A conversation with Kanwaljit Singh

I had interviewed Kanwaljit Singh for a portal of Zee Interactive Learning Systems (ZILS) way back in the year 2000. During his interview, Kanwaljit spoke about his hobbies, his love for Urdu poetry and tennis.

This interview was later picked up and re-published by India-Forums.


Kanwaljit Singh graduated from Saharanpur and then joined FTII Pune. His first film was 'Dastaan-e-Laila Majnu' followed by 'Hum Rahe Na Hum' by Vijay Anand, "Sharat" and 'Shaque' by Ketan Anand.

Kanwaljit Singh debut on television

Two of his films 'Hum Rahe Na Hum' and 'Shaque' which he heavily banked on did not do well at the box office. He was slotted as a failure, and it was around this time that he was introduced to television (the small screen, then was not a popular medium). His role as an illegitimate child in Ramesh Sippy's mega serial Buniyaad gave him instant recognition.

This earned him many offers, but even at that time, he did not take up anything that came his way. On the contrary, he has always preferred to wait and do lesser but more meaningful roles. In the coming years he was approached with roles of his choice and thus serials like Saans, Family no. 1, Dard and Siski happened.

Kanwaljit Singh wife Anuradha Patel

Happily married to actress Anuradha Patel, he is the father of two adorable sons. His hobbies are reading, philosophy, literature and Urdu poetry and his favourite sport is tennis. A voracious reader, he has read Salman Rushdie, Milan Kundera, Marque and Arundhati Roy. He admires European filmmakers and artists, his favourite Hollywood actors are Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Kevin Costner and Jack Nicholson.

An excerpt from the chat with him:

You have tasted success on the small screen. How do you perform your roles with such ease?

Kanwaljit Singh: "It's just that with experience you tend to be perfect, but rehearsing for a role is very important for upcoming artists. My initial days of struggle were marked with practice sessions, I used to stand in front of a mirror, read aloud my dialogues and perform. That gave me the confidence to perform various roles with ease. Once you get acquainted with the art you need not practice. These days when I am not working I read autobiographies of other artists and try and learn from them".

Would you choose going back to movies?

Kanwaljit Singh: "I do like working in films as this medium enables one to exploit one's true potential, but I am not happy with the kind of offers that have come my way. I want to do roles of substance, the kind that can help me grow. Owing to my success on the small screen offers come my way. I basically work for television in order to fulfil my economic needs, and also because I get to do a variety of roles."

How do you choose a role?

Kanwaljit Singh: "I look for the fullness in the man, is he real, believable, does he have something to say/do, challenge the actor in myself, give a chance to display a wide range of emotions etc. In the case of 'Saans', he is caught up in two situations, or Karan Khanna of 'Daraar' who is on the warpath against his greedy and jealous daughter-in-law who has deprived him of everything or the illegitimate son, Satbir in 'Buniyaad'. Is the character angry, shy, extrovert, introvert, suppressed, quiet or ambitious? You see, all these range of emotions do help in choosing a character. There has to be something strong in the character, which you should instinctively feel and which can be reflected on the screen".

That means you choose your character.

Kanwaljit Singh: "Yes, I am a very choosy person, I don't undertake any project that comes my way. I think a great deal about the role. The best compliment that I have received in my long innings is that whenever I take up a job, quality is always assured. And I am not talking just about my own performance".

What kind of potential roles would you like to portray? 

Kanwaljit Singh: "I have always been fascinated by psychologically disturbed minds. Something on those lines would really interest me. I want to play a psychopath.

What are your reading preferences?

Kanwaljit Singh: "Well, I read all sorts of books, fiction and non-fiction. As I told you, I have read a lot of Nietzsche. It is a sort of Bible to me. I keep going back to Nietzsche again and again. I have read a lot of Freud and Adler, and other psychological books too. Also, I have read a lot of fiction starting with Rushdie, Arundhati, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Milan Kundera.

Who do you look up to as your role models?

Kanwaljit Singh: "Since my childhood, I had been a great fan of Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar. I often used to imitate Dev Anand's gestures. I was just crazy about him. But things changed once I joined the Film Institute at Pune. As I started watching foreign movies, my outlook towards films changed. I have great admiration for Nietzsche and Faiz Ahmed Faiz".

Your screen roles show you as a loving and understanding father. Are you the same in real life too?

Kanwaljit Singh: "I am a very loving father but my kids think that I am a very humorous person. I share a very close relationship with my sons, Siddharth and Aditya. I try and coincide my holidays with the kids so that all the four of us can go out on holidays together. We prefer to spend the weekends at Khandala and Lonavala. All of us basically like to travel a lot. During the kids' Diwali and summer vacations, we take off on long holidays".