An aam aadmi among cine stars
Farooq Sheikh, who died on Saturday, always played the ‘nobody’ on screen – the guy on the street, the original aam aadmi of Hindi filmdom, the essential common man. Other than in a handful of roles, such playing the effete and debauched nawab in Umrao Jaan, Sheikh was never the star, but the wide-eyed innocent protagonist, mostly a middle class non-hero. It’s a pity, therefore, that Sheikh passed away on the same day as another aam aadmi took the oath of the chief minister of Delhi. It also a deep tragedy that the man, who gave the Hindi film industry some its most poignant yet lighter moments passed away just before the middlebrow cinema could achieve a re-efflorescence, even though it’s making its presence felt again in this 100-crore dominated film industry. The little joys and tiny defeats of the middle class hero, the perils of the ordinary life and the beauty of a simple, homebound delinquency – Sheikh and his favourite costar Deepti Naval, brought out the tenderness and eloquence in every role. Be it the romantic comedies such as Chashme Buddoor, or serious cinema like Ankur, Bazaar, Garam Hawa, Gaman or Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Sheikh’s role always brought in a lightness of touch, which provided a window of relief. His boyish charms, witty lines, educated poise and a ready irony filled up the cup of on-screen acting and spilled over into his real life within and outside the film industry. On stage, he was wonderful too; his long association with the Indian Progressive Theatre Association was another side to the man of many shades. The best instances could easily be the rendition of Tumhari Amrita, which along with Shabana Azmi, reinjected life into a sagging theatre scene of the country. His stint on television, with programmes like Chamatkar or Ji Mantriji, as well as the chatshow Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai, were also much-acclaimed, while the serial Shrikant, based on the eponymous Bengali novel by Saratchandra Chatterjee, was hailed as brilliant. Truly, one of the pillars of the small-budget middlebrow cinema has fallen.