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Q n A with Actor Kanwaljit Singh



"I wrote a secret love letter to Asha Parekh"

It was the itch to get out of Sahranpur, the small town in UP he grew up in, that Kanwaljit Singh aka Kukuji became an actor. Unable to fulfil his dreams of flying a plane due to poor hearing in his right ear, Singh had filled a form for Film & Television Institute of India where he studied acting in the same batch as Shabana Azmi.

The celluloid journey began with the handsome actor mimicking his heroes--Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar--in auditions before finding his true voice as an actor through films such as 'Ashanti' and 'Satte Pe Satta' and TV series such as 'Buniyaad', 'Parmaan' and 'Saans'. In an interview, the 77-year-old actor--who is now part of an OTT series called 'Hostages 2'--tells us about the days he would verbally apologise to fan mail   

Do you remember the first autograph you ever sought? 

I was a big fan of Asha Parekh. As a boarder at St George's in Mussoorie--at a time when male chauvinism was written into the system---we used to get one Inland letter to write to our parents. I used it to confess to Asha Parekh that I was secretly in love with her. I had to hide it and post it. I don't know if it reached her. 

What is your earliest memory of giving an autograph? 

There is a picture of me in Jammu surrounded by girls. We were shooting at PatniTop then and suddenly a gaggle of girls--they must have been in school or college---who had come there for a picnic came up to me. Somebody later sent me the picture.  

Did you get a lot of fan mail? 

I did get a lot of letters. There was one guy in Indore called Nawab, a son of a tailor, who used to write to me. He came home one day. I fed him and told him there was no point in coming here. He was loving. We had a long chat. This must have been during the Satte Pe Satta and Ashanti phase in the 80s.

Did you respond to all the letters? 

I used to get so many, I would feel bad. I would look at the letter and simply say Sorry. I was grateful. I wish I could take time to write but somehow, that didn't happen. I never had a secretary. I don't like dealing with secretaries. 

But you read all of them?  

It's like this. When the flowers come, you take them for granted. When they stop coming, you wonder why. Then they start coming again, but there are not as many. 

But there was one letter I kept. It was a hate mail. It said "who do you think you are?" and all that nonsense. I think it reminded me that I am no great shakes. It kept me grounded. I had started by living as a paying guest and while shifting homes, I lost that letter. 

Now, the number of letters has gone down? 

I think mail comes to the leading pair. Besides, now I get requests on facebook and Insta. There are wonderful people there but sometimes, when they try to get too familiar, I block them. 

What do you think of selfies? 

I was a photographer. I used to love taking pictures with my DSLR. Before selfies, I had taken a picture of myself with the DSLR.

Do you miss giving autographs? 

No, you go with the times. Nobody carries a pen these days. I have lost pens while giving away autographs. I used to give away the pen after signing, unknowingly. I lost a lot of good ink pens that way. I used to have a collection of Mont Blanc and Parker ink pens. They used to be messy but nice.

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