• stumble
  • youtube
  • linkedin

#Sundayreading- Farooq Sheikh was like beautiful old calligraphy: Javed Siddiqi


,TNN | Jan 24, 2014, 10.18 AM IST

MUMBAI: Writer Javed Siddiqi used a carefully crafted metaphor to describe his old friend of 50 years. Farooque Shaikh he said, was like beautiful old calligraphy — “aisa nasta’leeq, nafees aadmi”.

Nasta’leeq is the classic style of Persian calligraphy. Its strong shoulders are those that Urdu rests her head on, its splendour is steeped in the imagery of the traditional ‘qalam-davaat’.

This was an apt description of a gentleman whose grace, talent and profound knowledge of Urdu prompted fellow artistes to touch a hand to the ear in awe.

Siddiqi was invited to deliver the closing tribute to Farooque Shaikh at a memorial in honour of the actor on January 16. He relived vignettes of a long friendship spanning five decades from the time Shaikh and his family lived in Nagpada.

“Sometimes, when one has to deliver the customary eulogy for a departed colleague, one is forced to think long and hard to recall a single virtue that the man may have possessed. Farooque comes with a different problem. Since 20 days, his name comes up in every conversation, and I have been thinking perhaps somebody may remind us of his faults? After all, man is incomplete without certain drawbacks. But broke the mould. He simply did not have a flaw.”

In the 1960s, Siddiqi stayed in neighbouring Byculla where their fathers were friends. “Some of you will remember an old cinema hall named Alexandra which is located in an area of disrepute. But it would screen old English classic films on Sunday morning. It was here that I first caught sight of Farooque Shaikh. There he was, an extremely fair, handsome youth with slightly long hair — and he kept grooming it — sitting a few rows away from me.”

The writer was distracted to see Shaikh shifting seats every now and then. “Barely six or seven people had come for the morning show so the hall was near empty. Farooque moved two rows ahead, then two rows back, and finally sat a few places away from me. I was compelled to ask him what the matter was. He indignantly glared at me before saying, ‘Aapko khatmal nahin kaat rahe kya?”

The sound of laughter echoed across the gathering. Whether the writer had conjured up this anecdote it was hard to say, but the assembly of people enjoyed it nevertheless.

The analogy of the pest spilled over. Siddiqi said, “I did not know that the acting bug had bit him because his father, a reputed lawyer named Mustafa Shaikh, always told us that my son will be an advocate like me. Later, I saw Farooque in the IPTA troupe and realised he had joined theatre. He was part of the ensemble of the play ‘Khalid Ki Khala’ where his act in drag brought the house down.”

Their working partnership began with Satyajit Ray‘s ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari‘ where Shaikh had a small part and Siddiqi was the co-writer. “Farooque was rather uncomfortable having to wear that wide-bottomed pyjama, and he kept wondering whether he should hold its large waist with his hands or wear a belt. He was enacting the role of ‘nawabzadah’ so he also had the ‘angarkha’ and the ‘jootis’ to manage. But once he began performing, not a shred of discomfort was visible on his face. Farooque appeared every inch the royal descendant of seven generations of nawabs,” Siddiqi marvelled. “Aisa nasta’leeq, nafees aadmi jiski Urdu zabaan par zabardast pakad thi.”

Shaikh Sahab’s best known scene from ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari’ certainly made viewers smile, but the cast and crew of the film had doubled up with laughter during the shoot. Shaikh was playing the role of Aqeel, the clandestine lover of Farida Jalal, who is caught red-handed in her boudoir by her husband Saeed Jaffrey. Shaikh quickly dives under her bed but is discovered before he can hide and freezes in anxiety. A bewildered Jaffrey asks his wife in an audibly loud voice, “Yeh yahan kya kar rahe hain?” The quick-witted lady pretends that the king’s soldiers are hounding her lover and retorts, “Aahistah boliye!” A confounded Jaffrey then whispers, “Yeh yahan kya kar rahe hain?” clearly unable to fathom her ruse.

Each time Jaffrey lowered his voice to a whisper, Shaikh and Farida Jalal would collapse in helpless laughter and the scene had to be reshot. After several retakes, Shaikh requested Satyajit Ray if he could emerge from underneath. “I can’t laugh like this,” he exclaimed, sending the unit into another fit of giggles.

Siddiqi’s narration drew a fleeting smile from Shaikh Sahab’s daughter Sanaa who attended the memorial.

The writer’s thoughts veered towards their frequent visits to popular restaurants like Noor Mohammedi and Bade Miyan. “Farooque was such a good customer that everything he ordered would come — but dishes he had not ordered would also arrive,” he smiled. “Yet he remained firm on one principle. He did not drink alcohol and did not entertain any of us who wanted to do so either. We would have to pay for our own drinks. We would provoke him saying you have paid Rs 2,000 for food but will not pay Rs 200 for alcohol? But he refused.”

Their longest creative partnership remained ‘Tumhari Amrita‘, which was first staged on February 27, 1992 at Prithvi Theatre. “None of us ever thought this experimental play would last beyond six-odd shows. But as Farooque emerged after the inaugural show, he said to me, ‘Javed Sahab, this play has become a hit. Didn’t you see the tears rolling down Sathyu Sahab’s beard’?” Director M S Sathyu, who was among the dignitaries present at this tribute, smiled in remembrance.

On December 14, 2013, the curtains came down on ‘Tumhari Amrita’ in Agra — and none of them knew this would be the final call. “This is the first time a play was enacted inside the Taj Mahal. The greatest drama on love was being staged against the greatest monument to love. Farooque and Shabana performed the play in the pavilion as an audience of thousands sat mesmerised. Hundreds of people spilled into the corridors. Both actors received such a rousing reception after the performance that word soon reached me in Mumbai. I texted Farooque to say, ‘Huzoor, suna badi tareefein ho rahin hain?’ He replied, ‘Aapki potli alag baandhkar rakhi hai, aake doonga’. Ab woh potli kabhi nahin aayegi.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

Related posts

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: