Surekha Sikri Biography
Sun Sign: Aries
Born in: New Delhi
Famous as: Actress
Spouse/Ex-: Hemant Rege (m. ?–2009)
siblings: Parveen Murad
children: Rahul Sikri
City: New Delhi, India
education: National School of Drama
Surekha Sikri is a veteran actor from India, best known to the contemporary audience as the bitter-sweet ‘Dadisa’ from the popular Indian soap opera ‘Balika Vadhu’ and the nagging mother-in-law from the movie ‘Badhaai Ho.’ She is an alumna of the most coveted acting school in India, the ‘National School of Drama’ (NSD), New Delhi. Needless to say, she started her career on the stage after graduation, first freelancing with theater groups in Delhi and then with the ‘NSD Repertory Company.’ She stayed with the theater company for over a decade, participating in productions such as ‘Sandhya Chaya,’ ‘Tughlaq,’ and ‘Adhe Adhure.’ However, she wanted to explore the vast world of TV and cinema and moved to Mumbai, the city of dreams. She has worked with some of the most respected directors in the Hindi cinema industry, such as Shyam Benegal, Aparna Sen, Rituparno Ghosh, Mani Kaul, and Saeed Mirza. She has won two ‘National Awards’ and one ‘Sangeet Natak Akademi Award,’ two of the highest Indian honors in the fields of cinema and theater, respectively.
- Surekha Sikri was born on April 19, 1945, in British India. Her father was in the ‘Air Force,’ and her mother was a teacher. She spent most of her childhood in Dehradun, Almora, and Nainital, Uttar Pradesh (present-day Uttarakhand).
- She was raised with her stepsister, Manara Sikri, who was also a stage actor. She graduated from the prestigious ‘Aligarh Muslim University’ in Uttar Pradesh before enrolling at the most revered institute for budding actors in India, the ‘NSD,’ in 1968.
- Going to ‘NSD’ was not Sikri’s original plan. Growing up, she either wanted to be a writer or a classical singer. It was her sister, Manara, also known as Parveen Murad, who wanted to study acting. However, Manara never filled or submitted the application form, which was lying at home. Sikri filled the form by chance and got selected.
- After graduating from the ‘National School of Drama’ in 1968, Sikri worked as a freelancer with a few theater groups in Delhi and later joined the ‘NSD Repertory Company,’ the performing wing of the acting school. She was honored with the ‘Sangeet Natak Akademi Award’ in 1989. She stayed with the company for over a decade before moving to the hub of Indian cinema, Mumbai, in the 1980s.
- Her first appearance on the big screen was as ‘Meera’ in the political satire ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’ in 1978. The movie was based on the political situation in young India, and the way the erstwhile prime minister, Indira Gandhi, and her son, Sanjay Gandhi, operated the system. Released during a tumultuous time in Indian politics, the film faced a lot of oppression by the ‘Censor Board’ and the government at the time. All the prints, including the master print, were picked up from the ‘Censor Board’ office and burned. Sanjay Gandhi and an accomplice were later found guilty on multiple counts, including, criminal conspiracy, after an 11-month legal battle.
- Her excellence in the craft became evident when she won a ‘National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress’ in 1988, for her performance as ‘Rajo’ in the period TV film ‘Tamas.’ The film was based on the 1975 ‘Sahitya Academy Award’-winning Hindi novel of the same name, written by renowned author Bhisham Sahni.
- An exceptional movie adaptation of a Rajasthani folk tale by Prakash Jha, ‘Parinati’ (1989), was Sikri’s first prominent performance on the silver screen. With a spine-chilling climax, coupled with a heart-wrenching performance by this actor, the movie was rightly showcased as an ‘Outstanding Film’ at the ‘London Film Festival’ in 1989. The movie also won the ‘National Film Award for Best Costume’ that year.
- She became part of another excellent ensemble cast in Saeed Mirza’s ‘National Film Award’-winning film ‘Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro’ (1989). Sikri played the role of ‘Salim’s mother in the film and worked with stalwarts such as Ashutosh Gowariker, Makrand Deshpande, and Pavan Malhotra.
- Her 1991 movie ‘Nazar’ was based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's short story ‘The Meek One.’ The film was directed by renowned director Mani Kaul, with Shekhar Kapur, Surekha Sikri, and Shambhavi Kaul in the cast. The film was featured at various film festivals all over the world, such as the ‘Birmingham Film Festival’ in the UK, the ‘Fribourg Film Festival’ in Germany, the ‘Hong Kong International Film Festival,’ the ‘Lisbon Film Festival’ in Portugal, the ‘Locarno Film Festival’ in Switzerland, the ‘London Film Festival’ in the UK, the ‘Rotterdam Film Festival’ in the Netherlands, the ‘Festival des 3 continent’ in France, and the ‘Seattle Film Festival’ in the US.
- In the 1990s, she ventured into the world of TV. She made her TV debut with the widely popular serial ‘Sanjha Chula,’ based on the concept of community kitchens in Punjab started by Sikh saint Guru Nanak Dev. The serial was aired on the only public channel available at the time, ‘Doordarshan,’ and gained immense popularity. In 1997, she appeared in the role of ‘Lakshmi Pathak’ in yet another popular series, ‘Kabhie Kabhie,’ written by Anurag Kashyap and directed by Mahesh Bhatt. She was also part of the cast of the teen series ‘Just Mohabbat’ (1996–2000), which became a pioneer in this genre, opening the flood gates to numerous other serials around teenage life in India. ‘Banegi Apni Baat’ (1993–1997), Kesar (2002–2004), ‘Kkehna hai Kuch Mujhko’ (2004–2005) are few of her other notable TV projects.
- She was cast in the Italian–French–British drama ‘Little Buddha’ (1993). The film was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and had Bridget Fonda and Keanu Reeves in the cast.
- She worked in a number of movies with renowned director Shyam Benegal, between 1994 and 2001. Their first movie was ‘Mammo’ (1994), which was part of Benegal’s Muslim trilogy. The movie won a ‘National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi’ in 1995, and Sikri bagged her second ‘National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress’ the same year. The duo worked together on the rest of the two movies in the trilogy, ‘Sardari Begum’ (1996), a musical starring Kiron Kher, Amrish Puri, Rajit Kapur, and Rajeshwari Sachdev, and Zubeidaa (2001), a film based on the tragic story of an Indian actor named Vidya Rani, also known as “Zubeida Begum.” Sikri worked in another one of Benegal’s masterpieces, ‘Hari Bhari,’ in 2000. All their movies won several ‘National Awards,’ in various categories.
- In 2002, she appeared in the critically acclaimed movie ‘Kali Salwar,’ which was based on stories by famous Urdu writer Saadat Hassan Manto. Her second release that year was again a masterpiece by director and actor Aparna Sen, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Iyer.’ The film received a lot of praises by critics and was showcased at various international film festivals. She also worked with famous Bengali director the late Rituparno Ghosh in his 2004 Hindi movie ‘Raincoat,’ starring Aishwarya Rai Bachhan and Ajay Devgan.
- Sikri returned to limelight with her performance on the small screen as ‘Dadisa’ (grandmother), in the popular Indian soap opera ‘Balika Vadhu,’ between 2008 and 2016. Her realistic portrayal of the various shades of human nature through her character was highly appreciated by viewers, making it the talk of the town throughout the tenure of the serial.
- Her latest popular performance was in the Neena Gupta-starrer ‘Badhaai Ho,’ where she played a nagging mother-in-law badgering her daughter-in-law for conceiving a child at age 50.
- She was married to Hemant Rege till his death in 2009. Sikri and Rege have a son, Rahul Sikri, who is an artist and stays in Mumbai.
- Famous actor Naseeruddin Shah is Sikri’s former brother-in-law. He was married to Sikri’s sister, Parveen Murad, from 1969 to 1982. Parveen was 14 years elder to the actor and a divorcee with children when they tied the knot.
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