The Indian silver-screen has had several such artists who, although incredibly gifted, remained side-lined or were typecast into the same roles time and again. Such artists have at the same time found the brilliance and manner to make their work unique and leave a mark in the industry. One such artist is the ingenious actor Paintal, who worked in over a hundred films, television shows and more, all the while creating a nuanced comic presence and talent within the Hindi film industry.
Kanwarjit Paintal was born on 22 August, 1948, in Tarn Taran, Punjab. It is said that his father was a cameraman who owned a photo studio and it was through his influence and guidance that Paintal went ahead with joining the Film and Television Institute in Pune. He graduated in the year 1969 and came to Mumbai in order to make a start in his career as an actor. Paintal was not alone in his pursuit at the time, and was accompanied by actors such as Asrani, Subhash Ghai, and Satish Shah, all of whom were FTII graduates who entered the industry around the same time.
Paintal was soon given a great opportunity in the form of his debut in the Hindi film industry, with director Atma Ram’s 1970 film Umang. The film revolved around a group of youngsters who claimed their right for some space for a Club House. It fared well in the box-office and this meant a great deal for many fresh graduates of the institute, who were then flooded with offers from some or the other film. Paintal’s performance in the film was noteworthy and he gained recognition through his role as a film lead.
This recognition was followed with several noted roles and projects that the actor speedily got involved with, namely films including Mere Apne (1971), Jawani Diwani (1972), Heera Panna (1973), and Manoranjan (1974) among others. He further appeared in some interesting roles that demonstrated his acting calibre and skill to a significant extent, in films like Bawarchi (1972), in which he played the role of a ‘shudh Hindi bhashik’ dance teacher, Aaj Ki Tazaa Khabar (1973), where he played the playful character of Champak Bhumia, and Raffoochakkar (1975), in which he played the role of an innocent murder witness who is forced to flee and disguise himself as a girl (with a similar role played by Rishi Kapoor). All these roles allowed him to experiment with a wide range and breadth of characters and it seemed that his career would shape exceedingly well as a prominent character actor of his time.
However, the comedy of Hindi films in the 70s and 80s was around a turning point where after a while, good roles began to get scarce and soon enough, Paintal’s image as an actor got reduced to banal comic buffoonery, which too he made his own by way of employing broad physical gestures and facial contortions. A little known fact was that Paintal was also an exceptional mime artist who could imbue a scene with great depth through his facial gestures and movements. His wide skillset was rarely used in his roles and thus, it was through his wit and comic sense that he instilled these qualities in his characters on-screen.
Paintal saw a good run for his career in the film industry through big and small roles in films like The Burning Train (1980), Dostana (1980), Kranti (1981), Satte pe Satta (1982), Hum Do Humare Do (1984), Anubhav (1986), Prem Yog (1994) and others. He also starred in prominent roles in various television shows, proving yet again the diverse potential of his skills as a performer. The actor featured in the 24th Episode of Doordarshan’s popular mythological TV show called Vikram Aur Betaal as Dagdoo. He famously played the role of Sudama and Shikhandi in B R Chopra’s Mahabharat aired on DD National from 1988-90.
Paintal was also awarded with the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Comic Role twice for his roles in Bawarchi and Chala Murari Hero Banne (1977). Currently, the veteran actor is serving as the Head of the Acting Department at FTII since 2008, and continues to contribute his knowledge and experience from the industry to impart and promote the craft of cinema.
- Eena Meena Deeka. Sanjit Narwekar. Rupa, 2005. Print.