It rarely happens that at the age of 74, even after suffering from a brain stroke, an actress appears as graceful, energetic and passionate about life as a youngster. It also rarely happens that an auditorium full of people gives her a standing ovation when the actress, wheel-chair bound, receives her third National Film Award. Surekha Sikri has been through both these realities.
The veteran actress returns to screen in the Netflix horror anthology "Ghost Stories". She features in the segment directed by Zoya Akhtar, of the four-segment film. Zoya's story also features Janhvi Kapoor.
"Zoya is more complex than you see her. She is very poetic and she has feelings for things around her. The poem by Robert Frost that has been used in the film was so beautiful. I recited it and she used it aptly in the film," Surekha tells IANS with a smile, adding: "I also wanted to recite the poetry of William Blake for Janhvi. Can I do it now?"
And then she recited "The Sick Rose" for her young co-star.
The poem was written in 1794 and, through the symbols of rose and worm, it narrates how intense experience preys upon unpolluted innocence.
"Ghost Stories" consists of four short films directed by Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Zoya. It streams January 1 onwards.
Zoya's story revolves around a bed-ridden old lady who was beautiful in her youth and has lived a wholesome life. In her old age, when a nurse (played by Janhvi) comes to take care of her for three days, mysterious things start happening.
"It is a very real character in many ways. I often wonder what the subtext would be. I want people to find out instead of me unveiling the story to you," says Surekha, who has received National Awards for "Tamas", "Mammo" and "Badhaai Ho".
Zoya said: "I always wanting to work with her and almost got her on board for ‘Gully Boy'. But she was occupied with Amit (Sharma)'s ‘Badhaai Ho'. So, her dates didn't match then, but I wanted to get her for my new project. Luckily when I approached her for 'Ghost Stories', she liked the part and agreed to do it."
Although the filmmaker was initially worried about Surekha's health condition, she was impressed and inspired by the senior actress's enthusiasm. "Surekha is a true artist and a champion. Literally, nothing can come in between her passion to perform," said Zoya.
Asked about her health, Surekha said: "My health is fine but I am irritated being disabled in this fashion. Every condition has its own purpose. I know that I have the good wishes and positivity of so many people and that is why I am safe. I have so many wellwishers and I am thankful to them for their prayers."