Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Singhania, Kanpur and Bollywood

Many families in India own business empires – the Tatas, Ambanis, Bajajs, Modis et al.
But Bollywood always zeroes in on the surname Singhania when it has to portray a tycoon rolling in wealth.
The latest example is the movie Humshakal.
In the movie, Saif Ali Khan is Ashok Singhania, a magnate settled in London who uses a helicopter instead of a car.
Earlier, Aamir Khan in Ghajini was Sanjay Singhania, an industrialist.   
I have often wondered why the Hindi film industry picks only Singhania.
I am yet to watch a movie in which the protagonist is Sanjay Godrej or Sanjay Birla or Sanjay Bajaj.
Are the surnames Tata and Birla synonymous with people who are like money-minting machines and don’t have time for romance?
Is the surname Ambani not hip enough to suit an actor like Aamir Khan or Saif Ali Khan or Akshay Kumar?
Will the audience think only about refrigerators when the main character is Sanjay Godrej on the screen?
Perhaps the surname Singhania suggests a bit of everything – wealth, grandeur, suaveness and romance. And may be, it is not overexposed like Tata, Ambani, Bajaj or Godrej.
Kanpur was once the home to the Singhanias and fount of their JK group.
But Singhania is not a surname; it’s the distorted form of the name of a village Singhana in the deserts of Rajasthan.
A bunch of enterprising people of Singhana found it too small for doing business and migrated to Kannauj, around 80 kilometres east of the Kanpur in the mid nineteenth century. The locals of Kannauj started calling them Singhania and today the name stands for wealth and richness. The story is more or less similar to the Kauls becoming Nehrus.
The family later shifted to Kanpur that under the British was developing and Juggilal Singhania set up a textile mill in the city.

But it was under the entrepreneurship of his grandson Padampat Singhania that the family came to own a conglomerate, manufacturing textile, paint, wool, tyres, steel, ice, cosmetic products, vegetable oil, brushes…….

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