The veteran 65-year-old actor was a key member of the parallel cinema movement of the 1970s.
Legendary Bollywood actor of 40 years, Farooq Sheikh, was already dead by the time he arrived at Dubai’s Rashid Hospital in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The veteran 65-year-old actor, who was a key member of the parallel cinema movement of the 1970s, had complained to companions of pains before they rushed him to the hospital, where they arrived at 1.52am, according to a Rashid Hospital source.
However, a doctor declared him dead on arrival and the hospital transferred his body to the Dubai Police General Department of Forensic Evidence, where it remains.
While it has been widely reported he died of a heart attack, neither sources at Rashid Hospital or Dubai Police confirmed this. The forensic department, which was shut on Saturday, will conduct medical investigations on his body today to determine the cause of death.
Sources in Bollywood said that the actor was in Dubai on a holiday along with his family members. On December 13 he had also hosted the I’m Asha show at the Dubai World Trade Centre, where Bollywood singer Asha Bhosle regaled the audience with anecdotes and stories from her career.
Farooq is survived by his wife Rupa and daughters Shaista and Sanaa. Born on March 25, 1948, in a village near Vadodara in Gujarat, he was the eldest of five children. His father was a lawyer in Bombay and Farooq too did his law.
However, in college he got involved with theatre and gave up his law career. Farooq’s big break came in 1973, when director M.S. Sathyu selected him for his film Garm Hawa. Filmmaker Satyajit Ray then cast him in his ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’ in 1977.
Farooq was part of the vibrant parallel cinema movement of the 1970s along with Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Smita Patil and Deepti Naval.
One of his most memorable roles was in Umrao Jaan, where he was cast as Nawab Sultan, charmed by the courtesan (Rekha). His recent films include Saas Bahu Aur Sensex, Tell Me O Khuda, Lahore, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (where he is cast as Ranbir Kapoor’s father) and Club 60, which was released recently.
While Farooq kept away from mainstream commercial cinema, he was active in art cinema, where actors were paid a pittance. For his role in Garm Hawa he was paid Rs750 over a period of five years.
He also hosted a talk show, Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai, featuring interviews with Bollywood celebrities and politicians. He also appeared in a few television serials.
Passionate about his art, the unassuming actor — dressed casually in kurtas and pyjamas — was also one of the most accessible Bollywood personalities.
Many big name Indian movie stars have taken to Twitter to share their shock at the untimely passing.
Boman Irani wrote: “Farooq Sheikh passes away! Shocked, numbed and saddened. Was supposed to be shooting with him today.
A gentleman actor is no more!”.
Amitabh Bachchan wrote of his gentlemanly manner.
“Farooq Sheikh !! Cannot believe he has gone. There was an absence of any kind of pretence in his demeanour, or towards his work !!”
Shah Rukh Khan lamented the fact he had not spent time with the actor.
“My biggest regret that I never got to spend time with you, Farouq sahib, as I had requested. Should have done it earlier. I feel so sorry.”
Meanwhile, close to home Dubai fans were also mourning the loss.
Film maker Zaalim Dilli, 24, said she was “greatly saddened by the sudden demise of such a gentle and effortless actor”.
“For those of my age, we unfortunately might have not enjoyed every performance but were lucky enough to catch him in films like Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. He will always remain in our hearts forever and ever.”