Farooq Sheikh was one of the reputed and talented actors in Bollywood during his times. Apart from being a great actor, Farooq was also a television presenter and a philanthropist. He is remembered for his contribution to Indian cinema from 1977 to 1989. He also worked on television from 1988 to 2002. However, he came back to acting in movies from the year 2008 and continued to do so till his death in the year 2013. Sheikh’s primary contribution was in the New Indian Cinema or Parallel Cinema. During his acting career, Farooq has worked with some of the biggest directors of all times such as Satyajit Ray, Sai Paranjpe, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Ketan Mehta, and Muzaffar Ali.
Farooq Sheikh was born on the 25th of March, 1948 in a small village called Amroli in Vadodara, Gujarat. His father was Mustafa Sheikh and his mother was Farida. Mustafa was a lawyer by profession and was settled in Mumbai. Sheikh’s family were Zamindars, which allowed his to grow up in a luxurious surrounding. Farooq was the eldest of the 5 children and he grew up in Nagpada, Mumbai.
Sheikh started his school education from St. Mary’s School in Mumbai and later finished his school education from St. Xavier’s College. He also studied law at Siddharth College of Law in Mumbai. Since his father was a successful lawyer, this prompted Farooq to take up the same profession. However, destiny had other plans for him. He could not relate to his father’s profession for long and finally took to acting.
During the early part of his acting career, Farooq was rather active in theatres and did a lot of plays with IPTA and with several popular directors such as Sagar Sarhadi. In the year 1973, while Farooq was in the final year of his law college, he was approached by MS Sathyu for his movie Garam Hawa, which was also his directorial debut. Garam Hawa was also the first movie for Farooq in which he did a major role of a supporting actor. The lead actor in the movie was Balraj Sahni. His remuneration for mere INR 750 for the movie.
Farooq gained recognition as a quiz master on the radio. However, his participation in various Bombay Doordarshan shows, including Young World and Yuvadarshan, made him a household name. He worked in the movie Gaman that released in the year 1978. He did the role of a migrant Bombay taxi driver in Gaman, who hailed from Badaun in Uttar Pradesh and always dreamt of returning home to meet his beloved wife. However, he fails to save enough money to help him return home.
Farooq has worked in several reputed movies made by some of the best directors Bollywood has ever seen. Some of his movies include Shatranj Ke Khiladi in the year 1977, Noorie in the year 1979, Chashme Baddoor in the year 1981, Umrao Jaan in the year 1981, Bazaar in the year 1982, Saath Saath in the year 1982, Rang Birangi in the year 1983, Kissi Se Na Kehna in the year 1983, Ek Baar Chale Aao in the year 1983, Katha in the year 1983, Ab Ayega Mazaa in the year 1984, Salma in the year 1985, Peecha KAro in the year 1986, Biwi Ho To Aisi in the year 1988, and Maya Memsaab in the year 1993.
Farooq was often paired with Shabana Azmi in movies including Lorie, Ek Pal and Anjuman. He also had a great chemistry with Deepti Naval and together they worked in several movies such as Chashme Baddoor, Katha, Saath Saath, Kissi Se Na Kehna, Rang Birangi, Tell Me Oh Khuda, Ek Baar Chale Aao, Listen…Amaya, and Faasle.
During an interview with the Times of India in the year 2002, Farooq revealed that he has never been commercially viable. People would simply recognize him, give an occasional smile and wave at him. However, he has never received any marriage proposals written in blood. During the peak of Rajesh Khanna’s career, the traffic would stop if he drove down a street. He went on to reveal that he would never mind this type of respect and adulation. Nonetheless, he does miss not having been successful in commanding the type of work that he wanted just like Khanna.
During the decade of 1990s, Sheikh worked in a very few movies. However, he did make a comeback to movies from the year 2000. He worked in some notable movies during his second innings in Bollywood. He worked in Saas Bahu Aur Sensex in the year 2008 and Lahore in the year 2009, for which he also received the National Film Award in the year 2010 in the Best Support Actor category. He also worked as Ranbir Kapoor father in the movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani in the year 2013. His last movie was Club 60 that released in the year 2013. Club 60 was the last movie to get released before his demise. Children of War and Youngistan are 2 other movies in which he had worked and that released after his death.
During the late 1990s, Farooq appeared in a number of television programs. He played the role of freedom fighter and poet Hasrat Mohani in an episode of the series Kahkashan that released in the year 1988. The role of his wife was played by Deepti Naval. The other shows in which he worked during that time were Shrikant, Aahaa, Chamatkar, and Ji Mantriji.
Farooq Sheikh died at the age of 65 years of heart attack on the 28th of December, 2013. He died in Dubai where he had gone with his family on a holiday. His funeral prayers were held in Mumbai at the Millat Nagar Andheri Mosque on the 30th of December, 2013. His funeral prayers were attended by many from the Bollywood industry including Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar. He was later buried in Muslim Qabristan, Four Bungalows, Andheri West. Farooq Sheikh’s grave is right next to his mother grave.