'She made you feel relaxed so that you can do the scenes best.'
Sadia Siddiqui worked with Surekha Sikri in television serials like Balika Vadhu, Banegi Apni Baat, Saat Phere and Phir Bhi. They also did a film together, Kali Shalwaar.
"In Kali Shalwaar, in a scene, she looks at my character and understands her pain. I can still remember that look. It had so many shades of emotion," Sadia tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Rajul Hegde.
"When I was in school, I had a girl crush on Surekhaji.
We lived in the same locality in Mumbai. I used to see her when she would go for walks and buy vegetables. I would call her a tribal woman because she wore those long, cotton ghagras with kajal in her eyes. She would make chotis with her long hair and wear a black tikki.
She was very fashionable.
I didn't know she was an actress then. Only after I became an actor did I get to know that she is from NSD (the National School of Drama) and a theatre person.
I wasn't drawn to her because she was a celebrity. I just felt this woman was intriguing.
After a few years, I became friends with Bushra and Heeba Shah (Sikri's nieces. Her sister Parveen Murad was Naseeruddin Shah's first wife, and Heeba is their daughter). When they invited me home, I met Surekhaji there.
When I first met her, she was sitting on the floor with her long, open, hair.
I was awestruck.
It was a fan girl moment for me.
I didn't have any scenes with her in Banegi Apni Baat and Balika Vadhu.
The film Kali Shalwaar starred all the big actors of that time (including Irrfan, Kay Kay Menon, Rajat Kapoor and Sheeba Chaddha).
I was the youngest.
Later, I assisted the director of the film (Fareeda Mehta) when she was making a short film, only because Surekhaji was acting in it.
I was excited and nervous to work with her, but she never made anybody feel intimidated.
She made you feel relaxed so that you can do the scenes best.
In Kali Shalwaar, in a scene, she looks at my character and understands her pain. I can still remember that look. It had so many shades of emotion.
Her character was looking at mine but I felt that it was going through Sadia also. She had those penetrating eyes.
As a co-actor, she would not start teaching you, but would make your process easy.
She was giving as an actor.
She would be punctual.
She had beautiful handwriting.
If her scene was not ready, she would read the newspaper. She had a habit of reading the entire paper. Or books.
I have never seen her resting in the makeup room.
She would either be reading or writing something with her glasses on.
Last year when I met her, we joked and laughed.
I did not meet her in the last four months due to COVID-19, as her family felt it's better if she didn't meet anyone as she had multiple health problems.
I used to speak to her over the phone.
Once I asked her what she wanted to eat, and she said mutton korma. I asked my mom to prepare mutton korma. She called to say how wonderful it was and thanked me.
Three years ago, we had organised a chat with Surekhaji.
A lot of people had come to chat with her.
While speaking to her, I told her about my crush. She just smiled.
She was an affectionate person and her husband (the late theatre personality Hemant Rege) was a loving person too. He was a good cook. When he would make fish, he would pack one portion for me."