When Satish Kaushik’s film Chhoriyan Chhoron Se Kam Nahi Hoti won the Best Feature Film in Haryanvi language at the 67th National Film Awards, he was overjoyed though he couldn’t celebrate as he was hospitalised after he tested Covid positive. Chhoriyan Chhoron Se Kam Nahi Hoti was directed by Rajesh Amarlal Babbar and produced by Nishant Kaushik, Shashi Kaushik and Zee Studios, and based on a girl child’s struggle to study and become an IPS officer in rural Haryana. Here, Satish Kaushik talks about the challenges of making a Haryanvi film, his second lease of life after Covid and his upcoming projects. Excerpts:
You have just recovered from Covid-19…
Yes, it was an extremely trying time for my family and me. I was hospitalised and so was my eight-year-old daughter. We had a tough time as the new wave is affecting a lot of children as well. We don’t have enough beds in the hospitals and people are being turned away. So many have already died. I would request everyone to please follow all Covid precautions as it is very crucial. We must cancel all celebrations and step out only if is absolutely necessary.
The National Awards were announced when you were in hospital…
I was in the ICU when the awards were announced. I was so unwell and at that time, I was only thinking about my daughter, so I couldn’t react. But now that I’m better, I realise it is such an honour to receive a National Award for such an important film. The film was made in Haryanvi language and I wanted to use the vernacular because I want to promote Haryana as a film state and the industry to prosper. I am also the Chairman of the Haryana Film Development Board and it is something that I am really proud of.
Why did you decide to take up the film?
I have acted in it and my company has produced the film. It has a strong message because we want everyone to know that girls are no less when it comes to competing with boys. Just because they are girls, they should not be held back from pursuing their dreams. Not just in Haryana, but all over the country, girls are treated as second grade citizens. That needs to change now. My film went on to become the first film to release in 100 screens in Haryana and was a major hit on Zee5. We are now planning a sequel to the film, which will also be made in Haryanvi. In the last few years, Haryanvi as a language has become quite mainstream especially after films like Tanu Weds Manu and a host of other serials.
What about your recent Hindi films?
In recent times, I made Kaagaz with Pankaj Tripathi. It was a huge success. It also went on to become the most watched film on any OTT platform. All these years, I have done commercial cinema but now, I want to make meaningful films — especially ones with a strong message and interesting concept. I have been trying to discover a new Satish Kaushik within myself. At this age, I want to upgrade myself with off-beat films like Udta Punjab, Chhalaang, Soorma and Kaagaz. My film on Netflix A Billion Colour Story, which I produced along with Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, got me 11 international awards and I travelled all over the world with the film. We also produce English and Marathi films — in an effort to change things around in the industry.
The film was made in Haryanvi language and I wanted to use the vernacular because I want to promote Haryana as a film state and the industry to prosper. I am also the Chairman of the Haryana Film Development Board and it is something that I am really proud of.
Do you think this is an era of better films?
I think this is an era of great storytelling. Right from musicians to cinematographers to screenwriters to technicians, everyone is very well versed with filmmaking now. They have a lot of knowledge and they use that to come up with new concepts and offbeat films — and the audience loves it. Earlier, the audience forgave mistakes very generously but now, they don’t. This has made filmmakers change their approach and they have been forced to up their game. In the 1980s-90s, no one knew much about filmmaking — neither the makers nor the audience. But now everyone knows world cinema, so you cannot get away with shoddy stories. I had written the story of Kaagaz 18 years back and when I pitched it to others, no one even understood the concept. Now people love it, because 18 years later, the film finally found an audience that would actually feel it. A whole new generation had to surface before films like these could see the light of day!
A big star cast does not ensure guaranteed profits anymore. Or does it?
No, it doesn’t! If the film is not good, no matter who the star is, it will not work anymore. Even stars are looking to work in off-beat films now. That is why we have seen the rise of actors like Pankaj Tripathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rajkummar Rao and Ayushmann Khurrana. They are loved for their talent. Now the character is the hero — not anyone else. Star ki picture, achchi hogi, tabhi chalegi, warna nahin.
In the 1990s, you also starred in a number of remakes with Kader Khan, Govinda and David Dhawan. Would you do that now?
There used to be a time when people used to call me the ‘king of remakes’. You see the story can be anything — originality lies in the treatment. Even Shakespeare didn’t write original plots. But what made him great is the manner in which he indulged with storytelling. The film should appeal to pan-India audience. But classics should not be touched, everything cannot have a remake. I have also done a lot of adaptations in theatre, especially foreign plays. I would still do a remake, but the concept has to be good. It all depends on how you express yourself.