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He Painted Beautiful Pictures With His Camera

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BY ALI PETER JOHN

I had first heard of him when I was in school and he was a painter and a photographer for the best calendars of the year, both in the South and in Bombay. He was best known for his calendars designed for a fireworks company in Chennai and some of the leading companies in Bombay like the Premier Automobiles Company which manufactured cars.

J.P Singhal however, became a star among stars when he started taking photographs of some of the leading stars and designed the publicity campaigns for some of the biggest films.

He however grew very popular when he chose girls at random and shot their pictures in ways that was not seen before and he even took to shooting nude pictures of girls and some of the girls he shot grew into leading models, beauty queens and stars. But he never publicises the nude pictures or any gain till the end of his life. He had a way of talking girls into undressing themselves till they were willing to pose in any way he wanted and many of them ended up in the nude without even knowing how they did it or how he made them do it. Some of the leading models and female stars in films have been shot nude by Singhal and filmmakers lined up outside his studio in Worli to see the photographs he had taken so that they could consider them for their films.

Singhal who came to Bombay from Meerut with only his camera rose to became a star in his own world. He had his own working room in his studio where he did not allow entry even to biggest stars and filmmakers. On one occasion, Subhash Ghai who was at the peak of his career entered his room when he was not there and sat on the stool of which Singhal sat and painted and planned his designs. Singhal came back to his studio and when he saw Subhash Ghai sitting in his place, he blew his top and asked Subash Ghai not only to get up from his stool, but also asked Ghai to leave his studio immediately. Ghai was baffled with his behavior, but Singhal did not change his stand even though it would mean a loss of several lakhs for him. He had similar ego hassles with other film makers, he did not care when it came to his image which was nothing but one big ego.

He was a regular specialist photographer for Raaj Kapoor and designed all his ads. He came to know that Raj Kapoor desperately needed a new young girl to play Ganga in his film, “Ram Teri Ganga Maili Ho Gayee”. He had shot the photographs of a girl who was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Joseph who were also from Meerut and as usual he had also shot the girl in all kinds of revealing ways, including several photographs in the nude.

He showed the photographs to Raj Kapoor who jumped from his chair and said, “Is my Ganga and whatever her name is, I am going to call her Mandakini”. That was the beginning of the rise of Mandakini.

Singhal had a very close relationship with the painter, M.F Hussain and Hussain left all the designing of the ads of his films to Singhal. Singhal’s one big ambition was to compile all the photographs he had taken of Hussain and for his own reasons, he wanted me to write the text for the book. But before anything could go any further Hussain had to leave the country and died in Qatar and within months Singhal also died.

The most awkward and amusing scene I was at his studio was when Sunil Dutt entered and before taking about work for two films he was planning, Messiah and Ajanta, he told Singhal, “Singhal sahab, humko bhi kuch apne khazaane se kuch dikhao” (He meant all the collections of nude photographs Singhal had), but Singhal kept his promise made to the girls he had photographed and their parents and godfathers. He didn’t show those nude pictures even when Sunil Dutt who was a leading star, filmmaker and M.P requested him too.

Singhal started a trend which is now being followed by every Tom, Dick & Hari in every corner and lanes of Mumbai and other cities of the country.

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, J.P Singhal, Bollywood Films, Raj Kapoor

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