Friday, February 7, 2014

Farewell, Farooq

Farooq Sheikh- the gentle, versatile actor died recently of a heart attack while holidaying in Dubai.  I did not pay too much attention to the news when it broke, last December.  I had seen his films in the late seventies and eighties- and enjoyed them tremendously.  He had worked with top directors of Indian parallel cinema at the time - Satyajit Ray, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Muzaffar Ali, MS Sathyu and others.  I always assumed that the impression these films left on me was largely because I was then at an impressionable age myself!  Seeing Farooq in recent years, playing minor roles in Bollywood films - overweight, with an unflattering hairstyle and glasses, I felt he had just let himself go.  Theatre lovers thought otherwise; his performance with Shabana Azmi in the two-character play 'Tumhari Amrita' ran for 21 years and people still wanted more.

A few days ago, quite by chance, I happened to watch an old movie of his and was startled by the quality of his performance.  I glimpsed a naturalness that made me feel that he was not acting at all, that in reality he was the character.  After watching some snippets of his other films on the computer, I realized that this aspect of his performance was his style and strength - and perhaps something that led him away from mainstream cinema towards more complex, subtle or unusual films.  At a time when angry young men and raucous songs filled gigantic screens, Farooq Sheikh was content to express different kinds of qualities - gentleness mingled with firmness, an innocent vulnerability and a sensitivity that could be effortlessly tuned to comedy or pathos.  He is remembered most for some of his romances and comedies with his natural on-screen partner Deepti Naval, who could match him, expression for expression and mood for mood.  He was also known for some of his television shows including 'Ji Mantriji', a Hindi version of the British show 'Yes Minister'.

Farooq Sheikh was born into a wealthy family of zamindars and trained in law, so he could join his father, a successful lawyer in Mumbai.  But his heart was in acting and, as it turned out, he never practiced law.  He had no formal training in theatre or films and there was no particular style that he emulated.  Yet he left a mark on Indian films and theatre through the handful of films and the unforgettable characters that he brought to life.  They will never die.

Off screen, he displayed a gentle but spontaneous sense of humour.  His speech was impeccable - a mix of Hindi and Urdu that is not often heard in Mumbai.  He will also be remembered for his unassuming nature, his generosity and philanthropy- much of which came to light only after his death.

Unfortunately there are almost no trailers or snippets of his films available online right now (full length films are available) and none with English subtitles.  I am attaching a link to one of his songs with Deepti Naval, from the film Saath Saath ('Together').  It is a song they sing about how beautiful their house is.  Should anyone wish to see the house, they first need to borrow the young couple's vision (in order to truly appreciate it).

Here one sees how two skilled and expressive actors can elevate a pleasant sounding song to something more meaningful and heartwarming. 

1 comment:

Baldev Mahar said...

The #DeathAnniversary of the popular Indian actor Mr. #FarooqSheikh will be on 27thDec. Let us all pay a heartfelt #tribute to him on

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