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Revisiting Late Bollywood Actress Surekha Sikri’s Most Notable Performances

Recipient of several awards, the Indian actor made her movie debut in the 1978 film “Kissaa Kursee Kaa”. 

NEW DELHI — When National Award-winning actress Surekha Sikri passed away on July 16, 2021, India lost an actor who gave audiences some of the most nuanced and passionate performances throughout her career, spanning almost four decades.

Popularly known as “Dadisa” in Indian households after her well-crafted role in the television series “Balika Vadhu,” she was a film, theater, and television actor. 

Born on April 19, 1945, Sikri spent most of her childhood in Almora and Nainital in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, and in 1971 graduated from the National School of Drama, an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. There she worked with the National School of Drama Repertory Company for over a decade.

She made her movie debut with the 1978 political drama film “Kissaa Kursee Kaa.” She later went on to play supporting roles in numerous Hindi and Malayalam films, as well as in Indian soap operas.

Her work in the critically acclaimed 1989 release “Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro” and Govind Nihalani’s “Tamas” has been widely considered as her career’s best performances.

Some of her other well-appreciated films are “Zubeidaa,” “Mammo,” “Sardari Begum,” “Raincoat,” and “Mr. and Mrs. Iyer.” She has also acted in many television serials like “Banegi Apni Baat,” “Kesar,” “Saher,” “Samay,” among others.

The recipient of several awards, including three National Film Awards and a Filmfare Award, Sikri’s 2018 release “Badhaai Ho,” starring Ayushmann Khurrana, Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, and Sanya Malhotra, also received immense appreciation and recognition from the viewers and critics for her.

On her demise, Khurrana took to his Instagram and expressed his memories of Sikri.

“In every film we have a family, and we end up spending more time with the film family than our own families,” he said.

“One such beautiful family was in Badhaai Ho. Out of all my films, it was the perfect family with a perfect cast.”

“Surekha Sikri was the head of our family, who was more progressive than the entire family tree. You know what, that was her in real life too. A complete boho. A chiller. Young at heart.”

“An impeccable performer. A consummate artiste. A legend. You’ll be missed Surekha ma’am.”

“Thank you for the beautiful memories. #RIPSurekhaSikri

As the nation bids final farewell to the actor, let’s go down memory lane and commemorate the exemplary legacy of television and cinema left behind by Sikri.

She starred in the 1998 movie “Tamas,” based on Bhisham Sahni’s Sahitya Akademi award-winning novel of the same name and was set in Pakistan during India’s partition in 1947. The film’s plot focused on the difficulties faced by Sikh and Hindu exiles due to the partition. Sikri starred as Rajo, a role that earned her a National Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Directed by Shyam Benegal, the “Muslim trilogy” by the filmmaker began with “Mammo” (1994), followed by “Sardari Begum” (1996) and “Zubeidaa” (2001). Sikri portrayed the role of Fayyazi, a grandmother to a 13-year-old Riyaz. Fareeda Jalal plays a Pakistani woman who overcomes obstacles to reconcile with her family in India, including her sister (Sikri) and grandchild. The film got Sikri her second National Award.

She once again reprised her role as Fayyazi in “Zubeidaa” (2001), which also starred Karisma Kapoor, Rekha, and Manoj Bajpayee. The protagonist here is also named Riyaz (Rajit Kapoor), who yearns to understand his mother, whom he never met since his grandmother raised him.

Sikri’s portrayal of the family matriarch Kalyani Devi Singh, affectionately known as Dadisa in the television series “Balika Vadhu,” was arguably one of her most memorable performances. The show was a coming-of-age story set in rural Rajasthan about a child bride and her transition to womanhood. Sikri won the Indian Telly Award for Best Actress in a Negative Role in 2008 for her performance in the show.

Jumping back to the silver screen, Sikri’s performance in Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s “Badhaai Ho” propelled her into a social media sensation practically overnight. For the film, she reprised her role as a domineering matriarch. The film got Sikri her third National Award.

The actor, whose last screen appearance was in the Netflix anthology “Ghost Stories” (2020), died on July 16 morning at 75 following a cardiac arrest.

While her demise has left the entire entertainment industry in a state of shock, her place will always feel like a void that will never be filled again.

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Ojaswin Kathuria and Nikita Nikhil)