 the 67th National Film Awards. Kaushik is dead but the filmmaker and the actor live on.