The actor, dancer, singer and television presenter Sophiya Haque passed away on January 16 at the age of 41. Her loving partner David White confirmed that Sophiya had been diagnosed with a form of cancer just several weeks ago, and died suddenly but peacefully in her sleep. Sophiya had been appearing in Privates on Parade as part of the Michael Grandage season in the West End.
Sophiya began her dance training as a child with Mary Forrester in her hometown of Portsmouth before training full-time at the Arts Educational Schools in London. Her evenings were spent writing and recording new songs with her band Akasa, which led to a record deal with Warner Bros in 1988. With the success of her music video One Night in My Life, directed by the legendary Jack Cardiff, Sophiya was snapped up by bosses at MTV Asia.
Over the next seven years, her presenting career gave her the title of the ‘first lady’ of music television, with her daily shows reaching 53 countries. After moving to Bombay in 1997, Bollywood came calling and Sophiya lent her dance talents to films featuring stars including Sanjay Dutt, Abhishek Bachchan, Salman Khan, Mani Ratnam, Saroj Khan and Farah Khan, to name but a few. Her personal favourite was The Rising with Aamir Khan. Sophiya’s acting debut came in the form of a lead role in the film Snip.
Sophiya returned to the UK in 2002 to begin a two-year run of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre as Rani, the ‘goddess of love’. Her next role was as the Jannoo Rani, which she created for the West End musical The Far Pavilions directed by Gale Edwards at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
Following this, Sophiya remained in the UK and worked in film, TV and radio – notably playing Puja in the Angelina Jolie flick Wanted and barmaid Poppy Morales in ITV’s Coronation Street, and DJing for the BBC Asian Network. On stage, she played Soraya in Wah! Wah! Girls for Kneehigh at Theatre Royal Stratford East and Sadler’s Wells, Shindie in Rifco Arts’ Britain’s Got Bhangra, and Asha in Gandhi and Coconuts at the Arcola, as well as appearing in The Vagina Monologues at the Southbank Centre. Sophiya was also delighted to have been musical stager and assistant director on the new musical Rue Magique at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington.
Most recently, she had completed filming the hit Nickelodeon TV series House of Anubis, in which she played regular character Senkhara, and the feature Jadoo, in which she appeared as Sarala. Her final performance in Privates on Parade at the Noel Coward Theatre was shortly before Christmas.
Sophiya was one of the most inspirational people I ever met. She was the kind of person you always want to spend time with – full of light, warmth, compassion, care, and with an infectiously wicked sense of humour. My co-agent Oliver Thomson and I loved every minute of working with her.
Onstage, it was like you were watching her in close-up even if you were sat at the back of the stalls, such was her star presence and charisma. I am so desperately sad that she has been lost to the world at such a tragically young age, but feel blessed to have known her.
Sophiya Haque, who was born on June 14, 1971, died on January 16, at the age of 41.