Mumbai: Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, Neena Gupta, and Manoj Bajpayee among others on Friday paid tributes to three-time National Award-winning actor Surekha Sikri and remembered her as one of the greatest talents of the entertainment industry.
Sikri, known for her nuanced performance in Tamas, Mammo, Badhaai Ho, died following a cardiac arrest at a hospital in suburban Mumbai this morning. She was 75.
Benegal, who has worked with Sikri in Mammo, Sardari Begum, and Zubeidaa, said it was a delight to see Sikri perform.
For the 1994 feature film Mammo, also starring Farida Jalal, Sikri was awarded the National Film Award.
“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 and that’s how I was introduced to her work. She gave an outstanding performance in three of my films”.
“She was such a brilliant actor that whatever role you gave her she would own it. She played both sympathetic and non-sympathetic roles with elan. She was a top-class, highly competent actor,” Benegal told PTI.
The critically-acclaimed filmmaker said Sikri was a director’s actor and a disciplined artiste.
One of the things about theatre actors is that they are disciplined and she was also a very disciplined person. She would come on sets absolutely prepared. She never wasted her time or her. She was a director’s actor. She was a huge asset on any film, he added.
Off-camera, Benegal said she was a “quiet person”.
Gupta, who played daughter-in-law to a Sikri’s character in 2018 sleeper hit Badhaai Ho, said she is deeply saddened by the veteran actor’s demise.
“Today morning I got this very sad news that Surekha Sikri is no more. I want to share my grief with you all. I feel so sad that she is no more”, Gupta said in a video message on Instagram.
Gupta, 62, recalled being enamored by Sikri’s performance during her days in the National School of Drama (NSD).
“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 want to become an actress like her. This was many many years ago”, she said.
Prior to “Badhaai Ho”, Sikri and Gupta had worked on the TV show Saat Phere – Saloni Ka Safar. Gupta said she learned a lot by just watching the veteran actor.
“I would just keep watching her when she would do her scenes. And there was so much I learned (observing her) and there was so much more to learn as well. What commitment she had”, she said adding that Sikri kept giving her cues till she got a perfect shot.
The film, also starring Ayushmann Khurrana, Gajraj Rao, and Sanya Malhotra, had Sikri winning her third National Film Award for best-supporting actress.
Bajpayee, her co-tar from “Zubeidaa”, remembered her as a “graceful person” who gave her 100 percent to the craft of acting.
“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.
Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar, Janhvi Kapoor, and Vijay Varma, who worked with Sikri on her last project “Ghost Stories”, paid homage to the actor on Instagram.
“It was an honor to work with you,” Akhtar said.
Kapoor wrote, “Surekha Mam, a true legend. RIP.”
“What a force of nature she was. A true artist. A big loss to cinema. Heartbroken,” Varma said.
Actor-producer Pooja Bhatt said she 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!” she tweeted.
Actor Dia Mirza said Sikri was an artist par excellence who inspired generations of performers and will continue to do so.
“There is no one like her. Absolutely no one. What an extraordinary woman. An artist par excellence. Those eyes and that smile. Her craft will inspire generations of performers. Was lucky to have the chance to witness her magic in person #RIPSurekhaSikri”, she said in a tweet.
Filmmaker Anubhav Sinha wrote Surekha Sikri is no more. Now, no magic will happen.”
TV actor Shashank Vyas, who worked alongside Sikri in the TV show “Balika Vadhu”, said she was full of “life and positivity”.
“She was an institution herself. She was a legend a natural actress. She was full of life and positivity. She lived life on her own terms and had a sense of humour.
“I learnt a lot from her in those five years. We both shared an extremely close bond,” Vyas told PTI.
Actors Sushant Singh, Randeep Hooda also paid homage to Sikri on social media.