ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dual Identities, Parallel Lives

Could Bhogwan Singh, the actor, and Bhagwan Singh, the revolutionary, be one and the same?

A person living a double life, or assuming different identities—often at the same time—makes up the very stuff of fiction and film. Historian Natalie Zemon Davis wrote of Martin Guerre, who impersonated a peasant in 16th century France before being sensationally outed, an act and its aftermath with reverberations for women’s rights and French religious beliefs. In A Princely Impostor, Partha Chatterjee relates the celebrated court case in 1921 that followed the return of the long-presumed dead, Kumar of Bhawal. Such dual identities come at great personal cost, and are revelatory of inner conflicts.

I accidentally stumbled over a similar case, which remains piquantly unresolved. I first noticed Bhagwan Singh in Nitin Govil’s book Orienting Hollywood: A Century of Film Culture between Los Angeles and Bombay, where he appears (as does my interest) as one of Hollywood’s “early turban experts.” Bhagwan Singh appeared as an extra (at times credited) in films where “Asians” were required: a steward, a farmer, or a servant, for example. Following up, on yet another website, I noticed the actor’s name was also spelled as Bhogwan.

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Updated On : 24th Mar, 2017
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