October 24th: Photographer, Author Pradeep Chandra pays tribute to the legendary artist JP Singal on his Birth Anniversary
Remembering the legendary painter Jayanti Prasad Singhal on his birth anniversary, industrialist and art lover Parvez Damania says, “I tell people that if you ever get to acquaint yourself with just one great talent, in all your lifetime, look no further than J P Singhal.”
Back then, Singhal was known as the Calendar King and was the highest paid painter of his time. There was no calendar company that did not queue up for his work. He had no competitors. He believed in his work.
Singhal came from a humble background from Meerut and had decided to become an artist at a very young age. He was very popular in his college, particularly for his love for art. He established an arts college immediately after completing his education in Meerut. A magazine named Dharmyug (A TOI publication) was the first to publish his painting, with a poem of Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan and since then, the readers waited to see what came next from JP in Dharmyug.
This popularity led to him receiving an invitation from The Bombay Fine Arts to come and join them in Bombay. He accepted the offer immediately and shifted base. And since then, there was no looking back.
Ever since he landed in Bombay, his paintings found place in homes, shops, hospitals, offices and in places he couldn’t even think of. That was the power of a calendar painting he once told me about.
When I asked him why he never exhibited his work, he replied, “I don’t need to. While other painters have to exhibit to sell their work, my work is sold before I paint.”
Renowned painter Brinda Miller, at his retrospective said, “He was the modern day’s Raja Ravi Varma.”
Upon making a name in the Calendar World, Singhal shifted his focus to photography and launched many stars including Sanjay Dutt, Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor, Raj Babbar and Madhuri Dixit to name a few. Back then, an actress had to reach his studio to get their portfolio done by him. Once, Yash Chopra mentioned to me, “Singhal saab ke saath problem yeh hai ki har ladki unki foto main bahut khubsoorat lagti hai.”
Raj Kapoor invited him to give Zeenat Aman in Satyam Shivam Sunderam an adivasi look. Raj always admired his paintings, especially those of adivasis.
Maqbool Fida Husain inspired him to get back to painting and this time, he tried something he had never done before – abstract art. His first exhibition at Jahangir Art Gallery was a huge success.
Dinesh Singhal, his eldest son, in memory of his father says, “I am proud of my father and the kind of work he did. Even today, his work is incomparable and he still has great fan following.” In 2017, The Singhal Foundation plans to travel around the country exhibiting his work.
Last year, his wife Maya Singhal donated 10 lakhs to JJ College of Arts to institute trophies in the name of JP Singhal. The trophies will be awarded to the best student in the field of fine art and applied arts.