There’s no time like show time for comic actor P.D. Sathish Chandra, finds Nirmala Govindarajan
It’s rare that your ration comes from your passion! That’s how actor/director/sitcom star P.D. Sathish Chandra feels his life has turned out. Between mentoring Kala Soudha, a theatre space in Hanumanthnagar and acting in a sitcom, Sathish’s life is set to the tunes of Kishore Kumar. “Working in a sitcom is similar to working in a factory. We churn out seven episodes in six days. So my day begins with listening to Kishore da’s “mere umar ke nau javano” on my phone at 7.30 a.m.,” he says, adding, “Thereafter, I reach the set after dropping my daughters in school. The food in actor/director Sihi Kahi Chandru's set is the best aspect of my job. I eat a very hearty breakfast, lunch and evening snacks there. We normally pack up by 6 p.m., after which I spend my evenings at Kala Soudha until the show for the day gets over. I end the day knowing that Kishore Da will wake me up the next morning!”
Acting is a riot of colours between Sathish’s rambunctious laughter and happy stomach. “I recently had to fill in for a well-built, tough-looking guy who played tough cop in the horror play 13 Margosa Mahal. When I entered the stage, trying to look my toughest, the audience burst out laughing,” he laments.
Sathish attributes his natural flair for comedy, to the sitcom Panduranga Vittala, in which he plays the role of Paddu. “It has crossed more than 1,100 episodes and is still going strong,” he says.
Sathish discovered the stage first. “My grandmother used to say that when I was five years old, she’d ask me what I wanted to become and I’d say kalavida (artist).” Sathish’s entire household unwittingly contributed to his foray into the stage. “When I was little, my dad took me to watch the play Gulle Nari, which had a lasting impact on me. In school, I took part in fancy dress contests, thanks to mom, as Hanuman, Aadi Shankaracharya and Vivekananda and won them all. Then, I went to National College, Basavanagudi, home to many theatre, TV and cinema talents, which was when I thought I must act.”
Acting on instinct, Sathish bunked class and made his presence felt and heard at all the drama rehearsals. “I helped backstage and stood in for absentee actors – once the guy who was playing king didn’t turn up for three rehearsals. The director gave me the role not because I could act, but because he wanted to teach the absent actor a lesson. I received mention in the reviews and went on to work with theatre groups Samudaya, BLT and Ranga Shankara before starting my own group Prakasam,” he recounts.
Out of college, with family pressures mounting, Sathish had to take up various jobs.
“I played one of the lead roles in the Kannada serial Yakhingadtaro, which wound up in 2006, hosted a comic news show Vaaranna and had a long stint as radio jockey. At that point, I needed a break from the corporate world and the Paddu offer, from my godfather and director of the sitcom Sihi Kahi Chandru came as a blessing,” he says, adding, “I, by then, had grown tired of hearing people talking about encouraging youngsters to get into theatre and doing nothing about it. With a steady income from the serial, I was able to concentrate on launching Kala Soudha in December 2009.” he says.
With the mission to set up an affordable performance space, finding the venue happened quite by chance when Sathish went to take a look at Kengal Hanumantiah Kala Soudha. “I was shocked to see that it looked like a “bhoot bungalow”. The security guard put me on to his supervisor and through him I reached the BBMP office. After six months of paperwork, bureaucracy and running from pillar to post, I landed the final agreement,” says Sathish.
Kala Soudha, which opened to public in January 2010 with inaugural acts by Pallavi MD, Nrutarutrya and Prakash Belawadi's production, transited through sustenance issues, until Sathish started designing audience-friendly plays like Hosabelaku – based on Rajkumar’s superhit film and 13 Margosa Mahal with 5D effects, “Initially, when the loans were mounting and I was unable to pay my staff, they were very supportive. Today, we are an 86-member team, which is capable of putting up any performance under the sun,” beams Sathish.