Born In: New Delhi, India
Surekha Sikri was an Indian actress, 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 was 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, as she wanted to explore the vast world of TV and cinema, she moved to Mumbai, the city of dreams. She 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 won two ‘National Awards’ and one Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, two of the highest Indian honors in the fields of cinema and theater, respectively.
Died At Age: 76
Spouse/Ex-: Hemant Rege (m. ?–2009)
siblings: Parveen Murad
children: Rahul Sikri
Born Country: India
place of death: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Cause of Death: Cardiac Arrest
: Brain Stroke
Notable Alumni: National School Of Drama
education: National School of Drama
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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 (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.
Surekha Sikri 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.
Surekha Sikri's 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, Surekha Sikri 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) and Balika Badhu are few of her other notable TV projects.
Sikri 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, Surekha Sikri 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 praise from critics and was showcased at various international film festivals. She also worked with famous Bengali director 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.
Surekha Sikri's another popular performance came 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.
Surekha Sikri passed away on July 16, 2021, in Mumbai, due to a cardiac arrest. She was 76.
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