Filmmaker Kundan Shah’s sudden demise has left Bollywood in mourning. His good friend, filmmaker and actor Satish Kaushik, who played a pivotal role in one of Shah’s cult productions Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, recalls his experience of working with Shah and fond memories from their collaborations over the years in this interview.
Working with was Kundan (Shah) was great because he himself had a great sense of humour. It was very difficult to make him happy as a writer and as an actor too. But even if he would be happy with something he would never show it. He had tremendous unsteady energy and while making a film, he injected that energy into his actors. He would push everyone to give their best to the film. And a remarkable repertoire of the greatest actors Naseer, Ravi Baswani, Bhakti Bharve, Satish Shah, Pankaj Kapoor, Om Puri, myself were giving their best. Filmmaker Vinod Chopra played a role in the climax Mahabharata scene. I am sure Kundan is looking down and laughing at the recollection.Satish Kaushik, Filmmaker and actor
Kaushik goes on to explain how Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron came about and what it meant to everyone involved.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (JBDY) was released in 1983. None of us thought it would become such a cult classic over time. Apart from acting in the film, I wrote the dialogues for the film along with Ranjit Kapoor. It was made on a budget of Rs 7.5 lakhs. It was supposed to be Anupam Kher’s first film, but his role got chopped off in the editing. For the first time, an NFDC film was bought by a regular distributor, Romu Sippy. I was not part of the actors repertoire of JBDY, but while writing the dialogues everyday I used to wonder for which role I should forward my name to Kundan through Ranjit. Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani were already finalised. But to my luck, when we were improvising the mad telephone-receiver exchanging scene, I performed the role of Tarneja’s assistant Ashok. That turned out to be a very funny scene while performing and the actor for Ashok’s role was not finalised.Satish Kaushik
He goes on to explain that Shah seemed impressed with his comic timing.
To my luck Kundan said, ‘yaar, teri kya timing thhi iss scene mein. Par aise timing kaun actor kar sakta hai?’ Ranjeet immediately jumped in to help me and said ‘Let Kaushik do it’. After some reluctance, Kundan agreed. And that is how I got a role in the film. So from Rs 3000 for dialogues my total remuneration went up to Rs 5,000 and I got Rs 2,000 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.Satish Kaushik
Kaushik believes that JBDY played a major role in steering his career in films.
I feel very proud to be associated with this cult classic of Hindi cinema. I remember I came back to Delhi after finishing Shekhar Kapur’s debut film Masoom from Nainital and before coming to Bombay, I went to visit Ranjeet Kapoor, who was a top notch theatre director. I met Kundan Shah at his house, who had come to sign Ranjeet as a dialogue writer of JBDY. I had known Kundan because I had done my first film Chakra in which he was the chief AD also. All three of us were chatting and suddenly out of nowhere Ranjeet told Kundan, ‘Since you’re making a mad comedy I will like to have Satish as my co-writer.’ I was shocked. Ranjeet convinced Kundan that I have a great comic sense and timing and will be a great help in writing the film. And that’s how my career as a writer started though I had never written before. We wrote the entire film in Kundan’s house in Sion and nearly slept there, to be woken up sometimes by his little cute daughter, ‘Uncle utho... likho!’Satish Kaushik
So how did the screenplay develop and did your theatre experience help? Here’s the story of how the iconic Mahabharat scene came about.
Everyday we would take up a scene from the screenplay and start performing and improvising it in the room and record everything and bring it to paper as per Kundan’s liking. Ranjeet and I used our theatre experience in moulding the dialogue script of JBDY.Satish Kaushik
It took us ten days to write the Mahabaharat scene, because in the screenplay it was just mentioned that they all get into a theatre in which some drama is being performed and chaos happens. But which drama? We all got stuck because whatever play we thought of was not bringing humour into the situation. We took a break and for ten days as we could not construct the scene.
Kaushik goes on to reveal how the solution popped into his head, “But one day while I was walking in the market in Santa Cruz, I saw cheap colourful comics of Laila Majnu, Shirin-Farhad, Mughal-e-Azam etc. and from there the idea struck us that in the climax of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro there should be a mix up of characters and that is how the extraordinary and hilarious climax came on paper.”
Attending the film’s premiere makes for an interesting story in itself.
The JBDY premier was no less fun. 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. After the premiere there was no party and after the film I walked down to the station to get back home, had dinner at a dhaba. We could not celebrate at that time of release but till today celebrations are there for JBDY. I’ m proud of being part of it.Satish Kaushik