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Remembering Farooque Shaikh who gave us some of our finest films and was loved for his gentle, genteel ways.
'How does ‘is’ become ‘was’ in the span of a moment?” wonders Sarika, in shock over the news that her Club 60 co-star, Farooque Shaikh, will never greet her again with an adaab, passionately discuss cinema and politics with her and show his appreciation for the sweet tooth they shared by initiating a mithai competition. “He won, but only because of the quantity of sweets he accumulated even though my mithais were better,” she reminisces.
Sweet memories are all that his heart-broken family, friends and fans are left with of this 65-year-old actor who suffered had a heart attack late on December 27 in Dubai. He was on a family vacation to visit his sister in Abu Dhabi. “I got a call from his wife Roopa at around 3 am. He battled in the hospital for 45 minutes, then Farooque Sheikh, my friend, colleague and well wisher for 44 years left us, shattered and devastated,” says Shabana Azmi.
She recalls their last meeting on December 14 during a show of their play, Tumhari Amrita, in Agra against the backdrop of the Taj. The performance brought the audience to its feet in what Shabana felt was a fitting finale. “We’ve been doing this for 21 years, it’s time to call it curtains,” she suggested. Farooque protested saying they were good for another 21 years.
He reminded her how after she was arrested with 16 slum dwellers and had refused bail, director Feroz Abbas Khan and he had rushed her out of the Colaba police station to NCPA where people had been patiently waiting for two hours to see the play. The show had to go on.
The crowd at New Jersey wasn't so civilised when they turned up two hours late because their cabbie had lost the way. “Farooque calmed them down, promising a refund if they were unhappy. But when the curtains came down we got a standing ovation,” Shabana recalls. “I’m always a nervous wreck before a show, while he was cucumber cool.”
Their tryst with theatre started in 1969 at St. Xavier’s college. “We always won the best actor and best actress awards which got us Rs 50 each. Farooque got another Rs 160 for best play. With the prize money we’d hire an escort cab and travel to Juhu where he’d drop me home, like a raja and rani, since on other days we took the local train,” Shabana remembers, admitting that whenever she was in trouble, he was there by her side, rock steady. “He was a good friend not just to me, but so many.”
Filmmaker Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan remembers how during a week-long shoot of Lahore in Ladakh, Farooque would call every morning wishing him luck and in the evening again to assure himself that everyone there was fine.
Sanjay met him on December 26 for a comedy set in Lucknow, Pandit Gali ka Ali, which was to roll on February 20 in Bhopal. 'I’d discussed the script with him earlier, then put it on hold. He urged me to make the film now. We were to meet again on January 3 on his return from Dubai.”
Indian cinema was his passion, but Farooque had never dreamt of becoming an actor. The eldest of five children, he was born into a zamindar family near Bodeli town in Gujarat’s Baroda district. He had a stud farm and used to breed horses. His father, Mustafa Shaikh, was a Mumbai lawyer and Farooque himself studied law at Mumbai's Siddharth College of Law.
In 1973, in his final year of law school, MS Satyu approached him for his directorial debut Garam Hawa. Says Satyu, 'I'd seen him on stage . He had the innocence my character Sikander Mirza needed and also the ability to explode. He was a gem of an actor.'
Wowed by the “outstanding” script, Farooque signed the film for Rs 150. “Satyu saab had no money to pay anyone except Balraj Sahani saab. The extra Rs 750 he owed me came in bits over 20 years,” he’d said in an earlier interview.
Six years later, he returned in Noorie opposite Poonam Dhillon who remembers the rough weather and living in school buildings during the shoot. He thought he was gawky and awkward on screen, but Noorie made him famous. But it was Chashme Buddoor, which made him unforgettable. Sai Paranjpye’s film celebrated a silver jubilee and Deepti Naval and he became the Dharmendra-Hema Malini of parallel cinema.
Deepti's favourite moment from the ’80s cult classic is of her trying to sell him a packet of Chamko washing powder. They went on to do eight films together, the most recent being Listen Amaya which reunited them after 28 years. Deepti says, “I’ll remember him as a natural, sensitive actor and a caring human being who loved books.”
Suresh Oberoi who worked with him on the TV show Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai informs that he knew every Mirza Ghalib poem. “I told him I was trying to get some book on Ghalib’s works. Two days later, they arrived by courier from him. He lived life king size. He travelled first class, savoured the best meals. He wasn't born to die but born to be remembered,” says Suresh.
Sarika insists the show’s title epitomized his life and his intelligence, dignity and humour set him apart. Poonam agrees saying it showcased him as a gentleman. “I just wish we had seen more of him on screen,” she says.
In a career spanning four decades, he acted in 50-odd films, including Garam Hawa, Noorie, Umrao Jaan, Chashme Buddoor and Katha. He won the 2010 National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for Lahore. He acted in serials like Chamatkar, Ji Mantriji and Shrikant and hosted Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai.
Two days ago, when Mirror spoke to him, he was on a flight to Dubai. He admitted he’d been travelling a lot thanks to Youngistan in which his character bears an uncanny resemblance to Ahmed Patel, advisor to the PM. Director Afzal Ahmed recalls on his last day of shoot, December 23, Farooque urged him to finish all his scenes.
Prophetic? No one will know. But as Shabana says, quoting from her father Kaifi Azmi’s poem, “Rehne ko sada dehr mein aata nahi koi, tum jaise gaye aisa bhi jaata nahi koi…” Who will replace him in their play? Shabana retorts, “No one can replace him. It’s the final curtain for Tumhari Amrita!”
Tumhari Amrita Play Schedule(s) No upcoming shows. Discover the complete approach and principles of bringing black & white words on page (script), alive on the. Tumhari Amrita Play Schedule(s) No upcoming shows. Read / post your comments Discussion Board: Schedule: Theatre Workshops: Acting Workshop Acting Course by Rangshila Theatre Group to improve & polish your skills in Mind Control, Body Language and Voice (Modulation, Diction and Projection) as an Actor. Talk Like TED (16 to 20 years) What is it.
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- The play was a huge success and later it was adapted into a Hindi Play named 'Tumhari Amrita'. Javed Siddique has a written a touching script. It is a story of two people who hail from different backgrounds; neither could live together nor stay apart. The play starts with an invitation by Amritha's father to Zulfi Hyder Ali's father to a.
- Oct 27, 2016 The play is about two-and-a-half hours, but it gets longer with the applause in between. What did you cut out from the film's script? When you see the play, you realise the best of Mughal-e-Azam.