RIP Farooque Shaikh: No letters in blood for him, but a fine actor, liberal Muslim

FP Staff

December 28, 2013 10:01:24 IST

From Satyajit Ray to Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Farooque Shaikh worked with some of the best directors of Bollywood of his era, leaving behind a body of work stands out for sheer quality.

In a career spanning over three decades, Shaikh was last seen in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani but will be remembered more for classics such as Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Garam Hawa, Katha, Noorie and Umrao Jaan.

File photo of Farooq Sheikh.

File photo of Farooque Sheikh.

Shaikh was in fact trained to be a lawyer but felt disillusioned by the way the police and legal system worked and chose acting instead, having done several successful plays as a college student, some of them with Shabana Azmi.

Having done his first film Garm Hawa, he got called up for a key role in Satyajit Ray's Shatranj ke Khiladi, following that up with several radio shows, television serials and then more films, all the while continuing to keep his passion for theatre alive.

His Tumhari Amrita, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, remains one of the best known and longest running theatre productions, its original star cast including Shaikh and Shabana Azmi. It is an Indian context adaptation of A R Gurney's American play, Love Letters (1988), staged first in 1992.

Born on March 25, 1948, Sheikh is renowned for his immense contribution to parallel cinema, low-budget high quality movies, theatre and television.

Writing for the Times of India in 2002, Shaikh said he remembered being offered 40 films after Noorie, but didn't accept any -- they were all remakes of Noorie.

"I have never been commercially viable: People recognise me, smile and wave at me —but I have never received marriage proposals written in blood. In his heyday, when Rajesh Khanna drove down a street, the traffic stopped —I don't mind not receiving this kind of adulation. But I do miss not having been able to command the kind of work I wanted. I miss not being 100 per cent commercially viable," he wrote.

His later work for television included Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai, still popular on Youtube.

His co-star of several films Deepti Naval told IANS she met him two months ago at the Sharjah book fair.

She recalled the promise she and the late actor had made, and said: "After our last film Listen Amaya, Farooque and I had promised to each other that we will work together again and there were many films in the pipeline. We had decided to be in touch in terms of work." Naval said it was Shaikh who had encouraged her to work. She was in Himachal but returning to Mumbai immediately, she told IANS.

Actor and activist Shabana Azmi, who worked with him on stage right from their college days and on many occasions through their Bollywood careers, told CNN-IBN that Shaikh was also a religious man,  offering namaaz five times a day. "But he was a liberal, a truly sane Muslim voice," she said, adding that she had spoken to him barely three days back.

Actor Satish Shah told IANS he was constantly in touch with Shaikh, having spoken two days ago to the actor. "We were constantly in touch with each other through SMS. I spoke to him day before yesterday. In fact, I am also close friends with his wife Rupa as we were all in the same college," Shah said.

Shaikh is survived  by his wife Rupa and two daughters.

Updated Date: Dec 28, 2013 10:11 AM