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As tributes pour in on Surekha Sikri’s demise listen to her Swan Songs

Veteran actor Surekha Sikri passed away this morning, Friday the 16th July 2021, following a cardiac arrest, her agent, Vivek Sidhwani informed. In a statement shared with the media, the agent said the actor had been suffering from complications arising from a second brain stroke. She was with her family and her caregivers who requested privacy at this time.

Surekha Sikri (19 April 1945 – 16 July 2021) was an Indian theatre, film and television actress. A veteran of Hindi theatre, she made her debut in the 1978 political drama film Kissa Kursi Ka and went on to play supporting roles in numerous Hindi and Malayalam films, as well as in Indian soap operas. Sikri has received several awards, including three National Film Awards and a Filmfare Award.

Sikri won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress thrice, for her roles in Tamas (1988), Mammo (1995) and Badhaai Ho (2018). She was awarded the Indian Telly Award for Best Actress in a Negative Role in 2008 for her work in the primetime soap opera Balika Vadhu and won the Indian Telly Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the same show in 2011. In addition, she won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1989 for her contributions towards Hindi theater. Her last release Badhaai Ho (2018) got her immense recognition and appreciation from viewers and critics. She won three awards: the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film.

As a fitting tribute to the great performer she was we will listen to her mellifluous recitations of Hindi and Urdu Poetry. But before that, here are some of the tributes which poured in on social media and otherwise from her millions of admirers, and eminent people whom she knew, including actors and directors from film, television and theatre.

Ashish Abrol, Income Tax Commisioner, laments: “Surekha Sikri or Surekha di as we called her passed away today morning. I cannot get myself to accept that she is no more. I came to know her in 1985 when she was a faculty member in NSD and came completely under her thrall as she became a mentor, teacher, older sister and a maternal figure for me. Her panache, idiosyncrasies, brilliance as an actor and her erudition… often when her silences taught you more than lectures of so many others. Her love for chaat and the occasional joint… later of course she could not eat much courtesy the intestine problems. She was perhaps the greatest theatre actor ever in modern India; some one who could emote and yet be aware of her own performance as if standing out of her body observing herself perform. More than that she was always overflowing with warmth that traveled to you through her twinkling often mischievous eyes. She was so thrilled when her son Rahul had an exhibition in The Habitat Centre …I was not in touch with her for some time more since her paralysis and with her inability to speak. A triple national award winner; Surekha ji was known to the country at large courtesy her TV and film roles…in Tamas, as Dadisa, in Mammoo but it is her oeuvre in theatre that is stunning; she owned the stage, set it on fire and then doused the flames with her voice and gentleness. RIP Surekha di my mother in another life you live on in your performances and our memories”

“She was one of my personal favourites .. a lovely actress .. will never forget her Nsd work when I was in college in delhi .. god bless her” – Lillet Dubey

“There is a total immersion in life…have deeply admired her work, her persona from the Nsd days, so fully engaged in enjoying everything that came her way intensely” – Amba Sanyal

“Surekha my dear dear friend! We were in the same batch! A consummate actress,very strong woman , determined and brave! ! Never let go of her beliefs and strong options! I shall miss her dearly” – Amal Allana

“Very very sad news. We have lost another great actress. Surekha Sikri left for her heavenly abode. Heartfelt condolences to her family. May God rest her soul in peace” – Satish Anand

“Another great loss to theatre and films. She was a great actor and inspiration to all her juniors at NSD. Will never forget her superb performances. Rest in peace Surekhaji” – Anila Singh Khosla

“Deeply saddened – was always uplifted by her rendering of Faiz’s poem- may she rest in eternal peace” –Salima Hashmi

“Shocking news. She was one of the few who defined theatre for us in our youth. What a great loss for all of us” – Rajiv Bhargav

“Last of the greatest products of NSD..and loved and respected hugely for her talent and principles. Will be sorely missed” – Dolly Thakore

Tail Piece: Surekha Sikri was very fond of poetry. Listen to her reciting poetry by Faiz, Raghuvir Sahay & Sarveshvar




Theatre Legend Ebrahim Alkazi Passes away / Manohar Khushalani

Ebrahim Alkazi

Theatre doyen and legendary Pedagog Ebrahim Alkazi, who shaped proscenium theatre in India, died peacefully on Tuesday afternoon after suffering a heart attack, his son, Feisal Alkazi, informed us. Feisal told me the whole family was proud of his fathers humongous achievements. A career spanning 74 active years he passed away at 94.

The funeral will take place tomorrow at Jamia Milia VIP Grave Yard. But outsiders have been politely told to stay away, for their own safety, away due to the prevailing pandemic. The entire family comprising among others Feisal Alkazi, Radhika Alkazi, Amal Allana, Nissar Allana were present in Delhi.

Mr. Alkazi, has been the longest serving director of the National School of Drama, produced plays such as Girish Karnad’s “Tughlaq”, Mohan Rakesh’s “Aadhe Adhure” and Dharamvir Bharati’s “Andha Yug”. He mentored generations of actors, including Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri. M.K. Raina, Bhanu Bharti, Sonu Krishen, Manohar Singh, Surekha Sikri, Uttara Baokar, Dolly Ahluwalia, Ram Gopal Bajaj, the list is endless.

According to Wikipedia, He was born in Pune, Mahrashtra, Alkazi was the son of a wealthy Saudi Arabian business man trading in India and a  Kuwaiti mother.[8] He was one of nine siblings. In 1947, the rest of his family migrated to Pakistan while Alkazi stayed back in India.[9] Educated in Arabic, English, Marathi & Gujarati Alkazi was schooled in St. Vincent’s High School in Pune and later St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. While he was a student at St Xavier’s, he joined Sultan “Bobby” Padamsee’s English theatre company, Theatre Group. Thereafter he trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London in 1947.[7] There he was offered career opportunities in London after being honored by both the English Drama League and the British Broadcasting Corporation, however, he turned the offers down in favor of returning home to rejoin the Theatre Group, which he ran from 1950 to 1954.[3]

Early on in his career he got associated with the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, which included M.F.Husain, F.N.Souza, S.H.Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta, artists who were later to paint from his plays and design his sets.[7] In addition to his directing, he founded the Theatre Unit Bulletin in 1953 which was published monthly and reported on theatre events around India. Afterwards, he established the School of Dramatic Arts and became the principal of Bombay’s Natya Academy.[3]

As the director of the Nationa School of Drama Alkazi revolutionised Hindi theatre by the magnificence of his vision, and the meticulousness of his technical discipline. Here he was associated with training many well-known film and theatre actors and directors. While there he created the Repertory Company in 1964 and directed their productions until he left.

He also founded Art Heritage Gallery in Delhi with his wife, Roshan Alkazi.

Alkazi won many of India’s most prestigious awards, creating an awareness of theater’s sensibility and successfully mixed modern expression with Indian tradition.[3]

He was the first recipient of Roopwedh Pratishtan’s the Tanvir Award (2004) for lifetime contribution to the theatre.[11] He has received awards including the Padma Shri (1966), the Padma Bhushan (1991), and India’s second highest civilian award the Padma Vibhushan in 2010.[12]

He has also been awarded twice by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Direction in 1962, and later the Akademi‘s highest award the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for lifetime contribution to theatre.