Besides playing memorable roles in many films such as Mr India (1987) and Deewana Mastana (1997), Satish Kaushik (right) is also well-known for his plays and TV shows. Last seen on the big screen in director Abhishek Chaubey’s recent film, Kaushik is now back to the stage. He will be seen in theatre director Saif Hyder Hasan’s upcoming romantic play, Mr And Mrs Murarilal. We met the actor during the play’s rehearsal and discussed films, theatre and his upcoming projects with him.
When did the acting bug bite you?
I am a product of the dramatics society of Kirori Mal College in Delhi. My late professor, Frank Thakurdas, was in charge of dramatics. When I was graduating, he told me, “Satish, don’t do anything [else]. Just become an actor.” He showed me the way, and got me enrolled at the National School of Drama (NSD). I was a science student, but I went on to read great books like Natya Shastra and works by playwrights such as Henrik Ibsen. Getting trained in theatre is the ultimate experience — you discover your body, your limbs, and your thought process. I came from a humble background, and until I joined NSD, I wasn’t even fluent in English.
Tell us about your latest play…
Mr Murarilal is a healer, who knows how to heal people’s grievances. The play is a story about two lonely people. It is inspired by the character of Murarilal from the 1971 movie Anand. It is a romantic play that is full of songs. In the past, I have done plays by Bertolt Brecht, Ibsen and Vijay Tendulkar. But this is the first time I am doing a contemporary piece.
Did you always want to play comic roles?
Well, I was the funny guy in my social circle. I was a Hindi movie buff. I used to think that what Mehmood, Asrani and Johnny Walker did was easy. My first play at NSD was Jean Paul Satre’s Men Without Shadows, in which I played a cruel Nazi soldier. If a role like the one my friend, actor Anupam Kher, got in Saaransh (1984), came to me, I would also get my teeth into it. But I never got an opportunity like that. The first serious role I got was in Brick Lane (2007). I was applauded for my tragic performance in the film.
Your performance in your new movie has been appreciated too…
My character in this movie has given me a new lease of life. I’ve done roles with David Dhawan (film-maker); I played characters such as Muthu Swamy (Saajan Chale Sasural; 1996). But this role shows that I can adjust with new directors and do new-age roles too. I am now doing a lot of new things, like this play. I have played a lot of roles that required me to change my body language. But I am being myself in this drama. So, this is my second innings.
You’ve worked in theatre, films and television. You’ve also directed movies. What do you enjoy the most?
I am enjoying acting right now. I don’t want to do flippant characters anymore. Earlier, I would just mug up the dialogue and not think about the meaning and subtext. If given a chance, I would love to cut down on my direction work. I would love to play strong characters.
Your career in the industry spans more than 30 years. Was there a low phas
When I was struggling, I was an assistant to Shekhar Kapur (film-maker). Later, I became friends with Javed Akhtar, Boney Kapoor and Anil Kapoor, who supported me in my fight to become a director. Boney gave me the biggest break with Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1993). I have been lucky to have such great friends. They have always stood by me.