Saturday, December 28, 2013

Farooq Shaikh, 1948-2013

I was saddened to learn this morning of the death of Farooq Shaikh, an actor equally at ease in comedy and drama. He appeared in films directed by Satyajit Ray (The Chess Players, 1977) and Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Rang Birangi and Kissi Se Na Kehna (1983)), among may others. If you are not familiar with Farooq Shaikh's work, I recommend the following films as places you might want to start:

Chashme Buddoor (Knock on Wood, 1981): Shaikh stars as university student Siddharth (perhaps an in-joke; Shaikh had been a student at Siddharth College of Law), who meets and falls in love with the lovely Neha (played by Deepti Naval). Siddharth's roommates, though, decide to interfere, in part because Siddharth's seriousness about Neha throws their own aimlessness (and lack of romantic success) into stark relief. Soon, though, they realize their mistake—only to discover that it's much harder to get the couple back together than it was to break them up. This charming comedy written and directed by Sai Paranjpye is pleasurable not only for its tongue-in-cheek take on filmi conventions, but especially for the warm and affectionate chemistry between Shaikh and Naval:

Katha (Story, 1983): Another Sai Paranjpye film featuring Farooq Shaikh and Deepti Naval. This time, though, Shaikh plays a heartless cad, Basu. Local beauty Sandhya (Naval) sees only Basu's charm, however, and falls in love—to the dismay of Rajaram (Naseeruddin Shah), Sandhya's shy, good-hearted neighbor who has loved her from afar for years. Basu isn't evil, but he is hugely self-centered and manipulative, basically seeing everyone he meets as a means to his own ends. Farooq Shaikh effectively portrays Basu's almost pathological narcissism, while at the same time suggesting why people might be drawn to him. Of course, Basu's lies can't go undiscovered forever, but when they are revealed will it be too late for Sandhya?

Umrao Jaan (Beloved Umrao, 1981): Based on Mirza Hadi Ruswa's novel, Muzaffar Ali's film about the impossible love of the courtesan Umrao Jaan (Rekha, in her greatest role) and the Nawab Sultan (Farooq Shaikh) has achieved classic status. In the scene below, long after their affair has ended, Umrao Jaan is unexpectedly reunited with the Nawab—and with his new bride, Umrao Jaan's childhood friend Bismillah (Prema Narayan). The wistful sadness of "Justju Jis Ki Thi," composed by Khayyam and sung by Asha Bosle, perfectly expresses the emotions of all three characters in this moment:

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (These Young People Are Crazy, 2013): In one of his final roles, Farooq Shaikh plays Rishikant, the father of the main character Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor), who looks indulgently on his son's foibles and tries to help him realize his dreams. This warm, loving role is a fitting swan song for this deeply appealing actor. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.

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