Remembering Farooq Sheikh

Farooq Sheikh would have turned 67 today if it weren’t for his untimely death on December 27th, 2013 due to a heart attack. Sheikh, born in 1948, was an integral part of the New Indian Cinema of the 1970s and 80s, making his debut with MS Sathyu’s Garm Hava (1973), besides convincingly playing the lead in many medium and lower budgeted romantic comedies and dramas, often opposite Deepti Naval. Today, we look at some iconic songs, which highlight Sheikh for the actor he was.

Gaman (1978) saw Sheikh convincingly play a migrant taxi cleaner turned taxi driver in Bombay, who gets absorbed by the city, and is unable to go back to his ailing mother and wife (Smita Patil) in Budaun, Uttar Pradesh. In a  film of memorable songs composed by Jaidev, who won the National Award for his work, this song highlights Sheikh’s predicament in the city of dreams.

Noorie (1979) saw Sheikh have his first real big success at the box office. In this tragic love story that was produced by Yash Chopra, he played a young lad, Yusuf,  whose love, Noorie (Poonam Dhillon), is raped. She commits suicide and Yusuf himself is killed when he goes after the man who raped her. Noorie’s dog finally takes revenge for the couple. Sheikh and Dhillon made a fresh eye-catching couple, aided a big deal by Khayyam’s extremely popular musical score.

Umrao Jaan (1981) re-united Sheikh with his Gaman director, Muzaffar Ali. Though the film is an out and out Rekha vehicle with her playing the title role for which she won the National Award, Sheikh made a major impact playing the lover of courtesan Umrao Jaan, Nawab Sultan, who ultimately bows to tradition and marries a ‘regular’ woman thus dashing Umrao’s hopes and dreams. Khayyam’s music (he also won the National Award as did Asha Bhosle) is the icing on the cake and rarely as an actor looked so completely smitten as Sheikh does in this fantastic mujra.

Saath Saath (1982) remains one of Sheikh’s most memorable roles as an idealist who loses his way. It is also perhaps his most well-known film with Deepti Naval with extremely popular songs composed by Kuldeep Singh. This song, beautifully illustrates the dreams and aspirations the couple have once they have got married.

Bazaar (1982) saw one of Sheikh’s strongest performances as a young man in Hyderabad who dreams of marrying the beautiful Supriya Pathak, only to have her family marry her off for money to a much older man from the Gulf. Sheikh and Pathak convincingly played the star crossed lovers, bringing out their feelings ever so beautifully in this song as they meet for the last time before she is married off.

And last but not least, one simply cannot avoid Chashme Buddoor (1981), a romantic comedy and a buddy film rolled into one as three Delhi University lads all fall for comely, Deepti Naval.

Sadly, Bollywood did not really know how to exploit Sheikh the actor, and with the Indian New Wave finding itself floundering in the 1980s, Sheikh never really got the roles his talent deserved. Just when he returned with some roles of substance in films like Shanghai (2012), Listen… Amaya (2013)Club 60 (2013), and Children of War (2014), he passed away…

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