National Award-winner Surekha Sikri dies at 75, film personalities remember the 'brilliant' actor

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New Delhi, Jul 16 (PTI) Veteran film and TV actor Surekha Sikri, known for her impressive performances in 'Mammo', 'Badhaai Ho' and popular TV show 'Balika Vadhu', died on Friday morning following a cardiac arrest, her agent said. Sikri was 75.

In a statement shared with the media, the agent said the actor was suffering from complications arising out of a second brain stroke.

'Three-time national award winning actress Surekha Sikri has passed away following a cardiac arrest earlier this morning at the age of 75. She had been suffering from complications arising from a second brain stroke,' the actor's agent Vivek Sidhwani said.

'She was surrounded by family and her caregivers. The family asks for privacy at this time. Om Sai Ram,' he added.

The actor's last rites took place at a crematorium in Santa Cruz.

Sikri had suffered her second brain stroke in September last year. Her first brain stroke was in 2018.

The wheelchair-bound actor had turned up to accept her best supporting actress National Film Award for 'Badhaai Ho' in 2019.

One of the most formidable actors of her generation, Sikri leaves behind a rich body of work spread across theatre, television and films though she became more popular for her roles in TV shows and movies in her later years. Mourning Sikri's death, her 'Badhaai Ho' co-star Neena Gupta said the actor was a great performer.

'I remember when I was a student in the National School of Drama and how we would sneak in and watch her act. I think I wanted to become an actress like her. This was many many years ago,” Gupta recalled.

Filmmaker Shyam Benegal remembered Sikri as a brilliant actor.

“I am very sorry to hear about her demise. She was an extremely successful actor in theatre and I had seen her plays in Delhi. She had given outstanding performance in three of my films. She was part of 'Mammo', 'Sardari Begum' and 'Zubeidaa'. She was such a brilliant actor that whatever role you gave her, she would own it,' Benegal told PTI.

Manoj Bajpayee called her one of the greatest talents and said it was a treat to watch Sikri perform on stage.

“Very Sad news!!! One of the greatest talents Surekha Sikari ji passed away leaving behind so many great performances in theatre and cinema!! She was a treat to watch on stage. Can’t forget some of those memories of her act in theatre. Great craft and a graceful person!! RIP,” he wrote.

Actor-director Pooja Bhatt said Sikri was a force of nature.

“She was a force of nature if ever there was one. Hence I won’t say rest in peace but RAGE in peace Surekhaji. As you did, during your time on earth!,” Bhatt said.

Best known to the contemporary audiences as 'Dadisa' from the popular Indian soap opera 'Balika Vadhu' and the cantankerous-yet-lovable mother-in-law from 'Badhaai Ho!', the Delhi-born actor spent her childhood days in the hills of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand.

She completed her graduation from the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Uttar Pradesh, and then enrolled for the National School of Drama (NSD) in 1968.

Post her graduation from the NSD in 1971, Sikri continued to work in theatre and was attached with the NSD Repertory Company for more than a decade, performing in hit productions such as 'Sandhya Chhaya', 'Tughlaq' and 'Adhe Adhure'.

With an aim to explore other avenues as an actor, Sikri shifted base to Mumbai in the late 1970s and made her debut in films with Amrit Nahata's 1978 political satire 'Kissa Kursi Ka' and followed it up with critically-acclaimed features 'Tamas' (1986) by Govind Nihalani, for which she won her first National Film Award, and Saeed Akhtar Mirza's 'Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro' in 1989. The same year she was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

Shyam Benegal's 1994 feature film 'Mammo', starring Farida Jalal in the lead and Sikri as her sister Fayyuzzi, further established Sikri as the go to person for significant supporting characters. The film, which depicts the tragedy of the Partition with its story of two sisters divided by geographical lines, earned Sikri her second National Film Award.

The director-actor duo further collaborated on 1996 musical 'Sardari Begum' and 2001's 'Zubeidaa'.

In cinema, Sikri worked with celebrated filmmakers like Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen and Mani Kaul among others in films such as 'Raincoat', 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer' and 'Nazar'.

The actor made her foray into television in the 1990s with 'Sanjha Chula' and went on to feature in popular shows like 'Kabhie Kabhie', 'Just Mohabbat', 'CID', 'Banegi Apni Baat' and 'Balika Vadhu'.

Her portrayal of strict matriarch Kalyani Devi Dharamveer Singh aka Dadisa in the show 'Balika Vadhu' made her a household name among the younger generation of film as well as television directors.

She played the part of 'Dadi' in other soap operas such as 'Pardes Mein Hai Mera Dil...' and 'Ek Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani...'.

Sikri's back-to-back impressive turns as the grandmother on TV, helped her land the 2018 feature 'Badhaai Ho'.

The film, starring Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao and Ayushmann Khurrana in lead roles, was one of the biggest hits of the year and brought Sikri her third National Film Award.

Sikri was last seen in Netflix's anthology 'Ghost Stories' (2020), in the story directed by Zoya Akhtar.

The actor was married to Hemant Rege till his death in 2009. She is survived by her son Rahul Sikri. PTI KKP SHD BK BK BK

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