Ram Gopal Varma (director)
Satya was made completely on instinct. Like Bhiku Mhatre’s death scene – Anurag (Kashyap) and Saurabh (Shukla) wrote a version each, both of which I didn’t like. Commissioner Amod Shukla (Paresh Rawal) is dead, Bhiku and Bhau are friends again. So technically there is no enemy and the audience will not expect something dangerous to happen because there is no enemy at all. Bhau has won the election, there’s a party, all of them are in a celebratory mood. When Bhiku enters everybody is talking at the same time. Then I told Govind Namdeo at some given point of time just point the gun and shoot him. Even I didn’t know what they are going to speak and they just improvised. The way Bhiku came and suddenly lifted up Muley, and when Bhau’s gun goes off it was a shock for everyone, including me and the actors because nobody knew what was going to happen. Now before that we had thought that Bhiku Mhatre is an important character in the film we need make his death a huge thing. But killing him so simply worked much more. I didn’t even show a close up of him even after his death. He was just lying on the table like a prop.
Ram Gopal Varma, the director, sent his assistant, Anurag Kashyap, and the film’s composer Vishal Bhardwaj to meet me to discuss the songs. For one situation, Anurag suggested the line: ‘Gum ke upar bamm lagake, gum udha de.’ (Place a bomb on all sorrows and blow it up.) I declined to have anything to do with the line. But Anurag being Anurag – and with his penchant for the absurd – was convinced about it and kept saying what a wonderful line ‘Gum ke upar bamm’ could be. So, I told him: ‘Gum nahin hota, bachchu. Gham. Pehle gham bolna sikho.’ (It’s not gum, young man, it’s pronounced gham, first learn to say the word properly.) I was adamant that the line simply didn’t evoke the situation – mobsters who brandish pistols and kill at every opportunity, winding down with some hard drinking at the end of the day, dancing like one is crazed. I rejected the line in spite of Vishal’s enthusiasm for it and finally gave them my version of the situation. And that was how the line ‘Goli maar bheje mein, bheja shor karta hai’ was born.
Manoj Bajpayee (played Bhiku Mhatre)
The entire shoot of Satya was creativity at its peak. We were all contributing to each other’s performance. I remember shooting the famous ‘Mumbai ka king’ scene at Bandstand on a cliff. I’m scared of heights. I have vertigo. The team’s job was to put me there for half a minute and quickly can the shot, but it took so long because of my fear. Finally I stood there and whatever I said was not the dialogue you hear in the film. I kept shouting, “Please get me out of here.” Eventually I dubbed ‘Mumbai ka king kaun?’ over it.
Saurabh Shukla (actor-writer)
Satya was shot in large parts by Mazhar Kamran, but the rest was shot by American cinematographer. He brought a different eye to the film. Indian cinema has shown Mumbai so many times that Ramu said he wanted someone to whom it would be a complete shock. When he was on board, we got very excited, that there will be a cinematographer from Hollywood who will come and change the look of the film.
But Gerard turned out to be not the typical Hollywood guy, but a teacher and documentary filmmaker. He went for recce where he would take his still camera and he started taking pictures. The general idea at the time was that better the camera man more the lighting. For one of the scenes, when we reached location, which was a 10 ft by 10 ft 1BHK, Gerard had already reached there before us. And when we reached the location we thought he would say we can’t shoot there. It was hot, and there was no AC. But instead, we saw Gerard had propped lights but from outside.
Satya was shot on celluloid, very low-light, low aperture. I think a large part of the reason why Satya looks the way it does it because of the choice of cinematographer.
Apurva Asrani (editor)
I had bonded with Ramu ji while I was editing promos for Daud and he had loved what I had done. One day he took me from the promo edit of Daud and showed me some songs of Daud. I have such a clear memory of that day. We were in his car, he said he’ll drop me to an auto. He told me he wants to make a film on the underworld and I told him he should consider editing on Avid. He was thinking about this – suddenly he turned and said, “Where do you want to edit it? I want you to do it.” I got out of that red Maruti Esteem and my life had begun.
I assisted on Satya and I was editing it, so I was working double shifts. I celebrated my 19th birthday on the sets of Satya, so the entire world of cinema opened up for me through this film. We were a lot of hungry, passionate people who placed implicit faith in Ram Gopal Varma. Also we didn’t have much of a life outside the film. There were 9 nights in a row where I didn’t go back home. I remember vodka was the drink of the unit! Not on set but in Ramu’s house, with Anurag discussing the next day’s scenes.