Satish Kaul’s life, who died penniless in a hospital, a lesson for actors and technicians with no savings

The actor, who moved to Punjabi cinema after lead roles in some off-beat Hindi films and then to television where he was seen in ‘Vikram-Betal’ and ‘Mahabharat’, died penniless in a Ludhiana hospital

Satish Kaul
Satish Kaul
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Subhash K Jha

Not many remember Satish Kaul as Rehana Sultan’s handsome lover in the 1973 drama Prem Parbat where he played the sexed-up forest ranger Rehana ran to for sex when her aged husband Nana Palsikar was asleep.

It was a bold film and Satish got lead roles in off-beat Hindi films like Nek Parveen, Mere Sartaj and Ang Se Ang Laga Le. Like most failed lead actors, Satish soon switched to supporting roles in big budget films like Shiva ka Insaaf and Inaam Dus Hazaar. He had insignificant roles in two Pahlaj Nihalani productions Ilzaam and Aag Hi Aag.

Pahlajji remembers Satish as “hard working, friendly, hungry for work, always eager to face the camera, always wondering where the next meal would come from.”

Bitter and frustrated for lack of work in Hindi cinema, Satish moved to Punjabi cinema where he had a relatively more successful innings with films like Jatt Punjabi, Lacchi and Rano. He was labelled the ‘Amitabh Bachchan of Punjabi cinema’.

Not that it helped sustain his career. When roles in Punjab too began to dry up, Satish moved to television where he played small parts. He was seen in Vikram-Vetal and Mahabharat.

In recent years, his financial condition went from bad to worse. With no family of his own (his wife apparently divorced him and left the country), Satish was forced to live in a charity home in Ludhiana. He died penniless in a hospital in Ludhiana, hungry for work, hungry for love, hungry for dignity. And just hungry.

Satish’s final years are a lesson to all actors and technicians in Indian cinema who have no savings to fall back on during hard times. I remember actress Vimi of the 1970s, a grand BR Chopra discovery who was launched with fanfare in the hit Humraaz. Soon, her career floundered and flopped. With no money and career, she drank herself to death. Her corpse had to be loaded on a hand cart to be taken to the crematorium.

Satish Kaul was a bit less unfortunate.

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