Surekha Sikri tribute

Some actors go beyond their screen personas. But seldom do we see actors who make their screen personas go beyond themselves – so much so, that you start remembering them as their characters. The powerhouse Surekha Sikri was one such performer. For some, she was dadi sa from Balika Vadhu and dadi from Badhaai Ho, and for some, she was Mammo and Zubeidaa’s Fayyazi. She was always that fierce lady on-camera, who could set the screen ablaze just through the power of her emotions.

Was. It feels odd to suddenly start referring to someone you’ve watched for so many years getting referred to in the past tense. With Sikri, this oddness, this sense of loss goes deep – especially considering her unstoppable, almost unwavering love for cinema, her cinema.

In an illustrious career spanning over four decades, Sikri’s passing might have left an indelible void among cinema lovers across the country, but the legacy she has left behind, is here to stay. With many powerful, diverse roles touching on important socio-political issues, it won’t be wrong to say that her filmography is one for the ages.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of films and TV shows, currently available on streaming, that you can now visit or revisit, just to get a glimpse of the impressive body of work that she will now live on with.

Also Read: Surekha Sikri On Surviving A Brain Stroke, More ‘Dadi Roles’ After Badhaai Ho, And Attending Acting Workshops

Kissa Kursi Ka (1978)

Streaming on: YouTube

Surekha Sikri In Kissa Kursi Ka
Surekha Sikri as Meera Devi In Kissa Kursi Ka

Amrit Nahata’s political satire was controversial for several reasons. A satirical take on the Indira Gandhi government, this film was originally scheduled to release in 1975, but was banned during the Emergency. Nahata then had to remake portions of the film and eventually release it in 1978. Depicting the government as power-hungry and corrupt, the film had Shabana Azmi playing the role of a mute, helpless ‘Janta’ and Surekha Sikri – in her debut role – as Meera Devi, a conniving mastermind.

Bharat Ek Khoj (1988)

Streaming on: YouTube

Surekha Sikri Bharat Ek Khoj
Surekha Sikri and Om Puri in Bharat Ek Khoj

The 53-episode historical drama, created by Shyam Benegal, was based on The Discovery Of India, a book written by Jawaharlal Nehru that covered the country’s 5000-year history, right from its beginnings to its independence in 1947. Surekha Sikri featured in one of its episodes as Jahan Ara, inspired by the Mughal princess Jahanara Begum Sahib, the daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.

Tamas (1988)

Streaming on: YouTube

Based on the novel by Bhisham Sahni, the National Award-winning period drama was directed by Govind Nihalani. The film, set in the backdrop of the partition in 1947, revolved around the plight of several Sikh and Hindu families residing in Pakistan, who were being forced to emigrate to India as a consequence. Sikri earned her first National Award, as the Best Supporting Actress for her role as Rajo.

Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989)

Streaming on:

The critically-acclaimed film, helmed by Saeed Akhtar Mirza, is the story of a physically disabled young man called Salim. He’s a local goon, often involved in petty crimes. Belonging to a middle-class family (with Sikri playing the role of his mother), Salim’s life drastically takes a shift after watching a documentary on communal riots. Now wanting to start afresh, he finds himself at a loss when asked to stir up a riot in exchange of a large sum.

Parinati (1986)

Streaming on: YouTube

The Prakash Jha film, starring Sikri, Nandita Das and Basant Josalkar, is based on a Rajasthani folk tale written by Vijaydan Detha. Touching upon themes of greed and never-ending desires, the film traces the lives of a potter, Ganesh and his wife Kurja (Sikri), who get drowned deep into the rivers of gluttony, losing their souls in the process. It doesn’t take long for karma to bite back.

Sanjha Chulha (1990-1991)

Streaming on: YouTube

Showcasing the life of villagers and their struggles, the Doordarshan show, directed by Balwant Gargi, was based on the concept of community cooking in the rural areas of Punjab. Due to the lack of resources, many families couldn’t afford individual stoves of their own. Therefore, women would gather around a community chulha to cook, eventually exchanging their thoughts, joys and sorrows.

Banegi Apni Baat (1993-1997)

Streaming on: Zee5/YouTube

Featuring Sikri, Irrfan, Sadiya Siddiqui and R Madhavan, among other prominent actors, the Zee TV show was a nostalgic ode to college life. It centered upon the life of a group of students, who grow from being young adults, on the verge of discovering all things fresh and new, to grown-ups, trying to pave their own paths. The show’s depiction of college life, and the struggles of young adults, as they juggle between their personal and professional lives, earned praise for its relatability.

Mammo (1994)

Streaming on:

Surekha Sikri in Mammo
Surekha Sikri (center), in Shyam Benegal’s Mammo

Directed by Shyam Benegal, the film traced the life of Mammo (Farida Jalal), as she moved to India from Pakistan to live with her widowed sister Fayyazi (Sikri), and her 13-year-old grandson on a temporary visa. She struggles to find a place for herself – with nowhere to go back to in Pakistan, and her visa extensions in India getting delayed month after month – as she becomes an important part of the daily lives of Fayyazi and her grandson.

Sardari Begum (1996)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

In Shyam Benegal’s trilogy based on Muslim women, Sardari Begum was the story of the titular character, played by Kirron Kher, who gets killed during a riot. As the police investigates her death, several truths of the life she lived – as a singer, as a courtesan, and as a youth – start to unfold. Sikri stars as Ittan Bai, as a leading singer and courtesan who teaches music to a young Sardari, in a short but impactful role.

Star Bestsellers (1999-2000)

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

In the sixth episode of its first season, Kabaad, Sikri, alongside Raghubir Yadav, appeared on Star TV’s anthology, Star Bestsellers, where every episode featured a different story from a range of genres. The story revolved around a kind old woman who befriends a ragpicker as he reaches her house to collect old newspapers and books. A conversation between them then turns into an unlikely friendship.

Zubeidaa (2001)

Streaming on: YouTube

Benegal’s final film of the trilogy, the film looked at the real-life story of Zubeidaa Begum, a free-spirited woman who worked as an actress secretly before getting married. After a heartbreaking separation, she meets and falls in love with the king of a royal empire. However, her life turns out to be anything but a fairytale. Sikri played the role of Fayyazi, Zubeidaa’s kind-hearted mother. For the uninitiated, Zubeidaa was the mother of Khalid Mohammed, who wrote the screenplay of the film.

Balika Vadhu (2008-2016)

Streaming on: Voot

Surekha Sikri
Surekha Sikri as Kalyani Devi aka dadi sa in Balika Vadhu

Revolving around issues pertaining to child marriage, Sikri, in one of her most well-known roles, played the traditional matriarch of the family, Kalyani Devi aka dadi sa. The show not only focused on child bride Anandi’s evolution from childhood to womanhood, but also reflected upon the remarkable transformation of dadi sa from a shrewd, orthodox woman to a progressive feminist as she opened up to her young daughter-in-law.

Badhaai Ho (2018)

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

Surekha Sikri in Badhaai Ho
Surekha Sikri and Neena Gupta in a scene from Badhaai Ho

In yet another National Award-winning performance, Sikri starred as the stern-but-loving dadi in Badhaai Ho, a film that touched upon the topic of old-age pregnancy. While her character is initially upset, amused and apprehensive when she learns that her son and daughter-in-law (played by Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta) are on their way to be parents in their 50s, she eventually gives in, coming to terms with the new development. In a heartwarming (and hilarious) scene, she rightfully stands up for her daughter-in-law, as the latter gets bullied by her family members, giving her the credit where its due.

Ghost Stories (2020)

Streaming on: Netflix

The Netflix film was a four-part anthology, this time comprising horror stories. This was the third anthology film that featured shorts from Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Anurag Kashyap and Zoya Akhtar after Lust Stories and Bombay Talkies. In one of her final performances, Sikri starred as an ailing old lady, once a firebrand but now dependent on her son, who is taken care of by a young nurse, Sameera (Janhvi Kapoor), in a short story directed by Zoya Akhtar.

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