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Farooque Shaikh, aam aadmi hero of Indian cinema
Avijit Ghosh TNN
Admired for his natural and nuanced style of acting and adored for his sensitive eyes and boyish, middle-class charm that made women go weak in their knees, Farooque Shaikh was a poster boy of meaningful cinema. And anybody who saw him at his best in films like Chashme Buddoor, Katha, Bazaar and Umrao Jaan knows why.
Those movies still remain a favourite part of life’s album for thousands who grew up in the late 1970s and early 1980s; pillows of memories one returned to time and again. And that’s why the 65-year-old actor’s sudden death due to a heart attack in Dubai on Friday night leaves an ache and evokes a sense of personal loss among many.
His recent films such as Club 60 (his last release earlier this month) and Listen Amaya showed how the actor had only improved with age. In superhit Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, where he played Ranbir Kapoor’s father, Shaikh barely had three scenes. But as a man who loves his son so much that he lets him pursue his dream even as his own heart breaks into neat little crystals, he filled the audience with ache. That scene underlined how little Hindi cinema had used him and how much we had missed him.
Two directors gave him his due: Muzaffar Ali (Gaman, Umrao Jaan, Anjuman) and Sai Paranjpe (Chashme Buddoor, Katha). The migrant taxi driver in Gaman with “seene mein jalan aankhon mein toofan” and the nawab who doesn’t have the spine to marry the dancing girl he loves in Umrao Jaan were finely-tuned performances.
Premature end to a comeback act
However, Farooque Shaikh’s two best-remembered and mostrounded parts came in Paranjpe’s movies. In Chashme Buddoor, Shaikh played a nerdy college student who ends up winning the heart of a neighbourhood girl who turns up to peddle washing powder. Ravi Baswani, who played one of his two firm friends in the movie (Rakesh Bedi being the third) also passed away in 2010.
But it was in the role of a suave but crafty wordspinner in Katha — said to be modelled on an art film director — that Shaikh delivered one of his best performances. In this desi take-off on the hare-tortoise race from Aesop’s fable, he bought the requisite cool and cunning that the role required. Like the renowned actor Motilal, who played a similar conman in Mr Sampat (1952), he was pitch-perfect.
He formed an amiable onscreen pair with Deepti Naval (Chashme Buddoor, Saath Saath, Katha, Kisi Se Na Kehna). Together they looked the perfect young middle-class couple of the 1980s in the idealistic Saath Saath. He also acted in several films with Shabana Azmi such as Ek Pal, Lorie and Anjuman. For someone who was so closely associated with offbeat cinema, he was curiously absent from the films of Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani.
The son of an affluent lawyer, who himself also earned a law degree, Shaikh went to St Xavier’s College, Mumbai — he was a contemporary of Sunil Gavaskar there — where he fell in love with theatre. In fact, even as he drifted into movies, Shaikh never abandoned theatre. Tumhari Amrita, where he acted with Shabana Azmi, was one of the longest-running plays.
In his first two films, Shaikh got small roles; both went on to become classics. His debut film was M S Sathyu’s Garam Hava. “Sathyu was looking for people who wouldn’t ask for money and easily give him dates. Finally, I received Rs 750 spread over five years’ time,” Shaikh said in a 2002 interview to TOI. “After Garam Hava was released, offers started pouring in. Satyajit Ray was in the process of finalizing his cast for Shatranj Ke Khiladi. I was holidaying in Canada and he rang me up. I told him that I couldn’t return for a month, but he agreed to wait. I really loved working with him,” he said in the same interview.
His career moved to a higher level after the success of the tragic love story Noorie (1979) with Poonam Dhillon as his leading lady. The movie’s title song was a chartbuster. But after the mid-1980s, Shaikh’s career went into a slump.
He got minor parts — including playing Amitabh Bachchan’s friend in producer Manmohan Desai’s Toofan — but not the kind of work that would satisfy an actor of his calibre. Shaikh even turned his attention to television serials such as Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai.
in the last year of his life, though, he was on a comeback trail. He was excellent in the cameo of a crafty bureaucrat in Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai (2012).
In evolving Bollywood, he got two meaty roles that suited his age — Listen Amaya, where he played an aging man in love, and then in Club 60, as a father trying to rediscover life after loss.
10 best films
10 cinematic masterpieces of Farooque Shaikh
Upam Buzarbaruah The Times of India
The actor plays Dr Tareek Sheikh, a neurosurgeon who shifts to Mumbai from Pune after going into acute depression following his son’s death in 'Club 60'. He falls in love with life again, albeit reluctantly, after he meets five quirky characters in their 60s who live life to the fullest.
He plays Rishikant Thapar in 'Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani', the father of Kabir “Bunny” Thapar (Ranbir Kapoor), who meets Naina (Deepika Padukone) during a hiking trip and grows close to her, only to separate for eight years. They meet again later and the rest is history...
In 'Biwi Ho To Aisi', he plays the soft-spoken and romantic Suraj Bhandari, who meets bubbly village girl Shalu (Rekha), falls in love and marries her. But on returning home to his dominating mother (Bindu), he is forced to give his consent to marry another girl. But Shalu turns up ahead of the wedding, welcomes herself into the house and gets busy putting things right.
In 'Gharwali Baharwali', Sunil Khanna (Farooque Shaikh) is a youth whose middle-class family arranges his marriage to a friend’s daughter, Kala (Anuradha Patel). He, however, is in love with another attractive woman, Beena (Kim), and gives in reluctantly. After marriage, he decides to continue his affair with Beena, but things are never as easy as they appear, are they?
He plays a simple man with high moral values, Avinash in 'Saath Saath'. His policy is to earn while you learn and wants to change the world with truth and simplicity.
In 'Katha', he plays the fast-talking friend, Basudev, of the protagonist, Rajaram P. Joshi (Naseeruddin Shah) — a middle-class clerk living in a chawl in Mumbai. He visits Rajaram, makes himself at home and has an affair with his friend’s neighbour and secret crush, Sandhya Karnik (Deepti Naval), only to ditch her when they are about to get married.
The actor plays Nawab Sultan, the protagonist, Umrao Jaan’s (Rekha) lover, who is later forced to marry another woman.
In 'Chasme Buddoor', he plays the Siddharth Parashar, the shy roommate of two womanizing slackers — Omi (Rakesh Bedi) and Jai (Ravi Baswani). However, he succeeds in wooing the new girl in the neighbourhood, Neha (Dipti Naval).
In 'Noorie', the actor plays Yusuf, the lover of a simple valley girl, Noorie (Poonam Dhillon), who ends up committing suicide after being raped by a village goon.
He plays a citizen, Aqeel, in Satyajit Ray masterpiece 'Shatranj Ke Khiladi' that centres around two slightly eccentric noblemen (Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffrey), who while away their time playing chess, while the British override the royal forces and capture Lucknow.