A fine actor, great friend, kind man

I vividly remember my first meeting with Farooque Shaikh. It was in 1975. I had just returned from New York after completing my graduation and was looking for opportunities to begin a career as an actor. We met at the Doordarshan office where we were both invited to meet the production team, which was keen that we co-host a show. A single-episode programme, it marked the beginning of my screen career as well as an association that would last for 38 years.

We instantly connected during the making of the show. He was an experienced actor and a known face already having worked with Indian People's Theatre Association and acted in films Garam Hawa (1973) and Mere Saath Chal (1974) yet, he was so easy to talk to. He displayed great confidence in my talent and assured me that I would do well as an actor. In fact, it was he who suggested my name to director Vinod Pande for Ek Baar Phir (1980). It would have been my first film with Farooque had his dates for shooting Noorie not clashed with our schedule for Vinod's film.

It was Sai Paranjpye who first cast us as a couple in Chashme Buddoor (1981). There, I met Rakesh Bedi and Ravi Baswani, and through them Satish Shah and Raman Kumar. We became a close-knit group and Farooque's girlfriend and later wife, Rupa Vakil, was also part of this group. Had it not been for them, especially Rupa and Farooque, I would not have been able to deal with the filmy lot.

Together, Farooque and I were part of many films that would be remembered as landmark films in Indian cinema, such as Katha (1983), Kissi Se Na Kehna (1983) and Rang Birangi (1983), but hardly did we recognise the fact at that time. Working with him was so easy because he was always so encouraging and witty. That's perhaps the reason behind our on-screen chemistry, something I realised only when we did Raman's Saath Saath (1982).

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