I have had the good fortune of being in several projects in which Farooq Sheikh was involved, so in the early hours when I heard of his passing away my first reaction was of disbelief. How can a man so full of life be snatched away like this from amongst our midst?
Steeped in Hindustani tehzeeb, an adaab and a smile from him was all it took to bewitch people. Everything about him suggested gentlemanliness and great upbringing. He came from a family of well-to-do zamindars of Amroli, but never once did one find him even raising his voice. You should see how much izzat and affection he would put into speaking either on the sets or at home. That for me is the real indication of how great a human being he was.
When he was cast in the lead as Yusuf Fakir Mohammed, for the low-budget Yashraj film Noorie in 1979, he’d already made a mark for himself with roles like Sikandar Mirza in Garm Hawa, Aquil in Shatranj Ke Khiladi and Ghulam Hussain in Gaman. Both Poonam (Dhillon) and he were new and hardly known but the film became a hit with record-breaking collections. My compositions for the film were such a hit that they could be heard no matter where one went in the country.
Even in the 1981 Umrao Jaan, where the Rekha-Asha Bhosale combination walked away with all the acclaim, the song by Talat Aziz filmed on him — zindagi jab bhi tere bazm mein laati hai hamey — stood out. He would praise the silken soft feel of the song, which he really made his own in the film with his regal splendour.
Though I wasn’t associated with either Saath Saath or Chashme Buddoor, which came in quick succession after this, they will remain the films that come to mind immediately when one thinks of him. We were to again work together in Sagar Sarhadi’s Bazaar in 1982. This time, his Sarju came from a really poor background and the pain Farooq saab depicted with his eyes was amazing. Again, the number I composed drew a lot on his refined gentle persona. Even today, ‘Phir chhidi raat baat phoolon ki’ never fails to enthuse listeners and I will always give credit to Farooq and Supriya, who brought the sentiment of the song alive.
I met him at Muzaffar Ali saab’s son Shaad’s wedding nearly a year ago, and he came by to say salaam. We promised each other to catch up for a longer chat soon. Unfortunately, that will never be now...
(As told to Yogesh Pawar)