I did ‘Bazaar’ as I found Farooque Shaikh gentle and sensitive, not macho or overpowering, says Neesha Singh

Mumbai: Neesha Singh was a mere teenager when she played the part of Naseem in ‘Bazaar’. She had accepted the part because she was charmed by the Farooque Shaikh she had seen in ‘Garm Hava’, gentle yet intense, not macho or overpowering.

Shaikh Sahab’s 71st birth anniversary is being celebrated today. He was born Thursday March 25, 1948 in his native village of Amroli in Naswadi taluka of Vadodara, Gujarat.

Neesha Singh relived memories of their landmark film over the phone from her residence in New Delhi. “Before Bazaar (1982), I had done a film with MS Sathyu named ‘Kahan Kahan Se Guzar Gaya’ because my father knew him. By coincidence, it was Sathyu Sahab’s iconic ‘Garm Hava’ which had introduced Farooque Shaikh. Now director Sagar Sarhadi was Sathyu’s friend, and he was looking for a new face to cast in ‘Bazaar’. Sathyu Sahab recommended my name.”

Neeshaji’s scenes with Shaikh Sahab in ‘Bazaar’ are a textbook portrayal of unrequited love in Hindustani cinema.

The first time, he arrives at her home and urges her to introduce her to her friend Shabnam (Supriya Pathak). Neeshaji puts her hand to her heart and jovially says Shabnam (dew) evaporates with sunrise while Naseem (a gentle breeze) would serve him better. When he eventually gets her to agree, he says, ‘Main jaanta tha tum jaan par khelkar bhi mera kaam kar jaogi.” She replies, eyes downcast, “Bas hamin nahin jaante the.”

Another poignant shot occurs when the two women tease Shaikh by arriving veiled in burqa. After Supriya lifts the naqaab and goes to stand beside him, he gestures to Neesha, “Ab tum yahan kya kar rahi ho! Apna raasta lo?!” She says, “Haan, aaj se hum apna raasta badal lete hain”, and turns away sadly.

Unfortunately, Neeshaji’s personal experience mirrored the loss that her character Naseem undergoes in ‘Bazaar’. She says, “I was barely 18-19 years old at the time. I knew nothing about cinema. Which is why I did not realise that when the director narrates the script to you, he may only tell you that part of the story which concerns your character. He may not tell you the full story. I was given to understand from Sagar Sarhadi that ‘Bazaar’ was a love triangle featuring three characters, that is Farooque, Supriya and me. I was happy to be cast opposite Farooque Shaikh. So I said yes.”

That the lion’s share of footage focussed on Naseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil and Bharat Kapoor came as a revelation to her.

“Moreover, most of my portions were edited out from the film, perhaps because it got too lengthy. That is why the audience will see that although I am supposed to be Supriya’s best friend, there are scarcely any scenes of us together. I think I looked so young and fragile that Sagar Sahab did not want to allow the audience to contrast and compare us, lest they wonder why Farooque Shaikh had chosen Shabnam over Naseem,” she says. “The only scene one would remember of us together is where both of us wear a burqa and Farooque has to guess who is Shabnam.”

“So initially I thought the project did not turn out well for me (for I was a supporting actor). In the film industry people tend to stereotype you and give you the kind of roles they have seen you play. So until I got Ankush, I did not do any other picture. Naturally, I wanted a major role.”

At the time, though, Farooque Shaikh was the reason she accepted ‘Bazaar’. “Sathyu Sahab showed me ‘Garm Hava’, and I must say I was utterly charmed by Farooque. There was a certain gentleness and sensitivity about him. I was only 18, and to a young girl, it was nice to see that he did not come across as macho or overpowering. At the same time, alongside being gentle and sensitive, there was a marked intensity. One could see that in his eyes, his expressions. I was so charmed by ‘Garm Hava’.”

Once they began filming in Hyderabad, Neeshaji found that her impression of him was true in real life. “Farooque had a delightful sense of humour. He would tease a lot, but gently. He said to me, what is your name. I said Neesha Singh. He said why Neesha Singh, it should be Nishinder Kaur! He said that because I belong to a Sikh family. My real name is actually Muneesha. He said, chaliye aapka koi aur naam rakhte hain. He then began to call me Nazakat Ara! It would be Nazakat Ara aap yahan aiye, or Nishinder Kaur idhar baithiye!”

The memory of another incident makes Neeshaji laugh now but had caused annoyance and anxiety at the time. She says, “One day, we were shooting in a house which belonged to a relative of Bazaar’s cinematographer Ishan Arya. We were sitting in the courtyard and I was wearing a burqa. In between takes, I would raise the veil because I was feeling hot. To my surprise, every time I raised the naqaab, somebody from behind kept pushing it back to cover my face. Each time I turned, I could only see a group of old women sitting behind me. I was sure they could not be doing this so I moved further away. Yet the same thing kept happening. I was spooked by now. I went to Ishan Sahab and said, I don’t know what is happening but I am not imagining this. He made inquiries, and it turned out it was the old ladies who were pushing my veil back! They thought I belonged to some well regarded Muslim family and complained, hamari ladkiyon ko khule moonh bitha dete ho!”

Everybody had a sound laugh. Neeshaji says, “Farooque got another handle to tease me after that. He would say, dekhiye Mohtarma Nazakat Ara, aap khule moonh na baitha kijiye!”

Neeshaji has warm words for Naseer Sahab and Smita Patil as well. “Naseer was very protective. Smita gave me good advice. I had done two art films, and she was a master of the genre. I said I wanted to continue doing offbeat cinema. But she said, kis duniya mein rehti ho Neesha. Your looks are not pedestrian, you don’t fit the part of a lean, impoverished or rural woman. You look like a princess from Malabar Hill, you are fragile and slim. You must explore commercial cinema.”

(Neesha Singh with her daughter)

Neeshaji did not belong to a film background. She lived in Malabar Hill and studied at Cathedral and John Connon School. Then she went to college in St Xavier’s, which is also where Shaikh Sahab studied. She took her Masters Degree from Elphinstone College.

Her notable work apart from ‘Bazaar’ and ‘Ankush’ includes ‘Buniyaad’ and also the first English serial produced in India, ‘A Mouthful of Sky’. It was produced by Plus Channel and introduced several artistes like Milind Soman, Madhavan, Rahul Bose and Arjun Rampal.

In 1997, Neeshaji got married and moved to Delhi and then Singapore with her Dutch husband. She has been living in Delhi since 2003. “But I am a Bombayite by heart,” she laughs. “I feel like I am in exile in Delhi!”

Unfortunately, she never got a chance to work with Farooque Shaikh again. “We did not remain in touch after ‘Bazaar’. You know, when you are doing a particular film, that unit becomes your family. Especially if you are outdoors on location, living and working together day and night. But once you move on to the next project then that unit becomes like family. These are like short love affairs!”

Neeshaji met Shaikh Sahab in 2012, a year before he passed away. “He had come to Delhi for a play. He saw me and exclaimed, Nazakat Ara, kis ghaat ka pani peeti ho tum?! You look just as charming and youthful as ever!” she laughs. “I look back on our time in ‘Bazaar’ with such fondness.”


I remember Farooque Shaikh as a smiling man, never tense or brooding, says veteran actor Girija Shankar

Mumbai: Senior theatre and television actor Girija Shankar produced a single film and made a success of it. He fondly gives credit to Farooque Shaikh for having made that journey a pleasant one. Way back in 1984, Girijaji had co-produced the mad comedy ‘Ab Ayega Mazaa’ with his actor friend from Delhi, Alok Nath. The collective Midas touch of the unit has assured it pride of place among India’s best comedies.

Shaikh Sahab’s 71st birth anniversary will be celebrated tomorrow Monday, March 25.

Girijaji is a theatre artiste of repute, with plays like ‘Lower Deck’ by Maxim Gorky, ‘Raag Darbari’ by Shrilal Shukl and Ekjute’s ‘Najma’ with Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah.

‘Ab Ayega Mazaa’ (1984) was an interesting project that arose during a spell of time when acting offers were far and few. A group of struggling actors like Girijaji and Alok Nath who were looking to gain a foothold in Bombay’s film world, decided to make their own movie as they waited for assignments to come by. Each went on to achieve a stellar career in cinema and TV, Girijaji with Buniyaad and Mahabharat in particular.

“Well, the first reason we thought of casting Farooque Shaikh as Vijay was because the genre was comedy. In those days he had just done Chashme Buddoor with Sai Paranjpye and proved himself so capable at comedy. And he had become a star with Noorie (1979) of course. So we all thought he was an apt choice for this characterisation (of the conscientious advertising executive). When we cast Anita Raj alongside him as Nupur, we became sure. They looked good together and complemented each other well.”

Girijaji plays the owner of the advertising agency which Shaikh Sahab has newly joined. Driven by his keenness to revive a failing brand of soap, Girijaji oddly decides to infuse ginger in the product at the suggestion of the smooth talking Raja Bundela. But Shaikh Sahab, honest and outspoken, questions the logic saying, “Lekin nahaane-dhone mein adrak kaise aayega, Sir?” The boss takes a dislike to him owing to this veto. He eventually hands him a suspension after Shaikh points out that a rogue client is pushing drugs in the guise of incense.

(‘Lekin nahaane-dhone mein adrak kaise aayega, Sir?!’)

The film had an abundance of new talent right from director Pankuj Parashar to composers Anand Milind, lyricist Sameer and singer Udit Narayan. The madcap song ‘440 volt ki ladki’ was Udit’s first, says Girijaji. Veteran cinematographer AK Bir came on board and enhanced the technical quotient.

The producers’ fraternity often has multiple anecdotes of star tantrums to narrate, right from the kind of flowers that actors demand for their hotel suites or the kind of meal they expect to be served.

Shaikh Sahab was in an altogether different league. Earlier too, the production manager of Tumhari Amrita, Pallavi Gurjar, had testified to his simplicity, saying he only wanted Marie biscuits and coffee before a show. Then the director of Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai, Smriti Kiran, recalled a simple request for “kuchh meetha”. Shaikh Sahab in fact himself brought cakes or mithai for the team.

Girijaji had a similar experience. “We were first-timers. And I found Farooque Shaikh to be very easygoing, a happy go lucky man. No tantrum at all. Of course we were also careful to not give our actors or crew any cause for complaint. But you know, there are stars like Rajesh Khanna or Jeetuji. The system there is different. Farooque Shaikh kept a low profile. He was a star but did not behave like one. He was a very genuine person.” Girijaji used the epithet “genuine” three times during this interview to describe Farooque Shaikh.

There was no doubt the new film makers had come upon a rare asset. “Farooque Sahab was an excellent actor. He had a background in theatre, he was of IPTA stock. Plus he had such a powerful command over languages, be it Hindi or Urdu,” says Girijaji. “We shot ‘Ab Ayega Mazaa’ in Delhi and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Though it took extra time and effort to iron out certain problems that seasoned producers can deal with faster. But we were so new and raw. After all, we were basically actors not film makers.”

Girijaji held a unique distinction in Shaikh Sahab’s eyes that would be the envy of other colleagues. “I hope I don’t sound immodest when I say that Farooque Shaikh liked my style of dressing. He would often compliment me saying, Kapde bohot achchhe pehente hain aap! In fact once I was wearing a nice shirt of raw silk. He liked it so much he said, Yeh shirt bohot achchhi hai! Yeh mujhe chahiye. I right away said, Zuroor, aap le lijiye! It was new, I had worn it perhaps one or two times. Farooque Sahab was fond of good clothes — raw silk shirts, cotton kurtas.”

He laughs and remembers, “One day in fact I came for the shoot around 9.00am and saw that a large crowd of onlookers had gathered to watch the shoot. Farooque Sahab was sitting by the side. But the crowd was still waiting for the hero! The moment I came out in my usual well dressed manner, they shouted ‘Hero aa gaya!’ But the moment I passed by and went forward, a loud chorus of disappointment broke out. They realised I was not the hero!”

He also discerned Shaikh Sahab’s abiding fondness for white chikan kurtas and marvelled how good he looked in them. “I think white made him feel happy. I saw him wearing shirts and trousers, but not very often. You know, not all clothes suit everyone. But Farooque Shaikh came to be identified with white Lucknowi kurtas. They suited him very well,” Girijaji says.

One aspect of Shaikh Sahab which Girijaji noticed was that he never had lunch. “He would eat a heavy breakfast and then dinner. I never saw him eating lunch. And he may have enjoyed food but he was careful about his health. He was always in control.”

The filming of ‘Ab Ayega Mazaa’ went off like a dream. The film received its Censor certificate on 12 April 1984 and released shortly afterwards. Girijaji remembers how they all went together to New Talkies theatre in Bandra to see how many spectators had arrived for the shows, and to gauge public reaction. “It was my first production so naturally there was the anxiety factor. Farooque Sahab also came with us. Thankfully, the hall was filled and people were enjoying the picture thoroughly,” he says.

‘Ab Ayega..’ was a commercial success and remains a fun watch for all time. The film is available on YouTube.

Over the years, Girijaji ran into Shaikh Sahab at theatre plays. He saw ‘Tumhari Amrita’ several times and still nurses a heady admiration of its skilful writing, expert direction as well as peerless performance.

They sometimes met in their common neighbourhood of Andheri. Shaikh Sahab lived in Highland Park, Girijaji in nearby Yamuna Park.

The hardest journey to make to his neighbour’s apartment building was on Monday December 30, 2013. Two days after Shaikh Sahab passed away in Dubai. “It was the evening when the final viewing took place and then he was laid to rest. Farooque Shaikh’s death was so sudden, so untimely. I got such a big shock. Who would have thought it would happen so suddenly. Hum sab aakhri darshan ke liye gaye.”

“You know how I remember Farooque Shaikh? As someone who was always smiling. He never appeared tense or brooding or stressed. May God bless his soul and grant him eternal peace. Such a genuine person.”

Farooque Shaikh did not impose the burden of his stardom on other people, recalls Ravindra Mankani

Mumbai: In the late 1980s, the world of Marathi television and cinema was introduced to a light-eyed actor named Ravindra Mankani, through the TV serial ‘Swami’ and Hridaynath Mangeshkar’s musical film ‘Nivdung’. The former civil engineer from Pune went on to make memorable movies and TV shows, and remains a household name to this day.

Right in his early days, Mankani secured a major part in the Hindi series ‘Shrikant’ where he got an opportunity to work with Farooque Shaikh, who was eight years his senior. Thirty years have passed, yet he cherishes memories of Shaikh Sahab’s mastery over languages, and his ability to deliver the desired shot in the very first take.

Shaikh Sahab’s 71st birth anniversary will be celebrated Monday March 25.

Ravindra Mankani lives in Pune where he runs Raviraj Studio with his sons Sushrut and Rohan. He travels frequently to Mumbai for work. He made time off a busy dubbing schedule in Pune to speak about Shaikh Sahab.

“‘Shrikant’ was the first Hindi serial I did. Before that I had made the Marathi series ‘Swami’,” he says.

‘Swami’ (1987) achieved landmark success on television. By coincidence, it also marked the Marathi debut of his co-star Mrinal Kulkarni, who like him, soon made her first Hindi appearance in ‘Shrikant’. ‘Shrikant’ was broadcast in three phases from 1987 to 1991.

Mankani essayed the part of Rohini, the childhood friend of Abhaya (Mrinal Kulkarni), who nurtures a deep abiding love for her but does not speak his feelings because he fears he is not good enough for her. His silent expression shines through in the way he indulges Abhaya’s passion for green chickpea (hare chane) through the years, even learns to cook them especially well to suit her taste.

Abhaya meanwhile develops an attraction for a smart stranger named Rudra (Irfan Khan) who arrives in the village. They get married, but Rudra soon deserts his wife under the pretext of finding a job in the city. Years pass before Abhaya learns he is in Burma. She decides to travel there to seek him out, and the faithful Rohini accompanies her. It is on the ship to Burma that they meet Shaikh Sahab, who saves Rohini from falling overboard as he tries to salvage his cache of ‘hare chane’ during a storm. Shaikh soon becomes a willing benefactor and locates the rogue Rudra in Burma. He perceives Rohini’s fondness for Abhaya and is touched by his steadfastness.

Mankani remembers Shaikh Sahab with much fondness. He says, “Praveen Nischol, who produced and directed Shrikant, introduced me to Farooqueji. I remember we became friendly in the first meeting itself. On the sets also, the warmth remained. What are a person’s qualities that leave a mark. Firstly, Farooque Shaikh was a very good actor. But who is a good actor. It is a broad term, but what are the specifics. One thing that I noticed immediately noticed was unka bhasha par prabhutva. He had a rare command over Hindi and Urdu. Bhasha ke maamle mein unka haath koi nahin pakad sakta tha. Another aspect of his talent was that whatever instructions the director gave him, he was able to convey right away in one or two takes. Why two, even, I will say just one take. Retake ki zaroorat hi nahin padti thi. I learnt that from him. How to put your 100% into that one shot. Naturally, because of this, the director was also happy. And if the director is happy, you are happy.”

Director Praveen Nischol had marvelled at this very same quality in his own tribute to Shaikh Sahab as part of this series. “Farooque Shaikh never caused a retake. In fact, he patiently agreed to shoot every time retakes were required because of other actors or technicians,” he had said.

Mankani recalls, “I even shared a room with him during the course of the long shoot but never felt my God, he is Farooque Shaikh the big star and I am just a newcomer. He was very nice to me. In fact I would sometimes seek his guidance during a tough scene, saying Sir, yeh kaise karna chahiye batlaaiye na. He was very helpful. He never imposed the burden of his stardom on other people. Of course, even I am not the kind of person to take on pressure. I like to be myself! Still, I am not averse to taking suggestions from seniors, especially the director. After all, the director is the captain.”

“Mujhe sirf ek baat Farooqueji ki thodi khatakti thi! Woh bohot zyada shaant the! He was very quiet. Except when we were discussing work, of course. Then Praveenji and all of us would talk at length, while sorting out scenes. Praveenji is a joyful person so it never felt like we were tired at the end of a long day of shooting. We shot ‘Shrikant’ in Filmistan and Essel studios I think. It was a long schedule because the series ran for a long time.”

Over the decades, Ravindra Mankani rose to become a stellar artiste on the Marathi scene with pictures like Nivdung, Varsa Laxmicha, Not Only Mrs Raut, Limited Manuski and Rama Madhav (also based on the novel Swami, and interestingly, directed by Mrinal Kulkarni), apart from serials like Bajirao Peshwa and the ongoing Baap Manus. He has won multiple state awards. Hindi audiences are familiar with him owing to films like Astitva, Satya, Khakee and MS Dhoni.

“I did not get a chance to work with Farooqueji again. It was such a shock to hear of his passing. Who would have imagined that he would be visiting Dubai to enjoy the new year and this would happen. We were not in touch for very long, but the time we spent together during Shrikant is very dear to my heart,” he says.

To this day I wonder how a big star like Farooque Shaikh was so calm and controlled, says Satish Pulekar

Mumbai: Veteran Marathi actor Satish Pulekar barely shot a few scenes together with Farooque Shaikh, and that was nearly 30 years ago in the TV serial ‘Shrikant’. Yet that calm smiling face worked its magic in no time, and made it last forever, he says.

Shaikh Sahab’s 71st birth anniversary will be celebrated Monday March 25.

Television was a medium that Farooque Shaikh had explored early in the 1970s when he hosted youth programmes for Bombay Doordarshan. However, his second foray, Shrikant, was a brave decision given that this was in 1987 when he was already a big film star, with hits like Noorie, Chashme Buddoor, Katha, Saath Saath and Umrao Jaan to his name.

Shaikh Sahab played the lead role in this series, some episodes of which are now available on YouTube courtesy DD Archives.

The novel by Saratchandra Chatterjee traces the protagonist’s journey from Calcutta to Burma.

It is in his lodge in Rangoon that Shrikant comes across fellow immigrant Charu, played by Pulekar. The two had a few brief scenes together which did not amount to much in terms of footage, yet sufficed to leave a deep groove in memory.

Satish Pulekar, born in 1950 and therefore two years younger than Shaikh Sahab, is an award-winning actor with five decades of theatre behind him.

His popular plays are Sakhe Shejari, Purush, Karaar where he had a double role, Kunitari Aahe Tithe, Durgabai Jara Japoon, Prakaran Dusre which won him the Natya Darpan award, as well as the very popular Abhimanyu and Happy Birthday. A parallel career in films from the 1980s catapulted Pulekar into the limelight with Atyachar, Vishwas, Halad Rusli Kunku Hasla, Yeda, Aa Bb Kk and Youth. Interestingly, he is also a cartoonist of merit.

His multiple shows on Marathi TV are very successful, yet a brief appearance in the Hindi ‘Shrikant’ by Praveen Nischol remains noteworthy. Pulekar plays Charu, a mercenary who ensnares a beautiful, simple Burmese heiress Mahala by falsely professing love and marrying her.

Blinded by devotion, Mahala thinks nothing of plying Charu with a lavish lifestyle, even though he wheedles large sums of money every now and then. Her retinue of servants rushes to welcome the master as he arrives at her mansion after a long absence. Mahala herself takes over from them and serves him.

In fact, his departure by steamship to Calcutta makes a particularly shocking scene. She has already surrendered much of her wealth to Charu. His purpose served, he is keen to head back home and escape this marriage. Suddenly he notices the shining jewel in her finger ring, and asks her to give it to him as a keepsake. However, the ring is tight and will not come off. Shaikh Sahab, who is present at the dock, is appalled to see Charu cruelly pull the ring off, causing the flesh to tear and leaving her with a bleeding finger. Conversely Mahala scarcely glances at the wound, simply overcome by pain at parting from her husband.

The girl who enacted the role of Mahala was also an asset to the serial, extremely beautiful, with dainty manners and an earnest performance.

Shrikant’ was aired from 1987 through 1991 in three segments with various women actors in the lead. “If it was 1991 as you say, and 30 years have passed, then you can understand how deep an impression Farooqueji must have made upon me that has lasted three decades,” says Pulekar.

Truly, the actor spoke to TOI instantly, without seeking time to gather his thoughts. The tribute he offered was warm, heartfelt and spontaneous.

“‘Shrikant’ was the first and the only time that I worked with Farooqueji. I did not know him very well personally. Of course I knew that he was a big actor. I had watched all his films of the 1980s, including the ones he did with Sai Paranjpye, like Chashme Buddoor and Katha, and enjoyed them all. I myself worked with Sai. I did a play with her named Sakhe Shejari. Several veteran artistes from the Hindi theatre and film industry came to see that play. Farooqueji also came to see it. I did 400 shows of ‘Sakhe Shejari’.”

Pulekar says, “I cannot say we were close friends. There was not enough chance to interact because our characters hardly crossed paths. But of course I marvelled at his acting skills. And he was so good looking, who does not know that.”

Then he remembers, “Mujhe ek baat ka achraj hota tha, ki itna bada actor aisa shaant kaise ho sakta hai. Itna shaant aadmi! Aur itna khoobsurat! To this day I wonder how such a big star can be so calm and controlled. Never in my career of 45 years so far have I come across an actor of this perfect combination of beauty and calm. Itne khoobsurat, ohohoho.. main kya kahoon. Main kya kahoon.”

“One more thing I remember is that Farooqueji would come on set, memorise his lines and then sit down with a book. Jaise set pe hansi-mazaaq hota hai, khinchayi hoti hai, waisa nahin, bohot hi shaant swabhav ke aadmi. I would marvel at him.”

Pulekar says he did not get an opportunity to work with Shaikh Sahab again given that he became more engrossed in Marathi media. But he followed his career. Of course, the ‘shaant’ visage with its unique infectious smile flashes before his mind’s eye every now and then.

Farooque Shaikh becomes first artiste to win Bimal Roy award upon his passing

Mumbai: In a very welcome development, Farooque Shaikh Sahab became the first artiste to receive the Bimal Roy Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award after his passing. So far in its 21 year history, this honour has always been presented to a living individual.

The awards were presented to Shaikh and other luminaries Asha Parekh, Jackie Shroff, Ananth Mahadevan and Amit Rai at Savarkar Auditorium in Shivaji Park, Mumbai, Tuesday January 8. Veteran actress Sulochanaji was seated among the spectators.

Shaikh’s elder daughter Shaaista (at left in pic) accepted the honour. She said, “All the nice things you have heard about my father, or read about him, are true. He would be embarrassed to hear a family member praise him in public like this. But all those things are true! It is a matter of honour for anybody to receive an award that is associated with the name of Bimal Roy. I am sure my father would have felt the same way. Thank you to the Bimal Roy Memorial Film Society, Rinkiji and RJ Siddharth.”

Farida Jalal who worked with Shaikh Sahab in ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari’ presented the award to Shaaista. She recalled the fun they had during the shoot of the film and said, “After I lost my mother and then my husband, Farooque Sahab began to keep in touch regularly, out of concern. That is the kind of person he was. He was also concerned about my son Yaseen. One day he said I will be in touch with Yaseen more than you. That was the day he stole my heart — and Yaseen’s too. We miss him terribly. But I take comfort in the knowledge that he is in a better place.”

This unique honour for Shaikh Sahab marked the start of the Bimal Roy Awards ceremony. The presentation was preceded by a brief audio-visual featuring vignettes of his films from ‘Garm Hava’ to ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’. Singer Sagar Savarkar gave a competent performance of his unforgettable song from Saath Saath, ‘Tumko dekha toh yeh khayaal aaya’.

RJ Siddharth, who was the host of the award ceremony, is evidently a fan. He recalled his two meetings with Shaikh Sahab. He echoed the impression that lakhs of viewers have of Shaikh Sahab when he repeatedly using descriptions like “masoomiyat” (innocence) and “saadgi” (simplicity) to describe him. He mentioned how Shaikh Sahab travelled by autos and taxis without a care for his star status.

Senior actor Pavan Malhotra who worked with Shaikh in ‘Peechha Karro’ and ‘Children of War’, praised him effusively. “Farooque Sahab was a genuinely grounded man who had no complex about travelling by autos and taxis. He would extend his arm and wave at you from afar if he saw you. Another time, we were shooting in Dehradun, and every other day, he would treat us to the choicest bakes from different local confectioners. I miss him deeply. He went away so young. I am so happy to see that you are honouring him here.”

House No. 28 in Memni Bldg still waits for Farooque Shaikh. Nobody has lived here since he left 30 years ago

Mumbai: House No. 28 of Memni Building in Nagpada seems to wait interminably for a certain someone who left 30 years ago. Other houses have been fragmented into smaller units, sold, leased, sublet, changed hands multiple times. Not No. 28. Nobody has lived here since Farooque Shaikh moved in 1987.

Shaikh Sahab’s fifth Remembrance Day was observed Friday, December 28.

Memni Building is located at Nagpada Junction. It has approximately 90 houses, big and small, across five wings. There are five gates. The one leading to Shaikh Sahab’s second floor apartment is the furthest on the Duncan Road side. His house is likely the biggest in the building. The family is said to have lived here from the 1940s or 1950s.

That’s not all. House No. 28 seems destined to belong to owners with a large heart. In 1987 Shaikh sold the flat to Reyaz Shaikh whose son Nasir now manages it.

Nasir occasionally allows relatives and neighbours to use the apartment when they need to lodge wedding guests — without charging a single rupee. “He simply says, ‘Dua’a mein yaad rakhna,’ ” says next door neighbour Nishat Usmani. “Even we have put up visitors there on occasion.”

In fact the first day TOI visited, an elderly gentleman from another city was staying over with his kin, having just concluded marriage festivities the day before. A day after his departure, Nasir Shaikh kindly opened the house to TOI.

Nasir, 48, is an alumnus of Christ Church School and treasurer of its ex-students’ association. He has taken degrees in MCom and MBA. He is married with three children. His father Reyaz Shaikh is a businessman who owns several properties in Nagpada.

“I was in Class X in 1986 when Farooque Shaikh came to our house in Bait ul’ Aman building across the road as part of the negotiations for the deal. He had become a big star after Noorie. I remember he was so striking, I was awed. He spoke to me very sweetly although I was just a 16-year-old,” he says with a smile.

Reyaz Sahab did intend to live in Memni Building when he sealed the deal. But his wife found it cumbersome to climb the many flights of steep wooden stairs leading to the second floor.

House No. 28 is airy, expansive and beautiful, cross ventilated with windows opening out in all directions, giving a circular view of Nagpada. It is also tranquil because none of the ambient noise of traffic filters in. Quaint old world features, arched doorways, carved doors, high wooden beam ceilings, all remind one of a bygone, leisurely era. In fact the statue of the Khada Parsi was located at Nagpada Junction before it was shifted near Byculla bridge.

Right beside the main door is a dear little old mailbox topped by a hazy glass window which serves to screen visitors.

The main door opens onto a rectangular gallery with windows that look onto Duncan Road. There used to be a bird cage at the further end. To the left is a series of original carved doors leading to the spacious hall. Nasir has installed a folding partition in the hall which he uses when apportioning space to the wedding guests.

The hall leads to a long passage flanked with a series of windows on the left. “These are original teak wood,” Nasir says. The windows open onto the neighbour’s house across the floor. All the bedrooms and the kitchen are at right of the passage.

The load bearing walls are about 1 ft thick with much space between each room. The next door neighbour Farhat Hannan Shaikh describes how a large mirror hung in the centre of the wall. “Farooque Shaikh would stand here and do his hair. We would see him from our window opposite,” she laughs. This window interface also gave neighbours a chance to see film stars like Poonam Dhillon, Rekha, Deepti Naval, Rakesh Bedi and Satish Shah who visited Shaikh Sahab.

Leading the way, Nasir says the house measures 2,500 sq ft by built up area and has a carpet area of approximately 1,700 sq ft. “Despite the size, there are only two bedrooms, both with attached bathrooms. There is a third bathroom that is for servants’ use.”

“The kitchen is at the farthest end of the house,” he says. “This is the only alteration we attempted. My mother felt it was too far from the main hall so we installed a partition in the second bedroom and turned it into a kitchen. The original kitchen served as a store room. But now of course, all of it is unused.”

Two old doors leading to the bedrooms have been replaced and the hall floor is tiled with marble. But the whole house remains one contiguous unit, just as Shaikh Sahab left it, most features intact.

Some antique furniture, including a tall glass case which he owned, remains in the front bedroom – which neighbours say belonged to Shaikh. Nishat Usmani says the velvet sofas in that room are also a remainder of those days, but Nasir denies this.

Another highlight of House No. 28 is that the buyer owns the entire terrace right above. Nasir shows the way up through a beautifully carved spiral iron staircase. “We have relaid the floor of the terrace recently to prevent leakage through the roof.” The terrace itself seems to be 2,000 sq ft.

Nasir’s boyhood impressions of Shaikh Sahab endure. “You know, my family also owns a fabrication shop. When Farooque Shaikh moved to Bandra, the grilles in his house were manufactured by us. He was a very nice man. We would invite him to our family weddings and he would come if he could. He came in 1998. Our last wedding was in the year 2000 but he could not make it for that one,” says Nasir.

He laughs and says, “I am not a movie buff. Not a movie buff at all, okay, so I won’t know much about his films. But I know that he was a star. And I know his play, ‘Meri Pyaari Amrita’. All the neighbours will jump in excitement if you mention Farooque Shaikh! Because he was a very nice man.”

Nasir has come into a part of Shaikh Sahab’s legacy through this house. Their temperament seems oddly similar too. He feels it is best to avoid the trouble and risk of allowing tenants and sub-tenants. “The monthly outgoings of the flat are Rs 2,000. So I pay Rs 24,000 each year and sit easy. Even if I were to paint the house it would cost Rs 1.5 lakh, which is no use since we don’t live here.”

“I am not an ambitious man. If I need Rs 100 and I make Rs 150, it is enough. I close my hardware store at 6.00pm. I don’t need to take money from people who utilise the house for a couple of days. I believe in the Islamic concept of Aakhirat (afterlife). All the good deeds you do in this life serve you well in the hereafter.”

The previous owner of the house thought exactly so. May Shaikh Sahab’s bank of good deeds be amply rewarded by Allah Almighty in Jannat ul’ Firdaus. Aameen.

Thirty years after he left Nagpada, Farooque Shaikh remains a favourite in the neighbourhood

Mumbai: Through his student days and well after he became a famous film star, Farooque Shaikh lived in South Mumbai’s Nagpada locality. He moved to Bandra in 1987. Yet to this day, 30 years later, shopowners and vendors are aware that he stayed in Memni Building along Duncan Road. As they offer directions, they remark what a good soul he was and utter a prayer for his well being in heaven.

Shaikh Sahab’s fifth Remembrance Day was observed Friday December 28. He was laid to rest at Four Bungalows Qabrastan this day five years ago December 30, 2013.

(Nida, Farhat Shaikh and Nishat Usmani)

Farooque Shaikh’s second floor apartment no. 28 in Memni Building remains one of the largest in the society. In fact, it equals the cumulative size of all three flats on the opposite end.

In one of those houses lives Nishat Usmani who married here and has two children in their teens. Nishat has heard wonderful stories about Shaikh Sahab ever since she arrived. “His house is kept locked because Reyaz Shaikh and his son Nasir who purchased it from Farooque Shaikh do not live here. They have other houses in the vicinity.”

(Shaikh Sahab’s terrace)

She says Nasir, who manages the apartment, has preserved certain items belonging to Shaikh Sahab over 30 years with dedication. “The plush velvet sofas you will see there and certain other items of furniture once belonged to Farooque Shaikh,” she says.

Nishat’s sister-in-law Farhat Hannan Shaikh has come visiting from Azamgarh, UP, where she is the principal of a school of 3,500 pupils. It is she who knows Shaikh Sahab’s family better. Farhatji spent her childhood and youth in Memni Building until she got married in 1983. Shaikh Sahab’s family moved in 1987.

She says, “We all grew up together as children. I would visit his place to play with his sisters. They are a lovely family, godfearing, namazi, well educated. Their father Mustafa Shaikh was a reputed lawyer. He wanted Farooque Shaikh to study law. He did not want him to join cinema. In fact, he passed away rather suddenly of a heart attack and Farooque Shaikh also went away similarly. It was such a shock to us.”

She remembers Shaikh Sahab as a softspoken gentleman who was never harsh or unkind. “He did not change even when he became a film star. I remember how Poonam Dhillon, Moushumi Chatterjee and Deepti Naval would come to his house. It was cause a stir in the building,” Farhatji laughs.

Both Nishat and Farhatji kindly showed TOI around that portion of the building, even the terrace that belonged to Shaikh Sahab’s family.

Farhatji said, “I remember his mother Faridaji was a very fine lady. Even after they left, she would come to visit a neighbour downstairs sometimes.” Shaikh Sahab’s mother passed away in February 2011.

If we did not invite Farooque Shaikh to a wedding or funeral thinking he had become a big star, he would ask, ‘Am I so big that you would exclude me?’ say old neighbours in Nagpada

Mumbai: Farooque Shaikh’s original family home in Mumbai was a spacious flat in the heart of Nagpada in South Mumbai. The sprawling L-shaped Memni Building is a landmark at Nagpada Junction. It has five gates leading to different wings. The Shaikh family lived on the second floor along the Duncan Road flank.

Shaikh Sahab’s fifth Remembrance Day was observed Friday, December 28.

Old neighbours still recall the fair, good looking youth who stood head and shoulders above the rest, literally and figuratively. They marvel at his “soorat and seerat” which catapulted their building to fame and drew leading film stars and directors there.

(Mazhar and Anees Shaikh at the entrance to Memni Building)

They miss his physical presence, not since the past five years but 30. The family left the locality in 1987.

TOI chanced upon a group of middle-aged gentlemen lounging on a bench at the entrance of Memni Building and they turned out to be Shaikh Sahab’s childhood friends.

Anees Shaikh has lived on the ground floor since 60 plus years. “Farooque Shaikh left this building in 1987. But the impression he made on us will last a lifetime. Each time the topic veers to ‘Second Floor Flat Number 28’, which is among the biggest houses in the building, we remember that it used to belong to Farooque Shaikh,” he says.

“His father Mustafa Shaikh was a famous lawyer. Farooque Shaikh had four brothers and sisters. Woh sabse bade the. His sisters were married from this house.”

Shaikh Sahab was about ten years older than Anees Shaikh and a couple of friends, but this was not the only reason they looked up to him. “He was a good example for all of us because he came from a good, honourable family, dressed well, conducted himself well, studied well and made a name in the world. And in spite of achieving so much, he never cultivated takabbur (arrogance) or seemed too busy to talk to us,” Aneesbhai says. “He never fell prey to the evils of stardom. But one thing we know. His father never wanted him to become an actor. He wanted him to be a lawyer like him.”

Shaikh Sahab did take a degree in law but found it was not suited to his temperament. He reportedly sought his father’s permission to act in Garm Hava (1973), and did not resume performing until Gaman and Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977).

But those films do not seem to have settled into the memory groove of Memni Building residents. To them Noorie (1979) remains the high point.

(The flat with shuttered windows on the second floor is Shaikh Sahab’s former home)

Another neighbour Mazhar enthusiastically says, “Do you know, when ‘Noorie’ released Farooque Shaikh brought us free tickets! One day when he met us as he headed out, we congratulated him. He said, Aap logon ne meri picture dekhi ki nahin? We said, Nahin Bhai. Ticket hi nahin mili. He said Batao, how many of you are there, I will arrange tickets for you. And he did. All of us youngsters went and enjoyed ‘Noorie’. Kaun karta hai aisa. In fact we saw many of his beautiful movies because he would bring us free tickets.”

Scholars of Islam often quote the importance of giving a good name to a newborn child for those traits permeate his personality. ‘Farooque’ means the discerning one, one who can distinguish between right and wrong. Shaikh Sahab lived up to his name. Just as he did not permit the negative influences of Nagpada to penetrate his psyche, equally, he islanded himself from the silvery web of glamour.

“Soon big big stars started coming to the building to meet him. Noorie would come, Moushumi Chatterjee, Rakesh Bedi, Satish Shah, I think even Deepti Naval and Rekha came. But he never stopped being cordial to ordinary residents.”

Examples abound of his fabled humility. “Would you believe, he would actually carry his shoes to the mochi to be polished. That cobbler you see in the corner of the building, his father used to run the stall in those days. He would say, Sahab aap kyon takleef karte hain, main ghar aake joote le jaoonga. Farooque Shaikh would say, Nahin kyon. Main leta aaoonga na. He had no need for servants to fetch and carry for him,” Anees says.

Shaikh Sahab would carry his own bags to the taxi stand near Alexandra Cinema when he went outdoors on a shoot. When the youths of Memni Building sought his autograph downstairs, he would say, “Yahaan nahin, ghar pe aao, nashta karo.” They took him up on his offer, and were met with warmth and hospitality at his house.

Anees Shaikh says, “Say somebody did not invite him to a wedding thinking he was now a big man, or avoided mentioning a death in the locality thinking he was a film star so how will he join the funeral, he would come and say, Kyon mujhe shaadi ya mayyat mein nahin bulaya? Main itna bada ho gaya hoon kya? We were so overwhelmed. Such a humble, milansaar aadmi.”

(The hall of Shaikh Sahab’s home as it stands today)

Both men recall how Shaikh Sahab was particularly kind to little children, the chillar party of Memni Building. “Oh, they would make a loud noise sometimes. Other residents would scold them and order them to pipe down except Farooque Shaikh. Kabhi chillaye nahin. Hanske guzar jate the. Even we, as young boys, would sprawl our legs on the stairs and block people’s path. But never did he say, Step aside, or anything harsh. He would step around, find a way and go out,” says Anees.

Mazhar cannot prevent himself from repeating, “Imagine, he himself brought us tickets to Noorie. Kaun karta hai aisa.”

The family may have left Memni Building but Shaikh Sahab’s younger brother Fazal continued visiting for a few years.

Anees Shaikh says, “We were so shocked when we heard Farooque Shaikh had passed away. It happened in Dubai. One of his sisters lives there and he was visiting her for the New Year. He went away young. You will never hear a single negative comment about him because he did not hurt anybody. Kisi ka dil dukhane wali baat nahin ki. Kabhi apni position se ghalat fayda nahin uthaya. Not a hint of arrogance ever crossed his face.”

“His face comes to mind so vividly even now. When he headed out in the afternoon sun… fair complexion, long hair, white kurta. Aur bhi chamakte the!” he laughs.

Most old timers from Memni Building have left, either for the farther suburbs, or on the long journey which must culminate in a happy reunion.

In an era when Nagpada’s youth looked on gangsters as role models, Farooque Shaikh remained pure like the proverbial lotus, says Urdu journalist Saeed Hameed

Mumbai: The proverbial metaphor of the lotus that emerges from muddy waters and blossoms into a thing of beauty and purity is so aptly suited to Farooque Shaikh. The absolute gentleman was raised in the rough neighbourhood of Nagpada in South Mumbai in a time when gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala and Dawood Ibrahim drafted local boys to settle personal rivalry.

An environment that could have unsettled an impressionable mind failed to taint Shaikh Sahab who nurtured a steely resolve to walk the right path.

Senior journalist and author Saeed Hameed, who also lived in Nagpada, remembers Shaikh as the youth who never loitered about or engaged with wastrels yet always had a polite smile and Adaab for neighbours.

Shaikh Sahab’s fifth Remembrance Day is being observed today Friday, December 28.

(Saeed Hameed)

Hameed, whose latest book ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Aur Musalman’ was released recently, met TOI in his office in Nagpada, a short distance from Shaikh Sahab’s former home. Interestingly, Hameed became his neighbour again in Andheri. In the 1990s Shaikh Sahab moved to Lokhandwala Complex while Hameed shifted to Millat Nagar nearby.

From the 1950s until 1987, Farooque Shaikh lived in Memni Building on the Duncan Road flank of Nagpada junction. Now the road has been renamed Maulana Azad Road.

Hameed says, “I saw Shaikh Sahab during his student days in the 1960s though the family lived there well after he made Noorie (1979). His father Mustafa Shaikh was a reputed advocate. He passed away early.”

Shaikh Sahab was the eldest of five siblings. “He was a striking youth even then, very distinguished from the rest of the boys who lived in the area. He was very handsome, fair skinned, and he wore his hair long. He would keep running his fingers through his hair! He was always well dressed, with his shirt tucked into his bell bottom style trousers.”

“One must understand here that the Nagpada of the 1960s, 70s and 80s was a locality of churning influences. You had notorious gangsters of the underworld like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel. Several young lads in fact looked up to them because they had few role models to emulate. It was easy to get sucked into violence and crime for it was so common. The bordellos of Kamathipura were not too far. There were scarcely any graduates in the area, most dropped out after basic education.”

“But Farooque Shaikh was a different class of man. Very well bred, from a well educated, well-to-do family. We only saw him come home or go out. Na cigarette, na sharab, na koi aur lat. Unhone apne mahaul ko khud par kabhi haavi hone nahin diya. Never did he hang around with groups of boys or loiter about like the other youngsters. No stories of misdemeanour were spoken about him, let alone vice.”


There are two popular restaurants in Nagpada that still exist, one named Sarvi (pronounced Saarvi) in the next building which is famous for delectable seekh kebab. Dilip Kumar and other actors would visit this place. The other hotel Rolex was the favourite haunt of litterateurs, poets and journalists. “Eight out of ten” prominent Urdu newspapers were located in this area so this restaurant drew writers in the droves. “But we did not see Farooque Shaikh in either. He kept himself aloof from the influences of Nagpada,” says Hameed.

Yet, Shaikh Sahab was by no means cold even though he was detached. He would say Salaam or Adaab and smile at neighbours as he passed by, without engaging too much. He always seemed focussed and very busy.

Hameed knew Shaikh Sahab’s younger brother Fazal. “He was my junior in Maharashtra College. The family was clearly cultured and religious. Fazal, I think, was considerably younger than Farooque Shaikh but a five-time namazi like him. He was a boxer.”

As the days passed by, the youths realised that Farooque Shaikh had become a model. “We began to see his pictures in print advertisements in magazines like Illustrated Weekly and in movie theatres at the start of a film or during the interval. You remember, the slide show ads with a voiceover? I think he modelled for Lifebuoy also. Farooque Sahab became very famous in the mohalla. It was a wow moment because a young lad from our own locality had made a name like this.”

Here Hameed Sahab makes sure to mention actor-director Kadar Khan who lived some distance away. “I took admission to Saboo Siddik Polytechnic where Kadar Khan was my professor. He was very active on the theatre circuit with the Kal Ke Kalakaar (KKK) troupe. And Farooque Shaikh was an integral part of the St Xavier’s College drama team. Both these groups figured prominently in a prestigious inter-collegiate dramatic competition. In fact, Rajesh Khanna representing K C College, Amjad Khan from National College, Sagar Sarhadi, Jeetendra and Sanjeev Kumar all made their presence felt at this event. Shafi Inamdar and Mushtaq Merchant would rehearse with Kadar Khan in Saboo Siddik.”

(Shaikh Sahab’s house on second floor of Memni Bldg; the one with series of closed windows)

Hameed points out an interesting similarity. Both Shaikh Sahab and Kadar Khan made a prominent entry into the world of cinema in 1973, Shaikh with Garm Hava and Khan with Jawani Diwani.

Hameed meanwhile went on to make a career in journalism in daily newspapers like Aaj and Urdu Reporter, and the weekly Akhbar E’ Alam.

In the late 1980s, Shaikh moved to Bandra where he lived in Rafi Mansion, which was earlier Mohammed Rafi’s bungalow. The family then went to Lokhandwala Complex in Andheri.

In 1992-93, Mumbai was engulfed by two horrific waves of communal riots in the aftermath of the martyrdom of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. The traumatic aftermath of the demolition shook the social conscience of all right-minded citizens. Shaikh Sahab could hardly remain insulated given his strong moral fibre.

“The largest relief camp was set up in Millat Nagar by Ziauddin Bukhari. Particularly, there were 300-400 Muslim families living in Pratiksha Nagar whose safety was threatened amid growing violence. Abu Asim Azmi set up a small facility in Colaba. Bukhari got the families evacuated in trucks with help from Sharad Pawar. The Aman Committee pitched in too. Smaller camps were set up in Nagpada also,” says Hameed.

(Shaikh Sahab’s Memni apartment as it stands today)

But there was nothing to equal the scale of relief work in Millat Nagar. This is a vast colony with a few score buildings. Some were still under construction, others unoccupied. It soon came to shelter 2,000-2,500 people. Sunil Dutt, then the Congress MP for North West Mumbai came to help. Johnny Walker and Shaikh Sahab who lived nearby also helped. Shabana Azmi would call in too.

Hameed says a control room of sorts was installed on the top floor of Sagar Malkani Tower located on S V Road, Jogeshwari, which is about five minutes’ drive away from Millat Nagar, to monitor the welfare of the displaced people. He says Shaikh Sahab would visit to inquire into their needs and offer assistance.

Hameed was an active member of this monitoring group. As a journalist, he had a curfew pass and could travel across affected areas to gather information in an era when there was no satellite TV, no cellphones and no Internet. So he was an active source of news for the team. Every evening he would come, often walking miles, to Sagar Malkani, and give updates.

“We did not require funds because help was arriving from various sources. But Farooque Sahab proved useful because he had very good relations with senior politicians in New Delhi. Rajesh Pilot was the home minister of state then, so Farooque Sahab could tell him about their problems and grievances and seek assistance. Shaikh would personally shuttle between Bombay and Delhi to expedite matters. Local authorities spring into action only when higher-ups in government put in a word, and here Farooque Shaikh’s contribution was very valuable.”

Rajesh Pilot even came to Bombay and visited Millat Nagar to offer assurance.

Hameed is also aware of Shaikh Sahab’s patronage of Lucknow’s chikankari industry. Most women who embroider chikan kurtas for SEWA, his regular supplier, are from broken homes and often the sole earning members of their families. And Farooque Shaikh knew in his heart that his costly purchases of white kurtas went into a good cause.

It is hard to think of a celebrity other than Shaikh Sahab who seemed to have made it his mission to be of use to people he met. Hameed recalls how he tried to help him gain assignments in the film industry. “He was acting in a serial named Chamatkar where they needed a good writer. He recommended my name but they chose somebody else. He went to the USA shortly afterwards but when he returned and realised they had not selected me, he was so apologetic. Is qadar ma’azrat ki. Another time Subhash Ghai’s team was seeking a dialogue director for Anil Kapoor. Farooque Sahab trusted my Urdu diction and suggested my name, but it did not work out. Both times he felt so sorry but I understood. What could he do? He tried for me twice.”

I can still hear Farooque Shaikh’s uniquely beautiful voice, his most polite tone and his Urdu zabaan, says Nandita Das

Mumbai: Noted actor-director Nandita Das is known as much for a feeling heart and thinking head as her talented contribution to the film industry. She is a good 21 years younger than Farooque Shaikh but they shared a warm friendship that transcends mundane details like these.

Shaikh Sahab’s fifth Smriti Din will be observed tomorrow Friday, December 28.

He shared common association with Nanditaji as well as veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar which resulted in a fruitful partnership lasting decades. In 1996, Nayar took Das to Lahore as part of South Asians for Human Rights, in 2002 he prompted her to visit Gujarat after the riots, and shared recollections of his meeting with Urdu author Saadat Hasan Manto, which helped seed Nanditaji’s recent film that is making waves. Shaikh Sahab, who held an abiding love for Urdu literature, would have relished watching Manto.


Nandita Das made time from her busy schedule to write this tribute to her friend.

“I first met Farouque Shaikh in New York at the screening of ‘Fire’ at the famous Lincoln Centre. Shabana Azmi, my co-actor, had invited him. I remember the post-film dinner that was filled with much laughter and stimulating conversation.

“We were re-introduced soon after that by Kuldip Nayar, the senior journalist and parliamentarian. Since our first meeting, the three of us met together many a times, and had heated discussions on socio-political issues. We made a strange threesome! Three different generations, three different temperaments and three different personalities. Yet we were very compatible and if I may be immodest, also complementary.”

“There was humour, playful banter and at the same time, intense discussions. As (I was) the youngest, they indulged me. They also ensured I ate well! They became my friend, philosopher and guide. Farouque Sahab, in particular, loved food and feeding everyone. I lived in Delhi then, so we would eat road side kakori kebab in Nizamuddin and also the Thai food at the Habitat centre.


“Farouque Sahab and I independently also met many a times, both in Bombay and Delhi. He was known for his warmth, generosity and graciousness. He used to send me boxes of alphonso mangoes that I relished in the summer heat of Delhi. I can still hear his uniquely beautiful voice, his most polite tone and his Urdu zabaan. He was full of stories, but also listened with interest. It is not always that the goodness that shines through an actor’s work shines through his or her life too. But with him it did.

“As with all of us, he had some contradictions. But today I am choosing to remember him with the affection and respect that he always showered on me. And for that I am grateful. May his soul rest in peace.”