Sikri, who had a stellar career spanning more than five decades, died of cardiac arrest on Friday. She was 75. The three-time national award winner had been unwell for a couple of years.
A PETITE frame, bright eyes and a voice that could give goose bumps made actor Surekha Sikri the favourite on-screen grandmother for many millennials and Gen-Zers. Her rendition of Dadisa in the TV show Balika Vadhu (2008-2016) and later as Amma in Badhaai Ho (2018), reminded many youngsters of their own matriarchs back home.
Sikri, who had a stellar career spanning more than five decades, died of cardiac arrest on Friday. She was 75. The three-time national award winner had been unwell for a couple of years. She suffered an aneurysm in 2018, which left her partially paralysed, and confined to bed for almost a year. Slowly and steadily, she had started working again.
Sikri hated being confined to bed. “I understand it’s necessary, but I miss the action, the noise, the bustle of a shoot. I thrive on it,” she had told The Indian Express in an earlier interview.
An alumna of National School of Drama (NSD), Sikri was known to bring a certain quirk, a flair to the characters she essayed. She had a strong literary grounding — her mother was a teacher in Abdullah College, Aligarh Muslim University — and she had mounted a play by George Bernard Shaw in her college.
Sikri had attributed her love for theatre and acting prowess to her time spent at the NSD in the 1960s, under the tutelage of Ebrahim Elkazi. She later joined the NSD repertory and was a permanent fixture on the Delhi theatre circuit for almost a decade.
She then moved to Mumbai in the 1980s, with the dream of writing a film. The film never materialised, but Sikri cemented herself as a dependable character actor.
Her filmography included many milestone titles, films that shaped the way people look at independent Hindi cinema. Her roles in Tamas (1986), Mammo (1995) and Badhaai Ho (2018) earned her the National Award for Best Supporting Actress three times. Her other notable films included Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989), Sardari Begum (1996) and Zubeidaa (2001).
“She was one of the finest actors of her generation, with a unique capacity to bring alive detail and transform a character in your mind. I especially remember seeing her in Look Back in Anger and felt that she melted in front of our eyes. I had never seen such a performance before and went to see it many times,” says Anuradha Kapur, former director, NSD.
Sikri became a household name in the 2000s, with the TV show Balika Vadhu, in which she played Dadisa, a matriarch who ruled her family with an iron fist. “Dadisa is all me. I am like her. The writers had written a typical evil, sarcastic mother-in-law, which was in vogue in the early 2000s. I changed it. I made her real,” Sikri had said.
“The memories of her relentless dedication for her craft and child-like enthusiasm will always remain with me,” says actor Gajraj Rao, who played her son in Badhaai Ho. Sikri’s last cinematic outing was in the Ghost Stories (2020) anthology, in the part directed by Zoya Akhtar.
With inputs from Dipanita Nath
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