Satish Kaushik was an actor, director and screenwriter whose contribution to Hindi cinema can perhaps be measured in the number of times he made us laugh (too many to count). Kaushik’s presence would enliven every frame he was in. His eccentric characters would add texture to stories. Although he was famous for his comedic roles, the actor had tremendous range and the ability to shift moods within minutes. Here are five of his roles, all uniquely delightful, that have remained etched in our minds:
Apart from playing the greedy builder’s assistant, Kaushik wrote dialogues for the film. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is a satirical comedy directed by Kundan Shah and follows two friends, who while attempting to establish their own photo studio, get involved in the struggle against corruption. The film remains memorable for the scene with Kaushik and Naseeruddin Shah speaking on two receivers while in the same room. Jibes are exchanged, and receivers are too, all without their awareness of being in such close proximity to each other. The scene is a testament to their impeccable comic timing and unmatched chemistry. In an interview with Bollywood Hungama, the actor said that because the budget was tight, “We had no passes and Kundan was taking money from us for tickets for the premier. This must have been the first and only premier where actors had to pay from their pocket to watch their own film.” Kaushik was given a remuneration of Rs 5000, of which Rs 3000 was for writing the dialogues, and Rs 2000 was for acting. “We used to get Rs 10 per day for conveyance. But the kind of fun we had while making the film could not be judged in terms of remuneration,” he had said.
In this Shekhar Kapur directorial, Kaushik played the iconic role of Calendar, the cook who helped Arun (Anil Kapoor) look after the orphans. The dialogue, “Calendar khana do (Calendar, give us food!)”, became one of the many memorable aspects of Mr India. In an interview with The Hindu, he said that at the time, he had “just started and was a frustrated actor.” When asked the origin of his character’s name, Kaushik said that a colleague of his father’s would randomly insert the word ‘calendar’ in sentences while speaking. “I heard this story from my father and took it to Shekhar who really liked it. Upon knowing that I have to play a cook in the movie, I suggested the name and he agreed,” he said. Kaushik did not expect Calendar to be so adored by the viewers, or for the role to steer his career in the “right direction”. “People don't know my real name, they still call me Calendar,” the actor had said during the interview.
An amalgam of charm and innocence, Kashiram’s persona is divided between being an impish employee and a stern advisor. He works at a grocery shop for Deodhar (Anupam Kher) whose daughter, Radha (Madhuri Dixit), Lakhan (Anil Kapoor), the protagonist is in love with. Kaushik’s dynamic with Kher is amusing as they shuffle between playing employer and employee, and two people who’ve known each other for a long time. An entertaining sequence is when Deodhar accidentally sits on eggs, panics, and Kashiram talks him through the situation. Kaushik and Kher had first met at the National School of Drama in 1975. The two were classmates and had been friends for over 40 years. Their camaraderie is hard to miss in Ram Lakhan. Kaushik won the Filmfare Best Comedian Award for his performance in the film.
Ten years after Mr India came Deewana Mastana, but here, instead of being Anil Kapoor’s sidekick, Kaushik played the contract killer hired to murder him. While his character wasn’t very good at the task, the actor made for an adorable criminal, bereft of menace and full of confidence. With a smug look, he informed Kapoor’s Raja that he was there to kill him, and ended up backed against a car. Even then, Pappu Pager assured his henchmen, “Tum log ghabrane ka nahi, samjha kya? (You guys have no reason to be scared. Do you understand?)” Through Pappu, the actor proved that he could carry a white mesh shirt over a red vest with aplomb, and that earnestness is perhaps not the best look on a criminal. But it suited Kaushik nonetheless.
The actor played an astrologer and an uncle to Akshay Kumar’s Raja. He predicts his nephew’s life to be akin to a king’s and says to him, “Raja kabhi kaam nahi karta! (A king never works.)” Clad in an indo-western ensemble, with a printed blue vest suit and an orange headband, Kaushik delivers his dialogues with a conviction that has us believing in horoscopes. With spectacles dangling at the edge of his nose, and the lenses too small for his eyes, it is evident that Chanda Mama employs his third eye more than the first two. At the end of the scene, he asks Raja for his guru dakshina (payment) and goes on to peck his cheek. Appalled by his “kissy”, Raja vigorously rubs his face. “Yeh kisi nahi, guru dakshina hai,” says the uncle. It’s a sweet moment. The whole sequence is evidence of Kaushik’s versatility, having him oscillate between profundity, joy and irritation, all in a minute.