Ram Gopal Varma might have lost the plot today but there was a time when he was helming the best of films and it was in one of those films that a character called Kallu Mama caught our fancy. The film was Satya and the actor who played this uniquely named character was Saurabh Shukla.
While this wasn’t a leading part but thanks to a song dedicated to his name and a stellar performance, Saurabh Shukla left a strong impression on the viewers.
This performance got him noticed by the masses but this wasn’t his debut. Shukla had been working in films like Bandit Queen, Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin among others but none of them had gotten him noticed the way Satya did.
But haven’t we seen many talented actors getting stuck in the same cycle after one success? Sadly, same was the case with this National Award-winning actor as well.
Shukla appeared in countless films but all the parts he did were somehow not worthy of him. We saw him as the Anglo-Indian father in Mohabbatein and also as the kidnapper in Shah Rukh Khan starrer Baadshah. These were just some of the many roles he did and even though we saw him countless times at the movies, he always remained ‘that actor from that movie’ to us. Or else, he was simply referred to as ‘Kallu Mama’.
Year after year, Shukla was seen doing roles that could have done by anybody. Of course, they were better than the rest because he did them but, in all honesty, one look at this actor and we knew he was meant for much more. It isn’t just us who felt this way. Shukla himself believes the same. In an interview to Indian Express in 2014, he had said, “Satya’s Kallu Mama got me a lot of attention; people’s expectations grew. But that went against me, because over the next 10 years, I felt taken for granted.”
It wasn’t until Anurag Basu’s Barfi that Shukla felt energised again. In an interview, the actor said, “Anurag and Ranbir (Kapoor) revived me as an actor.” When we watch his performance today, it resonates with the same sentiment that the actor felt. The physical comedy, the emotional graph and his presence on screen, all of it was simply stellar.
Soon after Barfi!, Shukla gave the performance that won him the National Award. He was the soul of Jolly LLB. His performance got him the recognition he always deserved. The potential that was waiting to be explored had finally found a vent.
With performances in films like PK, Jolly LLB 2 and many others, Shukla reinstated the audience’s faith in him. He might have never achieved the star status that is usually considered a benchmark by popular Indian film standards, but what he achieved is far more than that. It is his presence in a film that uplifts it. His scenes might be few but if a film carries his name in the cast, we at least know that there will be something to watch out for.
Saurabh Shukla’s immense work in theatre and his work as a writer and director gave him an edge over many others but for audience like us, his work as an actor can be explained in one word, impressive.