Farooq Shaikh, of things all sunny


SOME faces wear Light. Like the sunshine, sunflowers, and those trees winking to the sun. Some faces wear Feathers. While the years thunder down, they turn softer. Such faces also wear Silence. As life tosses them lessons, they speak less, listen more. So while you run into chaotic rhetoric asking them analysis and perspectives, lines on their foreheads gather and you can almost hear them sigh: “Why are you in such chaos? Why don’t you see? It’s really so simple. Simplify yourself. Simplify it all”.

Farooq Shaikh had that kind of face. And if I’ve been a loyal tracker, he increasingly had that kind of face… Deepti Naval, his close friend and co-actor, confirms it: “Bade suljhe huye insaan the… And while filming our last film together, Listen Amaya, I noticed he’d turned ever more caring, seeing me through a spell of strange health. And yes he was as winsome as ever. Whichever space he entered, he’d leave a whiff of that charm… It was tough to not be affected”. Deepti had met Farooq in 1978, running into him at DD Mumbai studios and soon, he played out his part — recommending her for Ek Baar Phir. Much before the two turned a favourite romantic couple of our student years, spent drunk on ghazals and frothiness of Chashme Baddoor, Katha, Saath Saath, Rang Birangi… And for Deepti, from all those years of leg-pulling and shared passions, Farooq remained a rare man who never sought space under the spotlight.

Maybe, because he carried a bit of the sun with him.

I too remember warming under that sun… I still recall the crispness of his white kurta-pyjama… Under closed eyes, I can feel that fabric rustling to his touch, while sunlight filtered into the UT Guest House, Chandigarh, last to last year. The white of his kurta lent me just the metaphor for the uncomplicated ease the man carried. During the conversation I extracted out of him a few hours before he delivered Tumhaari Amrita, I noticed his impatience for the irrelevant, the banal and anything that took away from the ‘present’. Because this man, of the boyish mane that belonged to his forehead and eyes that belonged to a romantic poet, was always the quiet kinds we could run into at a university’s Urdu department or maybe if there were a department of ‘the Lightness of Being’. Even decades since Garam Hawa, or Noorie or Umrao Jaan or Bazaar, that melting beam of his eyes spoke. And when he himself spoke, wit sat so easy on his words.

And you were amazed at how he wouldn’t get trapped in praise or adulation. And that’s exactly why — this man who never really turned the hero Hindi cinema stoops to serve, of loud arrogance and false machismo — is so not easy to forget. To me, when I hear the chords of Pyaar mujhse jo kiya tumne or Phir chidi raat, I can see a young man, carrying no weight in his feet, strolling along a university corridor, books in hands, eyes into a distance and a smile that decorates all of that ease.

A ghazal begins to dangle from the breeze, and I can fall in love, yet again. With Light. Feathers. And Silence… And the face that wore all these. And in that moment, Farooq Shaikh lives in the softest corners of my insides.

I know those corners would be sunlit. Always.

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