“Women are more capable than men. They always were.”
The year 1954
Place – Dharamkot Village, District Moga
A young girl’s desire to study was laid off when she discovered that it was abandoned for the girls of her village to go to school beyond class 8. In the older days, girls were trained to become homemakers, to stay at home, do the chores and look after the family. They were married off at a young age. But this young girl did not let society stop her from fulfilling her desire to study further, so she sat outside the classes of a boys school and from there got her education. The headmaster, amazed by this young girls dedication, asked her, why was she doing so? The girl told the headmaster that she wanted to study and requested him to help her fill the form for the class 10th board examinations from the boy’s school.
Though it was against the rule, the principal impressed by the determination of the child helped her fill the form. The young girl appeared for the class 10th board examinations via a boys school.
People in the village started to rant about the girl going to a boy’s school!
She was expected to understand and accept the situation.
The time passed and after 2 months the results came. In the year 1954, this girl scored 65% marks. The whole village was astonished and ran towards the “Baazar” in district Moga to get the newspaper of the day which carried a photograph of this young girl who with the grit and determination had cleared the class 10th exams and compelled the village elders to think about the need of a school for the village girls too.
From that day onwards Dharamkot village has a Co-Ed School where girls could study and pursue their dreams. This is just one leaf of the story out of the inspirational life of the sweetest Dadi on-screen- Kamlesh Gill.
On asking how and when she ventured into acting she shares that she was working with Indian Railways. Her Husband Kuldip Singh Shergill, himself was a theatre enthusiast and her house was sometimes converted into a rehearsal hall and in one such day when she pinpointed a scene, her husband insisted her to act too.
“Acting those days was not considered good and I was scared of what people will say.” She shares.
“But my husband encouraged and told me clearly, it’s my choice and he is in support so I should not worry for anyone else. During rehearsals of theatre, my Father-in-law used to take care of the house and supported my choices. If a woman gets family support she can very easily strike a work-life balance.”
Kamlesh Gill started her theatre and got much appreciation for her acting skills. She was very active on Delhi Stage through the 1960s and 70s and has worked with renowned directors like Sai Paranjpai, Rajendra Gupta and Pankaj Kapur, R G Anand, Ramesh Mehta to name a few.
.In the mid-60s when Television started in India and she was an A grade artiste being offered roles in various serials.
Her first serial was “Begum Kamroo” after which she acted in many more both in Hindi and Punjabi, including Aur Bhi Gam Hai Zamane Mein as ‘Goma’ a DD production, written by Revati Saran Sharma – a very popular weekly soap on Indian Television in the 70s.
Kanjoos, Tin Buaan waala Ghar, Lekh Tandon’s Dil Darya, Sanjha Kumba are few more.
Her character of Dadi in “Dadi Ma Ke Nuskhey” on Zee Punjabi is remembered by many. UNICEF projects of telefilms on girl-child along with few popular Music Albums
In the 1980s including ‘Man ke Manjeere’ by Shubha Mudgil &‘Mai Re’ by Palash Sen have her heartwarming presence.
She acted in Sai Paranjpai’s JADU KA SHANKH for Children’s Film Society, 1975 & R G Anand’s LAVA PHUTEYA in Punjabi
She was seen in many hugely popular Bollywood movies like BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN, KICK , LOVE AAJ KAL, OYE LUCKY OYE, SOCHA NA THA etc. Her role in Shoojit Sarkar’s VICKY DONOR – as Biji is etched in people’s mind and she is fondly called “Biji” by many.
During the interaction when asked about the change in the scenario for working women, and the term “Women Empowerment”, Kamlesh Gill stated “ Women are more capable than men. They always were. They are strong and can dabble many things simultaneously, be it home or work. The only thing they need is the faith bestowed upon them by their near and dear ones.”
With the utmost simplicity “Biji”, stated a fact which was true then, and is true now.