A Sui Generis Actor Passes Away
Ebrahim Alkazi ,who created and crafted modern Indian theatre honed a fecund crop of first rate actors ,like Om Puri, Naseeruddin Saha and Surekha Sikri. Surekha passed out of NSD in 1971 and was a star attraction of NSD Reportory till 1981. It was a veritable cultural feast ,watching her perform with aplomb with Uttara Baokar and Manohar Singh in Mohan Rakesh’s iconic play Adhe Adhure in 1976, directed by Amal Allana. At the height of emergency ,she and Manohar Singh as protagonist , were part of an epic historical play ,Tughlaq ,written and directed by Girish Karnad ,which was staged at Purana Qila.
Alkazi, Amal Allana , Manohar Singh and Surekha were the cultural icons of my heady early days in Delhi,when theatre was the toast of the town.
Delhi’s loss was Bollywood’s gain as Shyam Benegal baptised her in to his movies ,beginning with Nammo (1994), as part of his triology on Muslims. Sardari Beghum and Zubeida followed ,and Surekha was luminous . Govind Nihalini,his ace photographer, roped her in to TV ,with the incandescent TV series Tamas, on pangs of partition . Understandably she stood out .Even in a silly tele serial like Ballika Badhu she sizzled as bitter sweet Dadisa. Badhai Ho (2018) was her real swan song . Tinctured with the malice of a mother in law, Neena Gupta’s quiet gravitas was an ideal foil to her scalding ribaldry.
You do not get many actors of the calibre of Om Puri , Manohar Singh or Surekha Sikri to straddle the stage or light up celluloid . All the three along with their mentor Alkazi are no more . Delhi of the 70s was the cultural cocktail, to be savoured to the dregs . With five decades of sterling performance (1971-2021) behind her , Surekha’s passing away has sapped the string of my long association with a sui generis actor. I am sure ,she will be a prima Donna/ Dadisha in heaven also!