An actor who ruled the Punjabi film world for more than 30 years is now a pauper in the royal city.
Once revered as the "Amitabh Bachchan of Punjabi cinema" because of his handsome looks in more than 85 lead roles in the language since 1969, Satish Kaul, at 70, has not enough money to even live as ordinary man.
Putting up in Patiala these days, working at an acting school, which is kind enough to accommodate him in its hostel, Kaul remembers how he once moved in luxury cars and now commutes by rickshaw in scorching heat.
The booming Punjabi film industry has given its veteran actor no recognition. His wife has divorced him, and all his life's earnings, when he had invested in an acting school venture in Ludhiana, is gone with the failed project. "I tried to become the Anna Hazare of the acting movement in Punjab, to encourage boys and girls. It was the biggest mistake of my life," said the actor.
In 2009, I opened this school on request from the Punjab government the day a Punjabi Channel owned by a senior politician gave him the state lifetime achievement award. "Then settled in Mumbai, I got carried away by the words," said Kaul.
He sold his only flat in Mumbai and moved to Punjab but without the government's help, the acting school flopped and the veteran was left struggling for bread and butter. Worn-out shoes, a bag filled with old clothes, and an ordinary mobile phone now are his only property.
The actor blames it on destiny but critics accuse him of writing it himself by drinking excessively. "I was an ordinary drinker," said Kaul, "and it's the worst allegation to suggest I was an alcoholic."
After the acting-school debacle, Kaul shifted to an old-age home at Doraha near Ludhiana. He moved to Patiala on the request of friends in the city, including the National Theatre Arts Society (NTAS) chief Pran Sabharwal. His biggest complaint against the present Punjabi film producers is that they did not offer him any role in new movies.
"I tried best to reach a few producers and actors, though I'm not a beggar. I am Satish Kaul, who still has the guts to come back," he said. The Kashmiri Pandit has acted in almost 300 films, including many in Hindi. He has acted along with Bollywood superstars Dalip Kumar, Dev Anand and Dharmendra.
"Lachhi", "Do Posti", "Veera", "Rano Dhee Rani", "Bhulekha", "Vehra Lambra Da" and "Wohti Hath Sotti" are his popular Punjabi films, and "Prem Parbat", "Warrant", "Karma", "Gunaho Ka Faisla" are some of the Bollywood projects in which he acted.
I tried to become the Anna Hazare of the acting movement in Punjab. It was the biggest mistake of my life