Kis kis tarah se mujhko na rusva kiya gaya...
gairon ka naam mere lahu se likha gaya...
kyun aaj uska zikr mujhe khush na kar saka...
kyun aaj uska naam mera dil dukha gaya...
This dialogue from the 1981 Bollywood movie ‘Umrao Jaan’ starring Farooq Sheikh and Rekha was revered by the film industry on Saturday as they mourned the death of veteran actor Sheikh — also known as the blue-eyed boy of parallel cinema. According to sources, the 65-year-old star passed away in Dubai late Friday night after a heart attack.
Playwright and director Feroz Abbas Khan was at a loss of words when it came to remembering this ‘Chashme Baddoor’ star. He said: “My association with him began when I had directed him in the play ‘Tumhari Amrita’ in 1992 alongside Shabana Azmi. He was the most decent person one could have ever met in their lifetime. While Bollywood has lost a great actor, I think we have also lost a great human being. The kind of values, compassion and decency he possessed I have hardly seen those nowadays.”
Khan further added that Sheikh was very passionate about reading and he was sensitive and actively involved in social-political happenings in the society, at large. “Lot of our sharing was on those lines. In fact, I remember he would always say that ‘We need to go back to Gandhiji.’ The father of our nation was a great idol for Sheikhsaab,” said Khan.
The news of his death took danseuse Mallika Sarabhai as a surprise. She said: “I am getting this news from the media that he is no more. I have worked with him in Sai Paranjpye’s ‘Kathak’ and I distinctly remember how we would stall shooting five times a day as he would offer his namaz. He was an absolute low key person with no starry tantrums.”
Hailing from Amroli, near Naswadi village, Sheikh is remembered as a person with a royal mélange of a life. According to film producer Nirang Desai, Sheikh spoke in chaste Gujarati, a treat you seldom get to hear in Mumbai. He said, “I spoke to him on Christmas, when he sent his regular season’s greetings message to me. His message would always begin with an aadaab. I spoke to him in brief about Gujarati Literature Festival that is going to take place in January in Ahmedabad. He said he would not be able to make it this time, but maybe in the second edition.
And Saturday morning I heard this news.”
Desai said that Sheikh was a voracious reader be it English, Hindi, Urdu or Gujarati. “I had known him for 15 years and he was in every sense a royal person — the manner in which he would treat you at his residence while meeting him over a cup of tea or talking over the phone, doing small chat or even his clothes — you would always find him in the best of Lucknowi Kurtas. I can’t believe he is gone,” he said.
For Cyrus Dastur, founder, Shamiana-the short film club Sheikh was a great source of encouragement for him. Recollecting his memories with Sheikh, Dastur said: “I had first met him 12 years ago for ‘God Said Cheers’. I wanted him to play the role of God that was later taken up by Tom Alter (another gem of a person and a God’s gift to me). I was heartbroken when he refused as he was busy with another play. He had flagged off the Shamiana Oscars series for me.
Professionalism and punctuality are two of his finest qualities that he had taught me.” Born to a family of zamindars, Sheikh is said to have brought up in luxurious surroundings, and probably one of the reasons for his royal way of treating his friends and family. Although, he never acted in a Gujarati film or theatre, he was considered as the pioneer of a new wave of Hindi art cinema.
With films like ‘Chashme Baddoor’, ‘Noorie’, ‘Shatranj ke Khiladi’ and latest being ‘Club 60’, Sheikh was also known for his appearance on small screen as the host of ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai’ and ‘Ji Mantriji’. A sad year-ender for Bollywood, indeed!