His raised eyebrows sent chills up and down our spines! His persona evoked fear among the audience from 1936 to 1992. Actor Krishan Niranjan Singh or K N Singh was a villain par excellence. Today is his 18th death anniversary. Mom made me interview him when I was a mere child. It was published in the Sunday edition of a daily newspaper. He reminded me of my own maternal grandfather and treated me as a grandchild. I am sharing that interview here.
His patent dialogue Bakwas band was as famous as Prem hai mera naam, Prem Chopra or Tera kya hoga Kalia. He was born in Dehradun in 1908. He comes from a lawyer family and almost became a barrister himself. But, an incident stopped him in the endeavor. In Dehradun, there was a dry river called Rispana. Once, a bitch was found sitting and crying at a particular nook of the river. This continued for 2 days. Police were called, who dug up the place. The dead body of a woman was found there. The woman was a tenant. According to K N Singh, the whole Dehradun knew that her landlord was the murderer. The landlord approached the Senior Mr. Singh (K N Singh’s father), who defended him in court.
The British judge (K N Singh mentioned the name but his second wife requested not to mention it) acquitted him for want of concrete evidence. Obviously, people began to talk. K N Singh got angry. He could not digest the fact that his father took a murderer’s case. K N Singh left his home and went away to Gujranwala, near Lahore (at that time India was an undivided country). There he started a Calico Printing Press in partnership with a friend Lajpatrai (not the Lala). Next, they opened a press at Lahore. K N Singh continued to stay there till 1930.
In 1931, he got married and stayed in Dehradun for some time. In 1932, his wife died. Then, he opened a school called Cambridge Tutorial Institute. In 1935, he relocated to Calcutta (Kolkata now), where his sister’s husband was working in a jute and cotton mill. The next year turned out to be a landmark year since he met Prithviraj Kapoor and Devki Bose in the capital of West Bengal, India. Life took a turn for the better. His first movie as a villain was Baghban (1938). Till date, he has done more than 250 movies. Let’s hear more from the man himself:
How did you feel while facing the camera for the first time?
I faced the camera for the first time for Sunehra Sansar (1936). My role was of a doctor. I told Prithviraj Kapoor and Devki Bose that I did not know anything in acting. They taught me everything. It was then that I came across the first book on acting that I read – Constantin Stanislavski’s An Actor Prepares. All this happened in Calcutta. Mr. A R Kardar brought me to Bombay.
What were your ideals when you were young?
To go back, it is difficult to remember much. But, I have no regrets. I have been fair, honest and earnest. I detested telling lies. I hit an Anglo-Indian man once because he lied.
Which would you name as landmark movies in your career?
Barsaat (1949), Awara (1951), Chalti Ka Naam Gadi (1958), Barsaat Ki Raat (1960), Mere Huzoor (1968), etc. Now, it’s been so long. It is difficult to remember. I also did Pearl Buck’s Guide (the English version of the 1965 classic) and Paul Zilt’s Our India.
What were your other activities at that time?
Sometimes, I used to read any decent book of George Bernard Shaw or Pearl Buck.
Did you have any sports activities?
We did not have time for sports. I used to be ready with makeup at 9.30-10 in the morning and finish our work sharp at 6 PM.
You have done villainous roles. But, character roles as well?
Yes. I did Shobhana Samarth’s father in Kaun Kisi Ka (1939), Prithviraj Kapoor’s father in Ishaara (1943), Prem Adeep’s father in Pati Patni (1939), Al Naasir’s relative in Mere Huzoor (1968) and Madhubala’s father in Barsaat Ki Raat (1960). In Kalia (1981) and Loafer (1973), I have taught the hero to fight the villain.
Which was your last film?
Ajooba (1991) was my last movie. I also did 3 days’ work for the Jackie Shroff starrer Laat Saab (1992).
You cannot see completely now?
I can see only shadows coming and going. It is blank otherwise.
How did the trouble begin?
In 1954, cataract appeared in one eye and was operated out. 10 years later the other eye got affected and we got that operated too. In 1984, trouble started and eventually, I lost sight in both the eyes. 5-6 years back we got my eyes examined by the Air Force Doctor Colonel Bahl. He said that in the good old days there were no reflectors used during shooting. Mirrors were used to reflect the sunlight. We had to stare into the mirrors and indirectly at the sun. In the process, some vein got hurt and the optical nerve got dried out.
How do you react to the current movies?
The language used is disgraceful. I would never have tolerated it in my times. The dialogues in the movies get popular and are repeated by the viewers. So, the filmmakers should be careful and responsible. (I think the dialogues of the movies in the 21st century could make him turn in his grave!)
If you would make a movie today, how would it be? Let’s forget about your inability to see.
It will be in the right direction, praising the right man and destroying the wrong.
What is your daily routine?
I get up at 7.30-8 in the morning. Complete my morning routine with tea. Come and sit here (showing the soft cushion on the sofa on which he was sitting). I have lunch at 2. I come back and sit here till 5. Then, I rest. I go out very rarely.
But, what about exercise? (I could see that he was quite fit and trim.)
Yes, I do a little walking.
Do you recall any incident in real life that reflected your screen image?
One day, I was sitting in my car when 2 loafers came to rob me. I was ready to defend myself with my golf club when they recognized me and ran away uttering K N Singh!
What do you look forward to?
Going to God and touching his feet. I should not hurt anyone at this stage. I ask him to take me away, as comfortably as possible.