BY ADIL RASHEED / 22 January 2005: The genius of Satish Kaushik lies in his simplicity. A self-proclaimed 'loser', this immensely talented and successful actor-director of Bollywood films has loved and lived life through all its vicissitudes.
In front of the camera he comes across as a delightful comedian, behind it his lenses grind to mirror all the shades of our society and the general human condition. City Times interviewed this Falstaff of filmdom recently and learnt more about his experiences in life and movies.
You have come a long way from the Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja days. How did you learn from your early setbacks?
You see I have always romanticised the 'loser' in my films. My hero in Mujhe Kucch Kehnaa Hai is a loser who cannot tell his beloved throughout the length of the movie that he loves her. My fascination for the loser is because I myself am a loser. After graduating from the National School of Drama I worked in a textile factory in Mumbai for one year, not knowing what to do next. With my gifted face I did not know who would give me a break. So I went back to theatre to get noticed.
I strongly believe in the winning quality of the loser. If a loser has a big heart and goodness in him he will ultimately triumph. You see, a loser adapts and grows with age, which is very important for a creative person. I strongly believe that a creative man must make a classroom for himself with a blackboard in front of him. You must create space for yourself. You must have a student-like approach throughout your life.
What is an actor from the National School of Drama doing in the commercial world of Bollywood?
I do not see any contradiction in this fact. A good commercial film has to sustain the interest of the audience. It has to be nicely packaged. And so it has to be highly artistic. Vaada, for instance, is a highly artistic movie and is also a good example of hard-core commercial cinema.
In fact, my education at the National School of Drama has helped me in making movies in Bollywood. I have developed a keen eye for the finer details and nuances because of my education. If you observe, most of my films deal with human relationships. For example If Hum Aap Ke Dil Mein Rahte Hain was a film on contractual marriage, the next film Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai was about an unmarried couple living together without having a physical relationship. So, my theatrical background has helped me in dealing with human subjects in my films successfully.
Does your acting help in your work as a director?
Yes, it does. I can relate to my actors better. I can give them a clear idea about the nuances of a scene and the sense of timing too. I am a director who acts out the scenes for my actors. And I never carry the script in my hand. I remember all the dialogues as I am an actor myself. I somehow cannot contain the actor within me. I am still doing theatre. I have done about 80 shows of the play Salesman Ramlal, the Hindi adaptation of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. I did it in Dubai last year. Some of the critics have even gone so far as saying that my performance is better than Dustin Hoffman's enactment of the character in the English original.
What brings you to the UAE? How has your trip gone so far?
It's been wonderful. Dubai is a great place to shoot. To me it's a home away from home. It's like a highly organised Mumbai. During this trip I was struck by the magnificence of the Hatta mountains. They are simply awesome. Just watch them in my new film and you will know what I am talking about.
What's the new film you are shooting for?
We are shooting the final few scenes of Milenge Milenge. Three scenes and three songs to be specific. It is a dreamy romantic film or should I say a comic-strip romance. It’s unlike any movie I’ve done so far.
You keep breaking the cast as it were. Vaada, Tere Naam and Mujhe Kuchh Kehna Hai are quite different in style and content.
I like taking up challenges and making different kinds of films. It is creatively very satisfying. A director needs to be excited about every project that he takes up and variety helps.
Vaada was a great experience. I always wanted to do a thriller. I experimented with different camera positions in this film. I am particularly fond of the train sequence. It was also very satisfying to see the actors perform so well. Tere Naam was a very serious and dark film. It was a remake of the South Indian movie Sethu. Producer Sunil Manchanda and I believed in the film because it was a very pure and moving tale. It was nice to see that it was well-received by the audience.
You said you were pleased with the performances of your actors in Vaada
I am not the only raving about the work of Arjun Ramphal and Zayed Khan in the movie. Critics are all praise for Zayed’s and Arjun’s performances. Remember, both of them had been written off as good-looking hunks. Here they have proved their mettle as actors. Arjun, for one, has acted splendidly. He has held the film together.
How is your favourite film project Mritak coming up?
The script is ready. It is going to be a movie based on the true story of a man who has been officially declared dead. The man, Lal Behari ‘Mritak’ has been running from pillar to post for decades to establish his identity and prove to the courts that he is still alive.
I met this man, who hails from Azamgarh, eight years ago while I was doing Mujhe Kucchh Kehna Hai. We also helped him get a passport so that he could receive the Ignoble Awards in the US, conferred on him recently. The problem was how do you get a passport for a man who is legally dead.
Will Anil Kapoor be playing the lead role?
No. After discussing the matter with Anil, we have decided that a new actor should take up the role. It is going to be a very different kind of film so a fresh face could be more appropriate. We are also considering Pankaj Kapur for the role. He is one of the best actors in the country.
You see, the story of Lal Behari ‘Mritak’ may appear strange but it is a universal story. It is the biggest drama of life. Everyone in this world is trying to assert oneself and making one’s presence felt. Even countries are struggling to assert their identity. Superpowers are exerting pressure to gain respectability. In shark contrast, here is a simple man who is merely trying to put across the point that he still exists.