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Remembering Farooq Sheikh, mascot of realistic entertainment

Friday, March 20, 2015

The birth anniversary of Farooq Sheikh, the ‘aam aadmi’ of films and the mascot of realistic entertainment of his era, will be observed on 25th March. Rajesh V. Gaur and Suneel V. Gaur chronicle the life and times of the cultured and honest actor.

Farooq Sheikh lived it up as the common man on screen at a time when larger-than-life clichés reigned. That was the era when Hrishikesh Mukherjee or Basu Chatterjee's brand of films emerged as an alternative for the sophisticated crowd thirsting for sensible entertainment.

Sheikh became the poster boy of middle-of-the-road entertainment. He updated the image with a distinct flavour to suit contemporary urban taste. If Sheikh carved a niche, it was as much a result of intrinsic talent as it was about the honesty that drove him.

In fact, the streak of honesty about Sheikh extended even in his confessions as a Bollywood celebrity when he had once said he missed being 100 per cent commercially viable and not being a superstar. As in life, he loved to live his career on his own terms. Shortly after his first major success 'Noorie' in 1979, Farook had rejected twenty-five odd offers because "they all seemed like 'Noorie' remakes".

Variety on the other hand appealed to him. Sheikh's versatility defines itself if you consider he could fit into films made by diverse film makers like Satyajit Ray and Manmohan Desai.

While Ray's political satire 'Shatranj Ke Khiladi' brought out the impish subtlety of the actor, Desai's over-the-top production 'Toofan' presented him in the overtly maudlin avatar of the hero's best friend who literally loses an arm to save his buddy.

'Umrao Jaan' or 'Bazaar' revealed the actor's intensity. He impressed in all kinds of cinema with believable acting but it was comedy where he truly found his comfort zone as a saleable star.

He will be remembered for the lovelorn, often tongue-tied lover he played in romantic comedies such as 'Chashme Baddoor' and the street smart character he played in 'Katha' or the poor, hapless lover, who doesn’t get the girl in 'Bazaar', where he speaks the typical Hyderabadi Urdu of the aam admi to great perfection getting beneath the skin of the role he was playing.

And then, of course, we had him romancing in 'Saath Saath' to Jagjit Singh’s immortal melody "Tum ko dekha toh yeh khayal aaya.."

Sheikh also impressed on stage with 'Tumhari Amrita', one of the Hindi theatres most feted and longest running plays.

He used well the innate mix of charm and screen presence on television too, as the host of the popular talk show 'Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai' and the satire 'Jee Mantriji'.

Farooq Sheikh was way too laidback and would work at his own will. His ambition was limited and so was his desire to do a lot of work. He did not take popularity seriously.

Farooq Shaikh, the star with an absence of any kind in his demeanour or his work will always be missed by his fans.

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