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Satish Kaushik: The Man With an Impeccable Comic Timing

In the comedy classic Deewana Mastana, Satish Kaushik played the role of Pappu Pager, a lovable goon who always found himself in hilarious situations. His
Satish kaushik
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Comic timing is not an easy thing to master. And Satish Kaushik was one who could make his audience not only laugh but also to love him. An actor who can make his audience laugh can also make his audience cry, whimper, grieve, smile, grin and break into side-splitting laughter. On the late actor’s first birth anniversary after his sudden and untimely death, let us take a look back at the fantastic actor’s interesting career. 

Satish Kaushik honed his gift of acting to perfection in two renowned schools – Delhi’s National School of Drama (NSD) and Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). We remember seeing a slim Satish Kaushik in the 1983 release Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (JBDY). He had a headful of hair back then. Some of his FTII Diploma peers also acted in the film.  Some of them later became big names like Pankaj Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Neena Gupta, the late Bhakti Barve and the very laughable “corpse” played by Satish Shah. Kaushik wrote the dialogues of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. The film has since achieved cult status and much of it is due to the timelessness of the story that is rooted in corruption. It is also due to the smart and intelligent but simple humour that is not easily seen in contemporary Indian cinema. The cast of JBDY all became famous later in Bollywood and among them was Satish Kaushik who was born  13 April 1956 in Haryana.

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As a theatre actor, his most noted role was that of “Willy Loman” in the Hindi-language play, Salesman Ramlal, an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1983). Kaushik did not stop at acting. He was also a producer, a director and a screenwriter.  His breakthrough role came in the 1987 hit Mr India, where he played a cook named ‘Calendar’. The role showcased the comic timing he would later become known for. A generation of Bollywood fans grew up on jokes, sketches and satire based on the iconic character of Calendar. In the film, Kaushik’s Calendar takes care of a group of orphaned children and cooks for them. His constant run-ins with the children lead to humorous dialogues and funny situations. Mr. India was perhaps the biggest commercial hit of the year and the most successful directorial work of Shekhar Kapoor who bestowed on Satish Kaushik the responsibility of chief assistant director. His humorous one-liners and comic timing were impeccable, making Calendar one of the most loved characters in Bollywood history.

In the comedy classic Deewana Mastana, Satish Kaushik played the role of Pappu Pager, a lovable goon who always found himself in hilarious situations. His unique mannerisms and endearing personality made Pappu Pager an unforgettable character.

In the film Pardes, Kaushik played the role of Chota Pandit, a hilarious and endearing character who added much-needed comic relief. His unique dialogue delivery and mannerisms were a highlight of the film. He played another unforgettable role as Chanda Mama alongside Akshay Kumar and Juhi Chawla in the David Dhawan directorial Mr & Mrs Khiladi that hit the silver screen in 1997. The camaraderie and love between Akshay Kumar and Satish Kaushik in the movie has been an unforgettable and cheerful cinematic experience. Kaushik played K.K. Chaddha in Rishi Kapoor’s last movie, Sharmaji Namkeen that was released posthumously. This role saw Kaushik playing his friend and confidant in the movie and it was a treat for the audience.

He played memorable characters in several other films such as Ram Lakhan, Aatank Hi Aatank with Rajnikanth (1995), Guru Dakshina with (1986), Khullam Khulla Pyar Karen (2005), Tere Naam (2003) Vaada (2005). His passion for acting continued with his roles in projects like Umar (2006), Zero Zone (2006) and Dhoom Dadakka (2008).

He directed his first film starring Sridevi and Anil Kapoor in Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja in 1993 followed by Prem three years later in a love story based on reincarnation. But both these films were miserable flops. In 1999, he directed Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain with Aishwarya Rai and Anil Kapoor in the lead. This film was a moderate hit. In 2005, Kaushik directed Arjun Rampal, Amisha Patel, and Zayed Khan in Vaada. In 2021, he directed Kaagaz, a full-length feature film released on an OTT channel starring Pankaj Tripathi. Kaushik himself played a significant role as Tripathi’s pessimistic lawyer who later becomes a close ally.

Satish Kaushik as Calendar in a still from Mr India
Satish Kaushik as Calendar in a still from Mr India

Kaagaz, released on ZEE5 presents a fictionalized account of the 19-year-long struggle of Lal Behari who discovered, by chance, that he was recorded as “dead” in official records everywhere. Satish Kaushik who co-produced, wrote and directed the film, with Salman Khan Films as his co-producer. He changed the names and circumstances from the original but managed somewhat, to hit at the core of the problem. Kaagaz is a sharp and necessary comment on the destiny of an ordinary man in life and death.

Kaushik had a hilarious turn in the re-launched version of one of India’s first 3D movies Chota Chetan. As Professor Chasmish, Kaushik plays a modern-day ghostbuster equipped with a PC with an attached steering wheel, which he drives with a remote control car to find the location of the treasure. In a funny sequence, Professor Chashmish gets pulled into the computer and is gobbled up by what can only be described as a PacMan Clone. 

Satish Kaushik lamented being stereotyped in comedy after his success as Calendar and other such roles. He tried to address this by taking up the negative role of a villain as an over-controlling father, Sujan Singh, in Calcutta Mail, starring Anil Kapoor. 

Comedy wears many faces. It is characterized by an element of surprise, unpredictability, a turn of phrase, a grimace or a change in body language. Incongruity, as seen in Charlie Chaplin films, is an example. Anti-climax is another element that triggers a sense of fun. There is satire veiled as comedy to expose and ridicule controversial or inefficient political leaders through caricatures. Satish Kaushik had the talent, the right timing and the commitment to bring all these in his performances.

Shoma A. Chatterji is a freelance journalist, film scholar and author based in Kolkata. She has won the National Award twice, in 1991 and 2000. She has authored 26 published titles of which 14 are on different areas of Indian cinema. She holds two Masters Degrees and a Ph.D. in History (Indian Cinema). She has also won a few Lifetime Achievement Awards from different organizations over time.

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