Surekha Sikri passes away at 75

A Supporting Actress: Fundamentally and metaphorically

Cinema

July 16, 2021

/ By / Kolkata

Surekha Sikri passes away at 75

She gave one of her best performances in the film Badhaai Ho in 2018 for which she won National Award

The lonely persistence against the walls of convention and conformity of a supporting actress comes to an end. Surekha Sikri [1945-2021] passes away following a massive cardiac arrest in Mumbai, today. She was 75.

Surekha Sikri won the National Awards for the Best Supporting Actress thrice, more than anyone in the country. The first one was Tamas (1986), the second one Mammo (1994), and then the third one Badhaai Ho (2018). However, despite the unparalleled feat, the staggering number of films in this long career of 43 years shows how difficult it was for her to find acceptance.

Sikri, who died in a hospital in Mumbai earlier today, had reportedly, she was admitted with multi-organ complications which include cerebrovascular accident, atrial fibrillation and heart disease. She was previously admitted to the hospital back in September 2020 after suffering a brain stroke. This was the second time she suffered a brain stroke after 2018 when she met with an accident while shooting for a television show in Mahabaleshwar.

Stage to screen – An actress par excellence

Versatile is a metaphor for the long body of Surekha Sikri’s work and the multiple shades of characters she portrayed on stage, on the silver screen and on the television. She was  not just a face known to all quintessential Indian households, but a lovable and respectable image that embodies a pure passion for the craft. Sikri’s career started in the ’70s after passing out from the National School of Drama in 1971 and being an active part of the theatre circuit working for the NSD Repertory Company. After doing Meera in Kissaa Kursee Kaa in 1978, she worked for a British Television Drama, Silvio Narizzano’s Staying On where she played Susy Williams. Her latest works include Zoya Akhtar’s segment in the Netflix anthology series, Ghost Stories which came out last year. She also gave one of her best performances in the film Badhaai Ho in 2018 for which she won the National Award.

The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) in a tweet has paid tribute to Sikri calling her an actor par excellence. She has been an integral part of some of the most significant productions of NFDC such as Mammo, Naseem, Nazar, Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, Raghu Romeo and Mr and Mrs Iyer.

Besides NFDC, many of Sikri’s colleagues from television have also shared their personal experiences with the actress of long standing. Most of them talk about her warmth as a person and her commitment as an actor on the sets. She was known for her disciplines on set and how she would be the last person to allow any kind of sloppy performance by her co-actors. Her early television career includes titles such as Bharat Ek Khoj (1989). She is, however, most popular for her character ‘Dadisa’ in tele-serial Balika Vadhu.

Fellow actor Anupam Kher expressed his fondness for Sikri mentioning her as his senior in the National School of Drama. He shared in a tweet how the actress par excellence was the queen of Delhi theatres and he will never forget her play Look Back in Anger. Surekha Sikri has been a masterclass of acting on stage and on screen for many and the condolences pouring in are the testimony of the rich body of her work.

In one of her latest interviews, she ranked the recognition for Mammo over Tamas, however, she hardly complained about the opportunities she never got despite such a promising beginning to her career.

Surekha Sikri also won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1989.

Mother to a grandmother

Fondly referred to as Dadisa or the grandmother of the television industry, Sikri took her skill to a different level to reach the hearts of millions with her portrayal of the grandmother. The sheer compassion she brought to the role of a mother who is now a grandmother is beyond comparison. Her comic timings, the reserved love with the perfect blend of the archetypal mother showed in Indian cinema, she infused art of acting with popular melodrama to connect and entertain audiences for years across formats. She was the epitome of strict and loving grandmothers that we have all grown up with.

Sikri had a very familiar way of looking at people. In lighter moments, her colleagues would say she was lovingly critical. However, her eyes and her distinctive look will continue to have a calming yet piercing effect on us as the veteran thespian rests in peace.

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