|ART TRIBUNE||Friday, February 4, 2000, Chandigarh, India|
villain of Hindi films
to save Punjabi folk music
Sophisticated villain of Hindi films
K N SINGH. The actor with a large face, the wide nostrils, the brows that moved, the eyes that screwed menacingly, and the lips that twitched and assumed a sneer. To this day, mimics at variety shows bring the house down with imitations of K.N. Singh. And when someone is parodied, it means he has become part of folk-lore, an institution.
Krishna Niranjan Singh, popularly known as K.N. Singh, was such a fine screen villain that Yakub, who was the leading villain those days, told him, Singh you are king. I will now switch over to character roles.
K.N. Singh was a sophisticated villain who regaled the 50s audiences and in nearly all his 250 odd films. He was always dressed immaculately in a suit, overcoat, had a hat on and smoked a pipe. When he entered the scene, it was clear that he had a devious plan. To achieve this effect, he did not rave or rant, use abusive language or wear garish clothes. He would give one penetrating look, raise his brow and utter his favourite dialogue, Apni bakwas band karo, and all those present on the scene, would simply freeze.
But this most polished villain on the Indian screen never did want to be an actor. His father was an eminent criminal lawyer at Dehra Dun. It was planned that K.N. Singh should go to London and qualify as a barrister. He had even done Senior Cambridge from Lucknow with Latin as one of the subjects. But a rather obvious case of murder in which the accused came to be acquitted because of his fathers skilful defence turned K.N. Singh against the profession. He saw that justice was not dealt out in courts.
Destiny too willed otherwise. The young Singh was an athlete. He was good at weight-lifting and putting the shot. And in 1936, far from thoughts of starting a film career, he very nearly went to the Berlin Olympics. For a while he also toyed with the idea of joining the Army.
Instead K.N. Singh went to Calcutta to look up an ailing sister. There he ran into Prithviraj Kapoor, a family friend. The latter introduced him to Debaki Bose who in turn offered him a small role of a doctor in Sunehra Sansar. The year was 1936 and that was the beginning of his film career.
After his debut in Calcutta, K.N. Singh did four other films Hawai Daku, Anaath Ashram, Vidyapati and Milap. A.R. Kardar, who had directed the last-mentioned film, moved to Bombay, taking Singh with him and cast him in Baghban. The villains role in the film was one which Singh always regarded as his best. In fact, he attributed his continuance in films to this role. Another good role was in Apni Nagaria, carrying the alternative English title in the manner of the day of Mud.
Some of Singhs other films were Ek Raat, Ishara (in which Singh, actually younger to Prithviraj, played his father. In fact, Prithviraj told him to show the world that he could be his baap in acting), Jwar Bhaata, Dilip Kumars first film, Draupadi, Inspector, Howrah Bridge, Barsaat, Awaara, Teesri Manzil, An Evening in Paris, Laat Saab, Haathi Mere Saathi and several others.
In Howrah Bridge one easily remembers Singh watching with a fixed smile the gorgeous Madhubala swinging to Aayiye meharbaan... before Ashok Kumar in a club. In Teesri Manzil he plays a drunkard who arouses hero Shammi Kapoors suspicions regarding the murder in which he has been implicated. In Haathi Mere Saathi he orders the shooting of Ramu elephant as his daughter Tanuja was upset with it.
K.N. Singh may not have been a tutored actor, but he studied his roles well. To play the role of a driver of a Victoria (a horse-driven carriage) in Inspector, he went about for days together studying how the drivers sat, talked and drove their carriages. Earlier, for Milap, in which he played a lawyer, he learnt by heart four-page dialogues and completed the shot in one take, much to the delight of the director.
He also acted in Raj Kapoors Barsaat and Awaara which won international acclaim. He refused to call him Raj Saab. Why, the boy had grown up in his lap!
In later years, K.N. Singh cheerfully did whatever roles that came his way, without any question of their size and shape. But they were just caricatures of what was once a looming personality.
In his last years K.N.
Singh suffered from a severely impaired vision. He was
recently seen on TV at an awards function that called
veteran artistes of the film industry on the stage to pay
respects to them. Despite the loss of his sight, Singh
spoke in his well-remembered firm voice. He will always
be remembered as villain on screen and gentleman off it,
as he once described himself.
Bid to save Punjabi folk music
FOR Ravinder Singh Diwana, a well-acclaimed folk singer and stage master in the Department of Public Relations, life has a definite goal in trying to save the dying traditional Punjabi folk music and work for its popularity among the present-day youth addicted to Western and pop music and with little knowledge of their rich and vibrant folk music.
Though I strongly believe that our cultural heritage is too old to be wiped out completely, fissures have started appearing in the very foundation of our culture, through the invasion of other cultures. So, efforts have to be made for sustaining our ethos and culture, he says.
Diwana regrets that today there are hardly any people in the urban parts of the state who would know and relish listening to Mirza, Sassi, or Bulle Shah, but almost everyone has listened to Punjabi pop numbers sung by famous pop stars, with scantily-clad girls gyrating in the background and being packaged as Punjabi folk. Even in the rural areas there are very few people who relish the traditional folk songs. The rise of Punjabi pop has started having its adverse effect on the popularity of folk music in rural Punjab, he says.
He laments that now people, too have little taste for quality music. Most of the singers rely on the fast and rhythmic beats in the background score of the songs, thus trying to hide the inadequacy in both their voice and the lyrics, he says.
Diwana has been giving public performances ever since he was 15 years old. He learnt folk music from an eminent folk singer and a contemporary of Lal Chand Yamla Jatt, Chandi Ram Chandi, for five years since the age of 10. Perhaps, this is the reason that his singing style is greatly influenced by them. Gifted with a rich, melodious and husky voice, he has been enthralling listeners for more than two decades now. Apart from being a good singer, he is also adept in playing traditional Punjabi folk instruments like the toombi and the harmonium.
Apart from several records of his songs being released by companies like the HMV and In Rico earlier, Diwana also has several cassettes to his credit. Among the more famous of his numbers are Sassi sutti uthi sej ton..., Sohni pyaee mauj naal sutti... and Kal album dekhi ni.... He has also given several stage performances with famed folk artistes like Narinder Biba, Jagmohan Kaur, Satinder Biba and Sunita Bhatti, to name a few. Besides these, a few of his devotional and nationalist songs are quite popular.
Diwana says music runs in his blood. Ever since he can recall, he says, he always saw a love and near-devotion among the elders of his family for the folk music. His late maternal grandfather and a paternal uncle, who is now in Pakistan, were both prominent singers of their times.
Perhaps, this is the reason that I am so much in love with Punjabi folk music and have also tried to imbibe the same love among my four sons, he says. Two of his sons, Master Khan and Surpreet Sunny, have already created ripples in the Punjabi music world because of their singing prowess.
Diwana is also an active
member in various culture promoting organisations,
besides being the president of the Sports Development and
Punjabi Cultural Association and secretary of the Lok
Gayak Kala Manch.
by Amita Malik
Mixed up Republic Day
LIKE the song which says Christmas comes but once a year, so does the Republic Day. Beginning with radio and then followed by TV, the focus remains on running commentaries, one of the weakest departments of our government media, which have the Sarkari monopoly of live broadcasts. And down the years, both the good and the bad have endured.
First, the good. I cannot remember for how long Ustad Bismillah Khans shehnai has inaugurated the celebrations on the right auspicious note, but the Republic Day would not be quite the same without him. Then this is the one day in the year when DDs camerapersons come gloriously into their own. Always impeccable camerawork, those sweeping long shots of the vista alternating with tight shots of the war heroes receiving their awards, picking up interesting people in the audience and those last exciting shots of the Air Force, doing its spectacular rolls and zooming past. Bravo, again, DDs camerapersons!
One wishes one could say the same of the running commentaries, which have steadily deteriorated down the years. First, there is the clash every year between the commentary on the public address system and DDs commentary. At times one could not distinguish Gitanjali Aiyer from Rini Khanna or which commentary was coming on the channel and which was picked up from outside. Surely a solution to this can be found?
Then the commentators. Leaving aside established professionals like Sunit Tandon and Rini Khanna (her defence details get better every year, after all, she is a daughter of the defence services) and she is moving into the Komal G.B. Singh class. The worst of the bunch were Manisha Dubey, Brigadier Sawant and Wg. Comdr. Bakshi.
Ms Dubey has no descriptive powers whatsoever and depends entirely on her prepared script which is at constant loggerheads with the visuals. If the camera focused on some foreign defence guests or the Presidents carriage was leaving, she chose that exact moment to mouth some pious platitudes about patriotism, or recite a poem by the Prime Minister. While Sawant was a stickler, for the finer details of the armaments, his unctuous voice gloated over difficult Hindi words which were far from the colloquial language needed for communication on the modern media and were as passe as dull.
The bad commentaries were marred further by the totally unimaginative camerawork for Beating the Retreat for the first time in years. The cameras repeatedly missed the broad sweep of Raisina Hill, they focused repeatedly on the conductor and the dignitaries when the massed bands were leaving in glorious formation. They all but missed out the camels on top of the hill.
As for the commentary, neither the commentator remembered to mention that Abide With Me was Gandhijis favourite hymn. They read out the list of marches so mechanically that they said Sare jahan se Achcha was composed by Lobo and omitted poet Iqbal altogether. Some of Bakshis memorable phrases: It is a visible day in Delhi. A thousand bewildered faces have burst into smiles. Worst of all, some defence commentators on the Rajpath spoke while the National Anthem was being played, which is unforgivable.
As for the DD evening bulletin I must remind the Information Service man who covered the Republic Day that hostage is not pronounced as hose-tage, that posthumously is not pronounced as pose-thewmusly and that the plural of aircraft is aircraft and not aircrafts. Some of us who heard the commentators saying tub-lew, tublew thought it was an Internet code until we discovered it was tableau, DD style. I think by far the best feature on the Republic Day was Living on the Edge, anchored by Naseeruddin Shah, at the village of Lapodia.
When the TV commentators became unbearable, I switched off the sound and put on the AIR commentary. There seemed to be some lively young voices who did rather better, but a little too literal and not descriptive enough. Time the government media got rid of the old faithfuls, recruited some new commentators and trained them up properly.
Tail-piece: There is an
alarming rumour flying around that while most of
DDs newscasters are abruptly being shown the door,
the women who remain have been asked to wear
European dress to look modern. I think the
girls who telecast the news for Zee look stunning in
their saris, while Stars women newscasters wear
everything from skirts and salwars to saris with great
taste and elegance. I would hate to see Mrinal Pande or
Nithi Ravindran in skirts. A scatty idea, if true.
Patriotism in the air
JAI MATRU BHOOMI (Daya Audiovision): This cassette must have been planned in the Kargil days, but even now its release is rather timely, considering that the Republic Day has just gone by and so has Mahatma Gandhis martyrdom day. As the name itself suggests, it is full of patriotic songs. Its producer is P.M.Suvarna, whose earlier release (through HMV) was a devotional album, Sai Ke Dar Pe. He has released his latest (Jai Matru Bhoomi) through his own audio company (Daya Audiovision).
It has seven songs with patriotic theme. These have been rendered by Anuradha Paudwal, Anupama Deshpande, Sumitra Lahri, Manhar Udhas, Mohammed Aziz, Babul Suprio and Vinod Rathod. What recommends them is the fact that they are original and devoid of the fakeness which marks many of the film songs. Aao nav nirman karen by Anuradha Paudwal and Ye watan hamara saari duniya se nyara (Anupama Deshpande, Vinod Rathod and Babul Suprio) are particularly well done.
These have been written by Nadaan and set to music by Sumitra Lahri.
AGNIPUTRA (Tips): Recent films of Mithun Chakraborty lay no claim to quality. Nor does their music. Still, this one is quite melodious in comparison, despite being packed with routine stuff. Credit goes to music duo Nikhil-Vinay. Their compositions have that low-key sweetness which is not present in the creations of those who depend too much on orchestration. Lyrics are typical Anand Bakshi stuff, with a bit of romance here and a bit of family drama there. Asha Bhonsle sings one of these (Solah baras intezar karliya ).
And the best thing is that there are only five of them. In fact, that should be the upper limit for most Hindi films. Otherwise everyone tends to shove in three or four totally redundant songs.
But the fewer number of songs create a bit of a problem, in that a cassette can accommodate eight or nine of them. Here the quorum has been completed by taking one song each from Shatranj, Ravanraaj, Naraaz and Jurmana.
SUNAO 99 (Venus): Raju Srivastava has been bringing out cassettes of jokes and mimicry with unfailing regularity. This one is the 10th of the series. His humour was worthwhile to begin with, but there has been rapid decline in the recent past. One problem is that he drags a topic for far too long (as in the case of Mumbai aur UP mein fark in this cassette). And the other is that there is an excessive use of canned laughter.
Still, when he comments on the many ills of society, he does strike a sympathetic chord in Khoob hai bhai khoob hai , a quawwali, and a cricket commentary. He can come out with better cassettes if he selects a more qualified scriptwriter.