Home > Bollywood, Movies > A Common Man’s Actor…Forever

A Common Man’s Actor…Forever

December 28, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

I sat next to him earlier this year during the New York Indian Film Festival premiere of “Shahid”. And I had goose bumps galore throughout the screening…both from the movie as well as from sitting so close to an actor I had literally grown-up laughing with, and admiring. Farooque Sheikh is no longer with us but he has left us with a body of work so rich, so diverse, so emotional and so entertaining that his would truly be a tough act to follow.

My early memories of laughing at the movies are not from “Gol Maal”, “Chupke Chupke” or “Padosan”. I was perhaps too young at that the time of their release to even fathom more than half the jokes (unless, of course, they happened to be slapstick). The first time I remember laughing heartily was at a movie with actors I had never seen before…from a director I never knew. It was called “Chashme Buddoor” and I ended up seeing it not just once but three times in the theatre!! I was completely blown away by this so-called hero named Farooque Sheikh (I still can’t spell his first name correctly…) who effortlessly made us laugh, without resorting to any cheap gimmicks.

And he was no more than any common man, in terms of his looks…your sweet guy next door that you run into every morning and to whom you wave a nonchalant hello. Within a span of two years, he delivered comedic gems that almost all genuine movie lovers have seen and still remember – starting with “Kisise Na Kehna” and “Ab Aayega Mazaa” through “Katha” and “Peecha Karo” to the brilliant “Rang Birangi”.

However, in between those memorable comedies, Farooque Sheikh made sure that his audience does not stereotype him into a particular category of roles. And he therefore also starred in serious gems like “Saath Saath”, “Bazaar”, “Ek Pal”, “Umrao Jaan”, “Lorie”, “Faasle” and “Maya Memsaab”, showcasing his more sensitive side as an actor.

Like any other actor of his era of “parallel cinema” (e.g. Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Smita Patil, Pankaj Kapur), he also slid into that “depressing” phase of his career  where he had to star in utterly forgettable roles of side characters in even more forgettable films. But Farooque Sheikh kept his passion alive through theatre and TV, where he starred in some fabulous TV shows like “Kahkashan”, “Jai Mantriji” and that fantastic talk show called “Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai”.

Of course, one has to mention his collaboration with the inimitable Deepti Naval, when you talk about Farooque Sheikh and his movies. Right from “Chashme Buddoor”, “Saath Saath” and “Katha” through “Kisise Na Kehna” and “Rang Birangi” to this year’s “Listen…Amaya”….here was a true movie couple that was just meant to be seen with one another. The unmatched repertoire of films these two gave us would still count as enough fodder for any student of Indian cinema who wishes to see how amazing some of our actors were…and still are.

During recent years, some of us may not even remember….but Farooque Sheikh made the audience misty-eyed earlier in this year as Ranbir Kapoor’s doting and utterly lovable father in “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”, where he pretty much stole every single scene he was in, with Kapoor Jr. And who can forget that unusual villainous turn he took in last year’s Dibakar Banerjee-helmed “Shanghai” as a corrupt politician? Only an actor of his caliber could carry out such diverse roles with such panache.

I have always perceived Farooque Sheikh as a kind-hearted soul and a gentleman’s actor…someone who could have done so much more…but was probably content with what he got and with what he did. He was a true common man’s actor…second to perhaps only Amol Palekar…both of whom will always remain a sheer joy to watch onscreen….now and forever.

As I remember my favorite songs from his films – “Seene Mein Jalan” (GAMAN), “Aa Jaa Re” (NOORIE), “Pyaar Mujhse Jo” / “Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar” / “Tumko Dekha To” (SAATH SAATH), “Phir Chhidi Raat” / “Karoge Yaad To” (BAZAAR), “Zindagi Jab Bhi Teri Bazm Mein” (UMRAO JAAN) and “Ek Haseen Nigah Ka” (MAYA MEMSAAB) – a bittersweet feeling fills my heart. I have memories attached to each and every one of them and the emotions just come rushing in.

Farooque Sheikh’s departure is not just a loss for the film industry but also for the likes of myself who have grown up watching these true actors of the “parallel cinema” generation…a generation that we were all fortunate to have been exposed to, during our adolescent years. This “KATHA” may be over but I salute Farooque Sheikh for his “CHASHME BUDDOOR” performances and for allowing us all to remain “SAATH SAATH” throughout his short journey. We will forever miss him and this void will take a long, long time to fill…if at all. RIP Farooque Saab.

Categories: Bollywood, Movies
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