Swara Bhaskar on Farooq Sheikh: A player and an observer

Farooq SheikhSwara Bhaskar on Farooq Sheikh: A player and an observer

Farooq Sheikh relished being able to step into the circus ring that is Bollywood, play his part and then take his seat and watch the show.

Perhaps the most vivid memory I have of the iconic and gentlemanly Farooq Sheikh is from the second day of shooting Listen Amaya. We were in the chaotic and uncontrolled environs of Paranthe Wali Gali in old Delhi, trying to shoot a long, conversational scene. It was hot, noisy and the narrow lane was increasingly occupied by curious onlookers. We were between shots and the production had relaxed the set-lock so crowds could go about their morning routine. Two men, hands on each other's necks in the classic Indian male camaraderie pose, sauntered by. One of them spotted Farooq sir and came right up to Farooq sir's face, close enough for me to smell the gutka on his breath, peered at him and exclaimed to his friend, "Abey Frook Saik ko dekh ley!" The friend also brought his face close, looked and rejected the proposition, pointing a scoffing finger at Farooq sir's nose. "Abey yeh Frook Saik thode hai! Chal bey!" They argued a bit more, peering and pointing, till the first friend turned to Farooq sir and asked, "Abey tum Frook Saik ho kya?" Farooq sir said apologetically, "Haan bhai sahib, hoon. Maaf kar do, agley janam mein yeh galati nahi karunga!" That day I discovered the most telling aspects of Farooq sir's nature: grace, dignity and wit in any circumstance.

Another quality that defined Farooq sir was generosity — he was always giving gifts. But his generosity had the mark of an aristocrat. A touch of the nawabs he has essayed memorably. Back in the bylanes of old Delhi, as we shot, we passed a sweet shop. "Swara ji, would you like a gulab jamun?"

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