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Veteran actor Surekha Sikri dies at 75

Surekha Sikri, a National Award-winning actor, was known for her roles in 'Tamas', 'Mammo' and 'Badhaai Ho'

Surekha Sikri in 'Badhaai Ho'
Surekha Sikri in 'Badhaai Ho'

Actor Surekha Sikri, known for her work in films like Mammo, Badhaai Ho and the TV show Balika Vadhu, died on Friday morning at the age of 75 following a cardiac arrest, her agent said.

In a statement shared with the media, the agent said the actor was suffering from complications arising out of a second brain stroke.

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"Three-time national award winning actress, Surekha Sikri has passed away following a cardiac arrest earlier this morning at the age of 75. She had been suffering from complications arising from a second brain stroke," the actor's agent Vivek Sidhwani said. "She was surrounded by family and her caregivers. The family asks for privacy at this time. Om Sai Ram."

Sikri had suffered her first brain stroke in September last year. She leaves behind a rich body of work spread across theatre, television and films.

Best known to contemporary audiences as 'Dadisa' from the popular Indian soap opera Balika Vadhu and the cantankerous-yet-lovable mother-in-law from Badhaai Ho, the Delhi-born artiste, spent her childhood days in the hills of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand.

She completed her graduation from the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Uttar Pradesh, and then enrolled for the National School of Drama (NSD) in 1968.

Post her graduation from the NSD in 1971, Sikri continued to work in theatre and was attached with the NSD Repertory Company for more than a decade, performing in hit productions such as Sandhya Chhaya, Tughlaq and Adhe Adhure.

With an aim to explore other avenues as an actor, Sikri shifted base to Mumbai in the late 1970s and made her debut in films with Amrit Nahata's 1978 political satire Kissa Kursi Ka and followed it up with critically-acclaimed features Tamas (1986) by Govind Nihalani, for which she won her first National Film Award, and Saeed Akhtar Mirza's Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro in 1989. The same year she was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

Shyam Benegal's 1994 feature film Mammo, starring Farida Jalal, further established Sikri as the go to person for significant supporting characters. Her performance in the film as grandmother Fayyuzi also earned her the second National Film Award. The duo further collaborated on 1996 musical Sardari Begum and 2001's Zubeidaa.

Sikri worked with the celebrated filmmakers like Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen and Mani Kaul among others.

The actor made her foray into television in the 1990s with Sanjha Chula and went on to feature in popular shows like Kabhie Kabhie, Just Mohabbat, CID, Banegi Apni Baat and Balika Vadhu.

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Her portrayal of strict matriarch Kalyani Devi Dharamveer Singh aka Dadisa in the show made her popular among the younger generation of film as well as television directors.

She played the part of 'Dadi' in other soap operas like Pardes Mein Hai Mera Dil... and Ek Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani.... Sikri's back-to-back impressive turns as the grandmother on TV, helped her land the 2018 feature Badhaai Ho.

The film, starring Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao and Ayushmann Khurrana in lead roles, was one of the biggest hits of the year and brought Sikri her third National Film Award. Sikri was last seen in Netflix's anthology Ghost Stories (2020), in the story directed by Zoya Akhtar.

The actor was married to Hemant Rege till his death in 2009. She is survived by her son Rahul Sikri.

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