(Amit Sharma is the director of the film “Badhaai Ho” that was released in 2018. Late Surekha Sikri played a pivotal part in the film and bagged a National Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film. Sharma shares his best memory of the late actress)
BY AMIT SHARMA
It was my good luck that I had a chance to work with a veteran actress like Surekha Sikri ji. There was a very crucial scene in the last leg of the film in which ‘Dadi’ (played by Sikri) defends her daughter-in-law, played by Neena Gupta.
I was very sorted in my mind from the beginning that whoever would play Dadi, has to get that scene right. So, I had a word with Surekha ji and told her about the reading of that scene. We went through the reading twice but she said she would take a little more time because she wanted to ‘prepare’.
Cut to, Surekha ji comes to our office with the final reading of that scene and she says she is ready. She sat across the table and started reading the scene. By the time she ended, I had goosebumps and teary eyes. Everyone in my office had silently gathered just to watch her read that scene and we were all left in tears.
That was Surekha Sikri ji for me. What was most fascinating about her was her dedication. It is only natural that when you are working on something for years, you tend to go easy or feel relaxed with your work. We all have that attitude that ‘haan ye to roz ka kaam hai, kar lenge (this is everyday fare, will manage)’. Never have I ever seen that attitude in Surekha ji.
She would come prepared with lines, action and everything about each scene. I tend to take more takes for a scene as I tend to experiment in my shot-taking as a filmmaker. I have never seen her asking me for a break or refusing to give so many takes. She was always enthusiastic to do more. After the shot, she would say, ‘dude, have you got your short!’ and laugh!
Surekha ji was a combination of excellence, highly professional, disciplined yet very effortless and easy-going to be around. I loved her and she, I think, also liked working with me because she told me once, ‘kaafi time ke baad, aaj kaam karke mazaa aa raha hai (feels good to work after a long time)’. I wish I had more opportunities to work with her. Surekha ji, you will remain someone very, very magical and we will miss you.
(As told to Arundhuti Banerjee)