Old friendships, like old wine, get better with age. They often do not even require an airing, the conversation flows smoothly when people meet after years.
Satish Kaushik’s early association with Farooque Shaikh began around the time they shot for ‘Ab Ayega Mazaa’ in 1984. Almost 20 years later, Shaikh Sahab hosted an episode of ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai’ based on Satishji’s life and times. Decades had passed yet nothing had changed. The camaraderie of bygone times was visible through the entire episode.Farooque Shaikh’s third Smriti Din will be observed Wednesday, December 28. Hours before embarking on a trip abroad, Satish Kaushik spent time remembering his friend ahead of his anniversary. “I first met Farooque Sahab socially at the home of Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar. My first impression, and lasting impression, of him was as a sabhya (cultured), classy person.”
“Later I got an opportunity to work with him in ‘Ab Ayega Mazaa’ which was the only movie we made together. This was a fun film made by youngsters who were mostly friends. Alok Nath and Girija Shankar produced it and Pankuj Parashar was the director. Nadira Babbar was the pillar of the team that wrote the film. This was Anand-Milind’s first film as music director duo and Sameer’s first picture as lyricist.” Satishji says.
Apart from playing the role of Shaikh Sahab’s house help, Satish Kaushik wrote the screenplay and dialogues of ‘Ab Ayega Mazaa’. The witticisms had drawn many laughs after the release in 1984, and continue to do so each time ‘Ab Ayega..’ is shown on TV.
The smiles erupt right from the opening scene when Shaikh, a late riser, asks his servant whether the clock is telling the time right. After answering yes two times, Satishji retorts, “Toh ghadi se hi poochh lo.” The film exposes the exaggeration and deception inherent in advertising. Farooque Shaikh is cast in the role of a copywriter who is uncomfortable in his new job owing to the white lies his profession involves. Raja Bundela is his less talented yet streetsmart colleague who can impress everybody from the boss to women strangers by his smooth talk.
Shaikh fearlessly objects to Bundela’s outlandish idea of marketing soap with wondrous qualities of ginger. “Adrak nahaane dhone mein kaise aayega?” he asks. But boss Girija Shankar is sold on the idea and berates him for his naivete.
Satishji says, “It was during that film that I first got a closer glimpse into Farooque Sahab’s personality. Just the fact that he chose to do that movie speaks volumes because he was an established star by then. ‘Ab Ayega Mazaa’ was made in 1984 so he already had ‘Noorie’, ‘Umrao Jaan’, ‘Chashme Buddoor’ and ‘Katha’ behind him. And ‘Ab Ayega..’ was a picture by first-timers on a shoestring budget. Farooque Sahab was very kind to take up the assignment.” The unit had a wonderful time shooting in Delhi during the winter season, enjoying warm meals and lovely conversation.
Satishji says, “I am overcome by nostalgia when I think of that outdoor. Farooque Sahab and I never got to do another picture together. The next time I shared the screen with him was during ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai’ after 2002. He featured an episode on me. My brothers had come, my sister spoke on screen, and I really enjoyed the way he interacted with them.”
His tone deepens as he says sincerely, “I think Farooque Sahab was the crown jewel of that talk show. He kept things simple, wore a warm smile and was never judgemental about people. This is exactly how he was off the sets also. Ek sehej aadmi. He had such a strong command over Urdu, Hindi and English and he used such witty lines to slip into a break on the show.”Satishji recalls an insightful experience. “In 2007 I did an English film called ‘Brick Lane’ by Sarah Gavron. You know, Farooque Sahab had also auditioned for that role. In the end it was I who was selected. And he was such a sport. He complimented me to say that I suited the role better than he would have done. He said that the demand of the character is such that you fit perfectly, this role is tailormade for you. Only a large hearted man who is extremely secure and confident of himself can make such a generous comment.” Satishji says.Like Shaikh Sahab, Satish Kaushik has his roots in theatre. “I must not forget to mention his play ‘Tumhari Amrita’ which ran for 21 years. This is no small feat. I have seen that play, and I think it was so successful because language came to him so naturally. He knew the nuance of each Urdu word. Farooque Sahab poet aadmi the, shayri jaante the.” he says. “I also enjoyed the offbeat films he had been doing at the time, like Vashu Bhagnani’s ‘Youngistaan’.”Saturday, December 28, 2013 drew the curtains on this brilliant career. Satishji says in a low tone, “His final journey proved the immense love and respect that people of all classes felt for Farooque Shaikh. I went to his apartment building in Highland Park, Andheri, for the wake on December 30. The feeling of shock was so palpable, nobody had expected this to happen. Around 4,000-5,000 people of all backgrounds visited to pay respects to this man whose life was grace and elegance personified.”