I grew up in luxurious surroundings:
I was born on March 25, 1948, in a village near Baroda as the eldest of five children.
My father, Mustafa Shaikh, was a practising lawyer in Bombay and my mother, Farida Shaikh, was a housewife. Ours is a zamindar family and we have a huge bungalow teeming with domestic help in our ancestral village. In Bombay, however, we lived in a small flat before moving on to a bigger house.
Untouchability disgusted me:
I loved my ancestral village, but what I detested about it was the practice of untouchability there. There were clear-cut lines and people from one caste were not allowed to eat with others or draw water from the village well. I derived pleasure out of eating with people who were supposed to be 'untouchable' — much to the dismay of the 'higher castes'.
I wasn't studious, but always a topper:
In Bombay, I went to St Mary's School, which supported extra-curricular activities. I was never a studious student but, somehow, always topped. I had a great time at school. Today, when I see kids lugging huge bags to school, I feel sorry for them.
My father was very lenient:
My father dealt with both criminal and civil cases and was a fairly successful lawyer. He was a very family-oriented, lenient man who was always there for us. My father instilled in me respect for values.
I was mad about cricket:
Vinoo Mankad conducted coaching classes for the two best students of our school —I invariably got selected each time. Cricket was my craze right through school and college at St Xavier's. In college, I was friendly with Sunil Gavaskar. He was a marvelous player!
College was all about theatre and Rupa:
My college days were the best phase of my life. I was part of a huge group which bunked classes to chat in the canteen and pursued theatre with a passion. But, since all of us managed to secure good grades, nobody complained! Rupa was part of this group. We spent a lot of time together and, not surprisingly, grew fond of each other.
Shabana is special:
Shabana and I did a lot of plays together while in college. We were great friends then, we are great friends now. After college, as she was about to leave for the Film Institute in Pune, Shabana insisted that I join too. But I was serious about law by then and did not take her advice.
I am a qualified lawyer:
Taking up law was, in a way, inevitable. I felt that inheriting my father's practice would help further my career and studied at the Siddharth College of Law. But, much to my disappointment, I soon discovered that cases were resolved at police stations rather than the courts. This was a reality I could not relate to and, despite being a qualified lawyer, I turned to acting.
I did my first film for free:
Ramesh Talwar introduced me to film director Ramesh Sathyu, who was making Garm Hawa then. Sathyu was looking for people who wouldn't ask for money and easily give him dates. Finally, I received Rs 750 spread over five years' time for Garm Hawa!
My parents accepted my decision:
Initially, my parents were shocked by my decision to join films — but they did not stop me. Perhaps because joining the film industry was no longer considered taboo. After Garm Hawa was released, offers started pouring in. Satyajit Ray was in the process of finalising his cast for Shatranj Ke Khiladi. I was holidaying in Canada and he rang me up. I told him that I couldn't return for a month, but he agreed to wait. I really loved working with him.
My father's death made me more responsible:
As long as my father was alive, films were not exactly my bread and butter. But after his death, looking after my mother and siblings was my responsibility. So, apart from taking up film offers, I did radio programmes with Ameen Sayani saab and Vinod Sharma, and a bit of TV.
I just charmed my in-laws:
Rupa and I courted each other for nine years before we decided to get married. She belongs to a Jain family, but there was no opposition from either side. Her business family was worried whether I, an actor, would be able to support her. But, all these fears disappeared after Rupa's parents met me. Moreover, Rupa was sure of who she wanted to live her life with.
I am a difficult husband:
My wife runs an NGO, manages two daughters... and takes care of a very difficult husband! She might think otherwise, but I am not as amenable to suggestions as she is. Rupa is a great cook and has spoilt my taste buds silly! I consider it my good fortune that she gives in to my idiosyncrasies.
Money is not important to me:
There were occasions when I didn't have work for a long time but I never accepted more than two films at a time. Post-Noorie, in 1978, I was offered around 40 films — I refused them all as they were basically remakes of Noorie. It requires insanity to make insane money. I am not financially ambitious. I have no desire to have a huge bungalow or a fleet of cars. After a point, money is a liability —if you have a lot of money, you have to take care of it too.
I am attached to my daughters:
Shaista has just finished college and Sanaa is in the first year of college. I am a good father, but my wife has contributed more to bringing up our children. What if my daughters want to join the film industry? Well, I suppose I will give them the pros and cons of joining the industry and leave the final decision to them.
I have never been commercially viable:
People recognise me, smile and wave at me —but I have never received marriage proposals written in blood. In his heyday, when Rajesh Khanna drove down a street, the traffic stopped —I don't mind not receiving this kind of adulation. But I do miss not having been able to command the kind of work I wanted. I miss not being 100 per cent commercially viable.
I have never been attracted to my co-stars:
There has never been a romantic angle between me and my heroines. For one, I am extremely attached to my family. Moreover, I respect my co-stars as artistes and love them as friends —but nothing more. I am a happily married man. I believe in God: I believe there is a God who created us, I believe in after-life, I believe in a power which controls our destiny. I say my prayers regularly and have never believed that people of one religion are inferior or superior to those of another.
I would rather not be remembered:
Everyone comes into and goes from this world. I have no great desire to be remembered after I am gone. I believe in celebrating life and this is what I am doing through Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai. If at all anybody cares to think of me after my death — my children, for instance — they should remember me as someone who intended to do them good as often as he could.
*(This is Farooque Shaikh’s 2002-interview. The article has been sourced from the archives of Ms. Preet Gill.)