Actor Prithviraj Kapoor’s letters to Sobha Singh on display at Andretta gallery
The family-run art gallery and museum at Andretta has put on display the rare collection of letters written by Prithvi Raj Kapoor to his friend, the famous Punjabi painter-sculptor Sardar Sobha Singh.
Prithiviraj Kapoor, the pioneer of Indian theatre and the Hindi film industry was a close friend of Sobha Singh. The two legendry artists first met in Lahore on the sets of a film titled “But Tarash” (sculptor), for which the latter was an art director.
After partition, Sobha Singh settled at Andretta, near Palampur in Kangra valley, while Kapoor shifted to Mumbai, which was then called Bombay.
“Their friendship, however, grew deeper. Kapoor would visit Andretta every summer or when he was shooting for films in nearby locations,” said Sobha Singh’s grandson Hirday Paul Singh, who runs the gallery at Andretta.
“Darji (Sobha Singh) would stay at Kapoor’s home Prithvi Jhompra (now Prithivi Theatre) when he went to Bombay to get his art works printed,” he added.
“They regularly wrote to each other,” said Hirday Paul adding that three of those letters preserved in Shobha Singh’s collection have been put on display at the gallery, besides some of their photographs.
“It seems our letters started their journey on the same day and must have met on the way. Good that they did not start the conversation among themselves,” wrote Kapoor in one of the letter which is on display. The letter was written on June 11, 1969 in Punjabi. In another letter, he wrote that he loved the beautiful place where Sobha Singh lived, “say my salute to the land”.
Kapoor also wrote to the artist that he has recorded his voice on a tape recorder and that the latter can listen to it whenever he wants. Most of the letters were in Punjabi while some were in Urdu. Hirday Paul said that Sobha Singh sculpted a bust of Kapoor which still adorns the façade of Andretta gallery.
“We put the letters and the photographs on display so that his followers, the visitors and the world get to understand more about their friendship,” he added.
A postal treasure trove
Sobha Singh’s precious collection of correspondence has letters he wrote to or received from eminent personalities, who were his close friends.
These include MS Randhawa, who played a pivotal role in the rehabilitation of creative people uprooted during the partition of India; Mulk Raj Anand; Balraj Sahni; Shiv Kumar Batalvi; Amrita Pritam; Karan Singh of Jammu and Kashmir; Maharaja Patiala Yadvinder Singh; and king of the erstwhile princely state of Mandi, Joginder Sen.
Besides, the family has 50 letters written to the artist by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) who admired the artist’s work on Sikh Gurus and his letters to former Presidents Dr Rajendera Prasad, Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, VV Giri, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and Giani Zail Singh.
“We planned to preserve these rare letters Darji exchanged with eminent personalities by publishing them in a book form. But the idea is yet to be materialised for want of sponsorship,” said Hirday Paul.
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