Within the 1983 movie Zelig, Woody Allen (who additionally wrote and directed the film) performs the eponymous hero; a person who manages someway to know everybody (from F Scott Fitzgerald to Adolf Hitler) and who turns up at each essential occasion. The movie is a mockumentary, which is to say that it’s made to appear to be a documentary with pictures of the fictional Zelig inserted into precise footage of actual occasions.
I first met Amar Singh round 4 years after I noticed the film and in my thoughts, Amar Singh was at all times the Indian Zelig: a person who managed to work his approach into any scenario of consequence and to face shoulder to shoulder with any essential particular person he noticed.
I first met Amar Singh after I moved to Calcutta in 1986. He was no large deal then. Although he was a Rajput, his twin claims to fame have been his affiliation with town’s affluent Marwari group and his friendship with Bengal Congress leaders.
As he was neither a lot of a businessman nor a politician of any nice consequence, he was already punching a lot above his weight. He may get town’s richest males — the Birlas, the Goenkas, and others — on the cellphone and have become concerned, at a excessive stage, within the feuds that characterised the Bengal Congress of that period. (He was pro-Subrata Mukherjee, anti-Mamata Banerjee and so forth.)
Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh at Parliament home in the course of the winter session, in New Delhi on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh died at a Singapore hospital on August 1, 2020.
Arun Sharma/HT PHOTO
He additionally understood the media. He would flip up on the ABP workplace, the place I then labored, escorting visiting notables. He introduced Dr. Karan Singh to see us. He got here once more with Veer Bahadur Singh who was then (if I bear in mind accurately) Telecom Minister. Amar Singh was hardly the one native politician to accompany nationwide biggies on their visits to Calcutta. However what made him completely different was that he demanded nearly as a lot consideration because the customer he was escorting, inserting himself into each dialog and holding forth at size. Interrupt him and also you risked offending the essential customer so most of us heard him out politely.
In a number of years, Amar Singh had established a presence in Delhi as effectively. When Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan got here to Calcutta for the premiere of Agneepath in 1990, Amar Singh hooked up himself to Jaya Bachchan whom he had helped with a Kids’s Movie Pageant in Delhi. (On the time Jaya was Chairperson of the Kids’s Movie Society.) He was not but a buddy of Amitabh’s however as a result of he popped up, Zelig-like, in all of the pictures, he got here off to most people as a detailed buddy of all of the Bachchans.
The next yr, when Chandra Shekhar was Prime Minister, Amar Singh who knew the PM a bit, carried out what would develop into a basic Amar Singh maneuver. He instructed Chandra Shekhar that he would introduce him to Amitabh Bachchan, who was not solely a legend however was additionally of fast consequence to Chandra Shekhar as a result of his authorities was depending on Congress assist and Bachchan was Rajiv Gandhi’s shut buddy.
To Bachchan, Singh mentioned that Chandra Shekhar was like a brother to him and he, Amar Singh, would personally be sure that any issues that had been created for the Bachchans by the predecessor VP Singh- authorities would disappear.
Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan with Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav in Lucknow on December 16, 2009. Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh died at a Singapore hospital on August 1, 2020.
Ajay Kumar Singh / HT Archive
For years afterwards, Amar Singh would inform the story of how he personally carried the federal government file regarding a case towards the Bachchans round until Chandra Shekhar agreed to signal it and shut the case.
“Amitji might have been a buddy of Rajiv Gandhi’s however it was Amar Singh who acquired the recordsdata signed and the case disposed off,” Amar Singh would increase.
This acquired him nowhere with Rajiv who turned down Amar Singh’s request for a Congress ticket for the 1991 election and refused to even meet him regardless of Amitabh’s urging. Nevertheless it definitely endeared him to Amitabh and by 1992, the 2 males have been extraordinarily shut and spoke to one another on the cellphone each single day.
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In his later years, after the Bachchans had thrown him out, Amar Singh would complain bitterly that Amitabh was by no means sufficiently grateful for all of the issues that he had executed for him. And positively there isn’t any doubt that in the course of the essential section when Bachchan’s ABCL had collapsed, leaving money owed of tons of of crores, Amar Singh helped increase the funds required to get the money owed settled.
Amitabh Bachchan and Amar Singh receiving company at Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai’s engagement get together on Sunday, January 14, 2007.
Prodip Guha / HT Archive
However equally, there isn’t any doubt that Amar Singh gained rather more from the affiliation than he admitted. His profession superior inside the Samajwadi Social gathering as a result of he was capable of ship the Bachchans each time Mulayam Singh Yadav wanted them. He gained entry to political circles that will by no means have allowed him in by promising to deliver Amitabh alongside. And although the Bachchans handled him with extraordinary respect and deference, Amar Singh made it a degree to gratuitously inform people who Amitabh would come to the airport to obtain him when he visited Mumbai and that he had organized the weddings of each the Bachchan kids, exercising complete management over the visitor record.
No one actually is aware of what went fallacious with that relationship — I solely have Amar Singh’s model which was so poisonously anti-Bachchan as to lack all credibility — however whereas it lasted, there isn’t any doubt that Singh turned the closest buddy Amitabh had ever had, particularly after the break up between the Bachchan brothers.
Did Amar Singh precipitate the break up? He mentioned numerous issues at numerous instances so it’s exhausting to make sure. However there isn’t any doubt that just about all over the place Singh went, there have been family points. He was central to the break up between Mulayam and his son Akhilesh. He was brazenly hostile to Mukesh Ambani and an energetic warrior for the Anil Ambani camp when the brothers fought. And when the Bajajs had an issue, he turned up there as effectively, Zelig-like.
On this file photograph dated Nov. 9, 2003, is seen Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, Anil Ambani (L), senior chief Amar Singh (2R) and others throughout a gathering of the State Improvement Council in Lucknow.
By the top of his time within the limelight, Amar Singh had both fallen out with or moved away from each highly effective particular person he was as soon as shut too. The parting with the Bachchans was bitter. He ceased to be a determine of any consequence in UP politics after Akhilesh kicked him out of the SP, although he tried very exhausting however fruitlessly to get someplace with the BJP.
He was brazenly attacking Anil Ambani in interviews which meant that the parting couldn’t have been cordial. His makes an attempt to suck as much as Mukesh Ambani (“I made a mistake by behaving badly with Mukeshbhai” and so forth.) have been rebuffed. Subroto Roy of Sahara whose planes and helicopters Amar Singh flew round in in the course of the glory days instructed a TV interviewer that he thought Amar Singh had now develop into so smug that his ft hardly touched the bottom.
The story of his fall is probably not shocking: any moth that flies too near the flame at all times dangers going up in smoke. However the extra outstanding story is the considered one of his rise. I noticed him at pretty shut quarters for over 30 years and I nonetheless can’t determine how he managed to fly so excessive and get up to now.
A number of the explanations that I’ve heard from individuals who knew him make some sense. Sure, he was an ideal conduit between enterprise and trade with a capability to repair offers, get initiatives cleared and lift election funding. However there are others who can do this too. So it isn’t sufficient of an evidence for his outstanding rise.
Amitabh Bachchan with Samajwadi Social gathering chief & MP Amar Singh on the ‘Hero Cycles Stardust Awards’ operate in Mumbai, India on April 04, 2004.
Girish Srivastava / HT Archive
A few of his success was in all probability influence-peddling. As he did with Chandra Shekhar and Amitabh Bachchan approach again in 1991, he knew commerce in contacts and to fling names round. Within the heyday of the Mulayam authorities, he used to brag that his home stuffed up each morning with essential figures (together with civil servants) all searching for favours. Each favour handed out was an IOU that he banked.
On this file photograph dated July 14, 2015, is seen Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and chief Amar Singh(R) at a Roza Iftaar get together in Lucknow.
When HD Deve Gowda was Prime Minister, Amar Singh, who mentioned he had organized election financing for Gowda when he was only a Karnataka politician, would flip up at Race Course Street early within the morning and park himself there. Anybody who got here to fulfill the Prime Minister would first need to reckon with Amar Singh.
However a lot of his success needed to do along with his personal drive, his personal confidence and his skill to develop into the grasp of any scenario. Typically when he was along with his star-friends, with prime industrialists and even his political masters, it was exhausting to inform who was the star or the boss and who was the lesser determine.
When he went with Mulayam to fulfill the President of India or such allies as Sonia Gandhi, Amar Singh was the one who took the chair nearest the host and led the dialog. High industrialists have been usually decreased to inarticulate, blathering wrecks whereas Amar Singh took cost.
**EDS: FILE** New Delhi: On this file photograph dated Feb. 16, 2003, is seen Congress chief Sonia Gandhi with RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, Samajwadi Social gathering leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh (2R) and CPI-M chief Somnath Chatterjee throughout a gathering in New Delhi.
However none of this fairly captures the key of Amar Singh’s success. How did he inveigle himself so efficiently into the lifetime of the notoriously non-public Bachchan family that they gave him his personal room of their home?. Why did Anil Ambani, a sensible, savvy and assured businessman, let Amar Singh pose as his alter-ego? Why did Mulayam let Amar Singh develop into his Svengali?
I don’t suppose anybody has ever been capable of reply these questions. Nor can anybody clarify what lastly went so fallacious. Why did almost all of Amar Singh’s buddies flip their backs on him at roughly the identical time?
The final time I met him was in his large new villa the place he gave me a bitter interview about his ex-friends. He was excited to be the topic of a full-length interview, an more and more uncommon incidence in the direction of the top of his life, and insisted on displaying me round his palatial new home.
After we acquired to his non-public cinema, he wished to play part of a music sequence from a Hindi film on his large display.”You can be stunned by how good the sound is,” he bragged.
However the system wouldn’t work. No image would play. Amar Singh requested somebody to repair it. The person tried however had no success.
Amar Singh acquired angrier and angrier. “Aaj kuchch nahin chal raha hai!” he complained in exasperation and rage.
And naturally, he was proper.
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