Farooq Sheikh (25 March 1948 − 27 December 2013) was an Indian actor, philanthropist and a popular television presenter. He was best known for his work in Hindi films from 1977 to 1989 and for his work in television between 1988 and 2002. He returned to acting in films in 2008 and continued to do so until his death on 27 December 2013. His major contribution was in Parallel Cinema or the New Indian Cinema. He worked with directors like Satyajit Ray, Muzaffar Ali, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Ketan Mehta.
He acted in serials and shows on television and performed on stage in famous productions such as Tumhari Amrita (1992), alongside Shabana Azmi, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, and presented the TV show, Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai (Season 1). He won the 2010 National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for Lahore
Shaikh was born in Amroli, Surat District, Gujarat in 1948 to Muslim father Mustafa Shaikh and Parsi Mother Farida. His father Mustafa Shaikh was a lawyer from Mumbai; whilst his original ancestral heritage was Hansot village (Bharuch district, Gujarat). His family were Zamindars, and he grew up in luxurious surroundings. He was the eldest of five children
He went to St. Mary’s School, Mumbai, and then to St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. He studied law at Siddharth College of Law, Mumbai. His father had a successful law practice, which prompted Shaikh to take up law initially. Shaikh came to acting after failing to relate to his profession in law. He met Roopa during his college days when they were active in theatre and later the couple got married. He was contemprory of Sunil Gavaskar during his college days at St. Xaviers.Shaikh’s wife Roopa was his junior at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai, and actor Shabana Azmi her classmate. He has three daughters, Sanaa, Shaaista and Rubina Sheikh. His younger daughter Sanaa works with the NGO Aseema in Bandra
In his early days, he was active in theatre, doing plays with IPTA and with well-known directors like Sagar Sarhadi. In 1973, while Farooq was in final year of law school, MS Satyu approached him for Satyu’s directorial debut Garam Hawa. His first major film role was in the 1973 film Garam Hawa where Farooq had a supporting role and leading man was Balraj Sahni. The film is credited for being a pioneer of a new wave of Hindi Art cinema. His salary for his debut film was only Rupees 750. He first gained popular recognition as a quiz master on radio, but it was his participation, as an anchor on Bombay Doordarshan shows such as Yuvadarshan and Young World that made him a household name. Sheikh in Gaman (1978) acted as the migrant Bombay taxi driver from Badaun in Uttar Pradesh dreaming about returning home to meet his wife, but never saves up enough to return home.He went on to act in several notable films such as Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi (Chess Players) (1977), Noorie (1979), Chashme Buddoor (1981), Umrao Jaan, Bazaar, Saath Saath, Rang Birangi, Kissi Se Na Kehna (1983) and Biwi Ho To Aisi(1988). He formed a successful pair with Deepti Naval. He also did a slightly negative role in Katha. However his films between 1985 and 1997 were not successful at the box office beginning with Yash Chopra’s Faasle in 1985.
He was paired opposite Shabana Azmi in Sagar Sarhadi’s ‘Lorie’, Kalpana Lajmi’s ‘Ek Pal’ and Muzaffar Ali’s Anjuman (1986) and then in the play Tumhari Amrita. His onscreen pair with Deepti Naval was very popular with audiences and they worked as pair in 7 films like Chashme Badoor, Katha, Saath Saath, Kisise Na Kehna, Rang Birangi, Tell Me Oh Khuda and Listen… Amaya.
In 2002, in an interview to Times of India he quoted “I have never been commercially viable: People recognise me, smile and wave at me — but I have never received marriage proposals written in blood. In his heyday, when Rajesh Khanna drove down a street, the traffic stopped — I don’t mind not receiving this kind of adulation. But I do miss not having been able to command the kind of work I wanted. I miss not being 100 per cent commercially viable.”
In the 1990s he acted in fewer films and made his last few film appearance in Saas Bahu Aur Sensex (2008) and Lahore (2009), for which he won the 2010 National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor. His last film as the leading man was Club 60 (2013). Realbollywood.com said on his performance in the film, “As a grieving father who won’t allow his loss to be forgotten, he hits all the right notes treading that thin line between the melancholy and maudlin with majestic grace.”
In the late 90s, Farooq Sheikh acted in a number of television serials.Played Hasrat Mohani in “Kahkashan -Hasrat Mohani” a biopic on the Great Poet and freedom fighter Hasrat Mohani in 1988 with his onscreen Pair Deepti Naval Playing his wife Chamatkar on Sony and Ji Mantriji on Star plus are among the few. He also worked in a TV serial Shrikant which aired from 1985 to 1986. He compered in the Binny Double or Quits Quiz contest which was telecast over Vividh Bharathi. He also performed on stage in famous plays such as Tumhari Amrita directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, featuring Shabana Azmi. The play was appreciated by audiences the world over for 12 years till 2004. A sequel to this play was staged in India in 2004 titled “Aapki Soniya” with Farooq Sheikh and Sonali Bendre as main leads.”Tumhari Amrita” completed its 20-year run on 26 February 2012He directed Azhar Ka Khwab, an adaptation of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion in 2004.
He had been the host of the popular TV show Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai in which he interviewed many Bollywood celebrities. His sense of humor and direct humble approach was the USP of the show.
Farooq Sheikh died of a heart attack on 27 December 2013 in Dubai, where he was on holiday with his family. His funeral prayers, held in Mumbai at Millat Nagar Mosque on 30 December 2013 in the evening, were attended by many personalities, including Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi. He was buried in Muslim Qabristan, Four Bungalows, Andheri West. His grave is next to his mother’s grave