Satish Kaushik was young, scrawny and loved discotheques when he first arrived in Mumbai in 1979. Carrying the 800 rupees he had borrowed from his brother-in-law, Kaushik had no idea that he was going to become one of the most recognised faces of Hindi cinema in the coming years. His early days might have been spent at a textile mill but his evenings were reserved for Prithvi Theatre, learning acting and making acquaintance with some of the most powerful performers of the coming generation, including Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri.
A mere four years after his arrival in the city, an almost unrecognisable Kaushik starred as Ashok in the cult classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983). His humorous repartee with Shah in a memorable telephone scene established him as an actor with deft comic timing – a talent that would later grant him some of his most iconic roles, but also confine him to being typecast as a comedy actor. The recent years and the OTT intervention might have allowed Kaushik to flex his experimental acting muscle but his sudden passing on March 9, 2023, has ensured that we will never fully explore the reserve of nuanced performances that his screen presence always hinted at.
Kaushik didn’t attempt versatility – his life shows that it was enmeshed in the way he interacted with his art. Kaushik had been a director, screenwriter, dialogue writer and producer almost as long as he had been an actor. One of his first experiences in the industry was on the set of Shekhar Kapur’s Masoom (1983), where he served as an assistant director. His responsibilities grew by the time Kapur’s Mr. India (1987) rolled around – this time, in addition to being the assistant producer, Kaushik was also co-producing and acting in the film. His role as the amiable buffoon, Calendar, became one of his most enduring characters, even as it wedged him more firmly into the mould of a comedy actor. By 1990, he had won his first (of the two) Filmfare Best Comedian Awards for his performance in Ram Lakhan (1989). It was in these initial years that Kaushik possibly made his long-lasting friendships with Kapur, Anupam Kher, Javed Akhtar, Anil Kapoor and Shabana Azmi.
A decade since his first appearance on-screen, Kaushik made his directorial debut with Roop Ki Rani Choro Ka Raja (1993), starring the hit pair of Anil Kapoor and Sridevi. The film, written by Javed Akhtar, was the most expensive Hindi film made at the time. To everyone’s surprise, it was also a terrible flop. But the new director soldiered on, bagging Kajol – fresh off the success of Baazigar (1993) – and Kapoor for Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hai (1999), which clicked with the audiences. Kaushik’s biggest hit came with Salman Khan’s Tere Naam (2003) but it also proved to be his last blockbuster directorial project.
Although the actor has around 150 acting credits in his IMDb, it is only in the last few years that Kaushik was offered eclectic characters – an opportunity he seized with finesse. From the uncle-cum-manager to Udta Punjab’s drug-addled Tommy to the dodgy industrialist in Prime Video’s Guilty Minds, the actor proved that he is a consistently watchable performer. His short role as the foul-mouthed, opportunistic Manu Mundra in Scam 1992 set him apart even amidst some of the cast’s career-best performances. The actor was last seen in Chhatriwali (2023) and is set to appear in a few other titles like Kangana Ranaut's first directorial project, Emergency.
The veteran actor’s death was confirmed by his close friend and fellow actor Anupam Kher, who broke the news through Twitter. Condolences for Kaushik poured in from all corners of the industry. Read their tweets below: