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Everyman hero and ‘man of no ambition’

For GenX, he was Ranbir Kapoor’s father in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. For GenEx, he was the Everyman hero of Hindi cinema of the 1980s. For TV viewers he was the affable host of the celebrity chat show Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai. For theatre lovers, he was Zulfikar Haider of Tumhari Amrita, the Feroz Abbas Khan play.

Farooque Shaikh died late on Friday while on holiday in Dubai. He was 65 and is survived by wife Rupa Jain and daughters Shaista and Sanaa.

“My biggest regret that I never got to spend time with you, Faroukh sahib, as I had requested. Should have done it earlier. I feel so sorry,” Shah Rukh Khan wrote on Twitter today.

A theatre, film and television veteran for close to four decades, Shaikh made his screen debut as a frustrated young man in M.S. Sathyu’s poignant post-Partition tale Garam Hawa. His hard-hitting performance impressed Satyajit Ray enough to cast him as Aqueel in Shatranj Ke Khiladi.

He turned romantic hero two years later in the Yash Chopra production Noorie opposite Poonam Dhillon that scored for its songs. Umrao Jaan — in which he played Nawab Sultan to Rekha’s Amiran — and then Bazaar boosted his filmography.

It was with his films in the 1980s like Chashme Buddoor, Katha, Saath Saath and Rang Birangi that Shaikh gave Bollywood a new hero — the simple middle-class Indian man in love, a song on his lips and a heart of gold.

The most memorable of these was Sai Paranjpe’s Chashme Buddoor in which he played one of three friends wooing Deepti Naval’s Neha. His pairing with Deepti Naval again hit home in Saath Saath.

Actor Boman Irani tweeted that they were to shoot together today. “Farooq Sheikh passes away! Shocked, numbed and saddened. Was supposed to be shooting with him today. A gentleman actor is no more!” he wrote.

In his 40-year-career, Shaikh did only about 35 films. A self-confessed “man of no ambition”, he often said that his relatively thin filmography was because of him being a “lazy lump.”

In 2010, Shaikh won his only National Award for his powerful portrayal of an honest boxing coach in Lahore. His winner of a cameo in last year’s Shanghai added depth to the Dibakar Banerjee film. Earlier this year, he reunited with Deepti Naval in Listen Amaaya, the tale of an elderly couple finding love. In this year’s box-office biggie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, he played doting dad to Ranbir Kapoor. Shaikh’s last screen appearance was the December release Club 60.

His epitaph? “I have no great desire to be remembered after I am gone. I believe in celebrating life” — Farooque Shaikh.