In Rs 20,000 rupees my costume was done: Manoj Bajpayee on curating Bhiku Mhatre's look in Satya

It was exactly 25 years ago when filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma released his crime drama Satya. Revolving around the life of a young man from a village who ends up becoming a gangster in Mumbai’s underworld scene, Satya is considered one of the most iconic and prominent Hindi films of all time. The film has an ensemble cast including Manoj Bajpayee, Shefali Shah, Saurabh Shukla, JD Chakravarthy (who plays the titular role), Urmila Matondkar, Aditya Srivastava, Paresh Rawal, Sanjay Mishra, Sushant Singh and Makarand Deshpande amongst others. Being well received by both, the critics and the audiences, Satya was bestowed with multiple awards.

Continuing to celebrate this irreplaceable piece of Indian cinema history, the film’s director Ram Gopal Varma along with its star cast Manoj Bajpayee, Shefali Shah and Saurabh Shukla were recently present for a chat with an entertainment portal. They talked about how Satya established them as prominent individuals in their craft. 

Opening up on his gangster drama and convincing legendary lyricist - screenwriter Gulzar to pen down Mama Kallu Mama, Ram Gopal Varma said, “When I told Gulzar Sahab the story, his first reaction was ‘Arrey bohot log mar gaye’ and then he wrote something like Gila Gila Paani, so Anurag or someone said But Paani is Gila, what is Gila Paani. So to counter him, Anurag told him, Sir Gila Paani sound has come in many songs, so Gulzar Sahab said, ‘One more will come, what’s the problem with that’. The point is high poetry like everyone knows many people don’t understand but in the seriousness of it you will feel it. If Gulzar Sahab doesn’t know what poetry is, then who are we and what are we. So technically, many of the lyrics I didn’t understand but they sound nice, so it’s okay - that’s what a song should be.”

Coming in, Shefali Shah spoke about her iconic slap scene with Manoj Bajpayee in the film. She shared, “I remember I was sitting with the script and Ramu Sir told me just say it your way. He has come back and everyone is scared of this man. But she has absolutely no fear of this man. It’s also like you slapped me infront of somebody else. So she’s angry, she’s not sad. Don’t mess around or expect me to garland you because you’ve come back home safe. I slap him and he laughed which makes it such a beautiful moment. He correctly said that it was the romance between this man and woman. Even if they make love, it’s going to be extremely raw, aggressive and passionate and not just subtle and sweet. That moment is also sexual in its own way, it’s so many things together.”

Further, Manoj Bajpayee talked about another great scene from the film being ‘Mumbai Ka King Kaun’ which was widely loved by the audiences. He said, “They were writing and still it was not ready while they were preparing for the cliff, where they’re going to shoot but I was scared because I had a major Vertigo problem. They tried every trick possible but it was not happening. So in the end, Ramu just said, I’m taking a long shot and somehow just stand there for sometime, say anything and we will dub it. So the long shot, actually I’m abusing sort of and saying to Anurag that Hatao Mujhe Hatao. That particular line they were writing on set.”

Manoj Bajpayee also spoke about his costumes in the film saying, “Now things are so organised, the costume designers and all that. Ramu asked me to just go to his production person and take some money. So I went to Hill Road, Bandra. I found this very small place and I wanted something very flamboyant. I bought around 20 shirts. I wanted that kind of colourfulness and flamboyance. But in Rs 20,000 rupees my costume was done.”

In addition to this Saurabh Shukla got candid about the making of ever so famous song - Mama Kallu Mama. He said, “I remember it was shot twice. The first time it was shot when there was no song, so we just shot dancing and we actually drank beer so it became a moment. Post that, it was shot again and I think maybe it was the last day. All I remember we didn’t drink because we had to work, but the beer was real so when we were going back home, we were caught by the cops. It was great fun and there was no choreographer. Those days Hindi film songs were like seven-eight days and Ramu said no problem we will shoot it. We started around 9 or 10 and we finished by 5. Six shots seated that whole thing.”

Signing off, Ram Gopal Varma and the star cast spoke about how Satya made them and they didn’t make Satya. Commenting on the same, Ram Gopal Varma said, “More than how much the film collected, I think the impact it made that till today people talk about the film in awe. I think that is the real success of the film. I think we should be fortunate that ‘Satya’ made us, we didn’t make ‘Satya’.”

Saurabh Shukla added the same saying, "More than the success and the money it made, the point is it’s been 25 years and I go out and people call me with a lot of names and characters that I did but essentially they always call me with the name ‘Kallu Mama’. So yeah 25 years, it’s amazing.”

Manoj Bajpayee credited Satya for being such a special film not just for him but the Hindi film industry. He said, “‘Satya’ made me believe whatever we were thinking and doing, it was right and we just have to stick to that and never deviate from it. What ‘Satya’ and Ramu have done single-handedly - they changed the course of filmmaking with one film and all of us have seen it happen.”

Shefali Shah concluded the chat by saying, “If we even talk about performances, there was this image what you required to be in Hindi films and this had nothing to do with it.  And that is what I’ve taken away for the rest of my life. Also somewhere from all that I hear and from what I felt at that point of time - it was just a belief and passion. There wasn’t a calculation of which angle would look better, you will look so pretty or wear these clothes or this is the right way to perform or shoot it. It was just raw, real and pure passion. It was everything but a Hindi film and thank god for it because I atleast knew what not to do and where I belonged and till date that is what is a value, that what I learnt there.”

Satya was co-written by Anurag Kashyap and Saurabh Shukla. The film was released on July 3, 1998.