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Farooque Sheikh (1948-2013): A veteran's life, interrupted

Multi-faceted actor Farooque Sheikh’s life came to an abrupt end late Friday night in Dubai following a cardiac arrest. He was 65. The actor, who delivered impeccable performances in films such as Umrao Jaan and Chashme Buddoor, as well as in TV shows and on stage, will be remembered by his colleagues and confidantes for his innocent charm, uninterrupted honesty to his craft and his unmatched humility, colleagues and friends in the industry said.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters, with whom he was on a vacation in Dubai. His body will be brought to Mumbai for the last rites once the relevant formalities are completed in Dubai, said Deepti Naval, the late actor’s co-star of many films.

From his big screen debut with the widely acclaimed Garam Hawa in 1973 to films like Shatranj Ke Khilari, Bazaar, Umrao Jaan, Chashme Buddoor and Saath Saath; TV shows like Shrikant, Chamatkar, Ji Mantriji and Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai; and a long-running play like Tumhari Amrita -- Farooque’s body of work was creatively rich.

Filmmaker MS Sathyu, who launched him in films with his movie Garam Hawa, said the actor was a great discovery. “He was very respectful and a good gentleman. He was extremely talented and versatile. Good talent is spotted on intuition, and Farooque was indeed a great find,” Sathyu said.

Deepti and Shabana Azmi, with whom Farooque worked in multiple projects, were distraught at the news of his demise. “I am in a state of shock. He was one of the finest actors in the film industry. He was the one who always encouraged me to work,” said a teary Deepti. His college friend and colleague Shabana, who has been his co-star for 21 years in their popular play Tumhari Amrita, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, said: “I can’t believe he’s gone so suddenly and so cruelly...We were close friends from before we worked together. We were in college together. I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Born on March 25, 1948, in Baroda, Sheikh started as a theatre actor and later went on to exhibit his natural flair for acting in both parallel and mainstream cinema. If he convincingly played a nawab in Umrao Jaan, he essayed the role of a common man in Chashme Buddoor with equal aplomb.

He featured in just over 50 films, but it was enough for him to make an impact. Furthermore, his finesse at creating a balance between the two worlds continued till the end -- he was seen in the box office blockbuster Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and the critically acclaimed Club 60.

“Your subtle, nuanced and genius body of work will live on forever,” filmmaker Karan Johar tweeted once the news of Farooque’s death came out. Hindi films’ megastar, Amitabh Bachchan described the late actor as a “true gentleman, a wonderful colleague”, who had “a quiet honesty about him” and who had “an absence of any kind of pretence in his demeanour, or towards hiswork”.

Farooque won the 2010 National Film Award for best supporting actor for the film Lahore. His life was “passionately dedicated to his art”, said internationally acclaimed filmmaker Shekhar Kapur about the actor, who was not just appreciated for his craft, but also for the warmth and love he exuded as a person.

There were many who vouched for his excellence as a human being. Mahesh Bhatt tweeted: “The warmth of your smile lingers in our memory”, while Divya Dutta remembers having told him: “The warmth and genuiness you exude is unparallelled”. “His smile was straight from the heart,” she added.

It is that smile and the craft, captured in several movies that his fans and future generations will remember for years to come.

‘He was a passionate, intelligent person’
Sarika, Actor

Our film together, Club 60, released a few weeks ago. Now, I am thinking how we won’t share SMSes anymore. I am grateful that I got to work with him. Working with him on the film was a rare experience. There was so much positivity, Satish Shah and Farooque who have known each other for 40 years would keep cracking jokes and talk of food all the time and had such unbelievable stories to tell. When Farooqueji and Satishji would start talking you just couldn’t stop laughing. Food was one topic he loved to discuss. Har cheez ka high point food hota tha. I think we should celebrate his life. He was a complete person -- intelligent, passionate, decent and very positive. He lived life with passion and we should remember him like that.
(As told to Bharti Dubey)

‘Farooque, a thorough gentleman’
Feroz Abbas Khan, director of Tumhari Amrita

There is only one term to describe Farooque Shaikh -- a thorough gentleman. We staged Tumhari Amrita on the backdrop of Taj Mahal in Agra on December 14 and today he is no more. He was someone who was just a phone call away. He was our life support. He would always think of us before him. He always stood up for the right thing. In the last 22 years that I have known him, our relationship only grew deeper. Normally after such a long time, people get tired of each other, but ours got stronger with each passing day I could discuss anything with him and he would share his observations with me. He was calm, composed and a very objective person. He was a multifaceted person -- he was well read, socially aware and had a great sense of history. He did a lot of social work but he preferred not to gain any publicity out of it. He travelled around the world with our play, met many people and once he bonded he would make efforts to continue staying in touch with them. He honoured his relationships with people. I remember when Deepti (Naval) was in trouble with her house issue, he was the first one to come forward to help. Above all, he was a decent man. Farooque never ridiculed mainstream cinema like some others do. He was politically aware. I could easily call him the scholar of Islam but that wouldn’t be enough. He was even better at discussing the other religions. He was a modern thinker and also had original ideas. He was also a fabulous listener and that is the reason he became the confidante of many.
(As told to Bharti Dubey) 

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