Farooq Sheikh’s death in Dubai shocks fans

Farooq Sheikh’s death in Dubai shocks fans

The veteran 65-year-old actor was a key member of the parallel cinema movement of the 1970s.

By (Amira Agarib and Nithin Belle)

Published: Mon 30 Dec 2013, 12:43 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 6:16 PM

Farooq SheikhLegendary Bollywood actor of 40 years, Farooq Sheikh, was already dead by the time he arrived at Dubai’s Rashid Hospital in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The veteran 65-year-old actor, who was a key member of the parallel cinema movement of the 1970s, had complained to companions of pains before they rushed him to the hospital, where they arrived at 1.52am, according to a Rashid Hospital source.

Farooq SheikhFarooq Sheikh with Deepti Naval in their last film together Listen... Amaya (2013). — Supplied photo

Remembering Farooq Sheikh

Nivriti Butalia

A qualified lawyer who acted in his first film for free, Farooq Sheikh played roles that made people want to be born in a different time and place

“I would rather not be remembered,” Farooq Sheikh had said in a September interview over a decade ago. “Everyone comes into and goes from this world. I have no great desire to be remembered after I am gone. I believe in celebrating life and this is what I am doing through (his talkshow) Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai. If at all anybody cares to think of me after my death — my children, for instance — they should remember me as someone who intended to do them good as often as he could”.

Earlier this year, one felt a sadness watching Listen...Amaya – Farooq Sheikh and Deepti Naval’s last film together – when Jayant, Farooq’s character towards the end is disoriented and can’t find his way home because of Alzheimer’s.

It was the same sadness while watching romantic comedy Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. The one thing that stands out is Farooq Sheikh’s role as Ranbir Kapoor’s father. Not what they call a meaty role. It is the same unreasonable sadness when Farooq the father dies, and Ranbir doesn’t get to know, much less return home to perform last rites, because he is travelling with his phone switched off.

A qualified lawyer who acted in his first film for free, Farooq Sheikh played roles that made people want to be born in a different time and place. In Katha (1983), he was Bashu living with Rajaram (Naseeruddin Shah) and taking him for a ride. In one scene in Rajaram’s modest quarters, Bashu tells Rajaram to make him a cup of tea. The tea arrives and Bashu makes a face and says, “Yaar, chai tum bahut strong banate ho – ekdum ghaati.”

Meaning: “The tea is disgustingly strong, absolutely lower class-like!” And that’s merely one punch he delivers in an utterly delightful comedy.

Another scene in the same movie, Katha, all the more sombre today, is one where a census-collector knocks on the door asks Bashu (Sheikh) if anyone in the house has medical ailments. Sheikh, who reportedly died on Friday night from a heart attack, replies: “Me, heart problems, I have a weak heart”. Who knew that would be a harbinger of the end to come, decades down in a hospital in Dubai.

In the hours since the news broke, messages of sadness and consolation have passed around the globe over computer and telelphone networks.

A message from one friend read: “I belong to a strange generation. Not the partition generation, like our parents, and not the liberalised economy, like yours. To us, such films and characters played by Farooq Sheikh, left a deep and indelible impression”.

It’s true that movies are more watched by the generation in whose time they are released, the mantle now passed on to the Shah Rukh Khans and Aamir Khans from the Saeed Jaffreys, Ravi Baswanis and Farooq Sheikhs.

How tragic it will be if generations to come are deprived of Bashu and friends in the dozens of roles so memorably essayed by Farooq Sheikh. One-time co-star Swara Bhaskar (in Listen...Amaya) today wrote online: “Will miss you Farooq sir, this was too soon!”


However, a doctor declared him dead on arrival and the hospital transferred his body to the Dubai Police General Department of Forensic Evidence, where it remains.

While it has been widely reported he died of a heart attack, neither sources at Rashid Hospital or Dubai Police confirmed this. The forensic department, which was shut on Saturday, will conduct medical investigations on his body today to determine the cause of death.

Sources in Bollywood said that the actor was in Dubai on a holiday along with his family members. On December 13 he had also hosted the I’m Asha show at the Dubai World Trade Centre, where Bollywood singer Asha Bhosle regaled the audience with anecdotes and stories from her career.

Farooq is survived by his wife Rupa and daughters Shaista and Sanaa. Born on March 25, 1948, in a village near Vadodara in Gujarat, he was the eldest of five children. His father was a lawyer in Bombay and Farooq too did his law.

However, in college he got involved with theatre and gave up his law career. Farooq’s big break came in 1973, when director M.S. Sathyu selected him for his film Garm Hawa. Filmmaker Satyajit Ray then cast him in his ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’ in 1977.

Farooq was part of the vibrant parallel cinema movement of the 1970s along with Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Smita Patil and Deepti Naval.

One of his most memorable roles was in Umrao Jaan, where he was cast as Nawab Sultan, charmed by the courtesan (Rekha). His recent films include Saas Bahu Aur Sensex, Tell Me O Khuda, Lahore, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (where he is cast as Ranbir Kapoor’s father) and Club 60, which was released recently.

While Farooq kept away from mainstream commercial cinema, he was active in art cinema, where actors were paid a pittance. For his role in Garm Hawa he was paid Rs750 over a period of five years.

He also hosted a talk show, Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai, featuring interviews with Bollywood celebrities and politicians. He also appeared in a few television serials.

Passionate about his art, the unassuming actor — dressed casually in kurtas and pyjamas — was also one of the most accessible Bollywood personalities.

Many big name Indian movie stars have taken to Twitter to share their shock at the untimely passing.

Boman Irani wrote: “Farooq Sheikh passes away! Shocked, numbed and saddened. Was supposed to be shooting with him today.

A gentleman actor is no more!”.

Amitabh Bachchan wrote of his gentlemanly manner.

“Farooq Sheikh !! Cannot believe he has gone. There was an absence of any kind of pretence in his demeanour, or towards his work !!”

Shah Rukh Khan lamented the fact he had not spent time with the actor.

“My biggest regret that I never got to spend time with you, Farouq sahib, as I had requested. Should have done it earlier. I feel so sorry.”

Meanwhile, close to home Dubai fans were also mourning the loss.

Film maker Zaalim Dilli, 24, said she was “greatly saddened by the sudden demise of such a gentle and effortless actor”.

“For those of my age, we unfortunately might have not enjoyed every performance but were lucky enough to catch him in films like Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. He will always remain in our hearts forever and ever.”


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