(Well known as Ranjit Singh) -
In mind your Language Series “Thousand Appologies”
‘Beloved father of Shanti, Michael & Alex, loving father-in-law of Godfrey Jacob, everloving grandfather of Andrew, Charlotte & Ottis, passedaway peacefully in London on the 15th of September 2017. Funeral service to be held in St. Andrews Church – Gampola at 11.00 a.m. on 9th December (Saturday and thereafter will laid to Rest at the Cemetery.’
If you have watched Octopussy (1983), The Man Who Would be King (1975), An American Werewolf in London (1981), you will not forget Albert Moses. In the James Bond films Octopussy and Man Who Loved Me, he acted alongside Roger Moore. In The Man Who Would be King, he acted with Sean Connery and Michael Caine. He acted with Kirk Douglas in Queenie Hollywood mini-series, and also contributed to Jungle Book II too. He acted in seven films and produced and directed another. The International Movie Database describes him as a film actor and producer.
He was a Sri Lankan. A precious man who loved Sri Lanka and was bonded with Sri Lanka in mind.
Before those Hollywood films, what brought fame and fortune to him was the 1977-79 and 1986 British sitcom comedy Mind Your Language, in which he played the role Ranjeet Singh. It was a story about foreigners who had come to England to do jobs and how they tried to learn the English language. He was the producer of 13 of its latter episodes. The Swedish beauty in the sitcom is Ingrid Bergman, the daughter of director Ingmar Bergman.
Ranjeet Singh hails from Punjab, India and is a devoted Sikh, but is mistaken by the English class to be a Pakistani. He always gets into trouble with the Pakistani Muslim Ali Nadeem, who threatens those who anger him with his kipran. Ranjeet Singh has a good vocabulary, but his general knowledge is very poor. Every time he corrects himself, he brings his palms against each other and says ‘a thousand apologies’, which became a signature line of the sitcom.
The western world describes him as a character actor. He also wrote stories for children, including Tales from India, The Hawk and the Turtles, Mustapha Mouse.
Internationally, he was known as the Sri Lankan actor living in Britain. Excepting for an occasional article about him in the English media, he was unknown in Sri Lanka. He was not confined to this island. He belonged to the entire world.
Born in Gampola 79 years ago, Moses shortly worked at the then Ceylon University in Peradeniya and then migrated to South Africa. From there, he went to England to study at a drama school. There, he started off as a film and TV actor.
He joined Mind Your Language sitcom after answering a newspaper advertisement for a person who could play the role of a Sikh. In the interview, he did the role better than a Sikh. He had many Indian friends in London and he studied their culture and language. He learned how to wear the turban and the habitual nod when a Sikh speaks.
Some people come to be known by the world after their deaths, when banners are put up. They live the lives of the deaf and die like the deaf. What is saddening is that the motherland knows not much about an internationally known Sri Lankan who always had the identity of a Sri Lankan.
He worked hard, earned money and donated generously to children’s homes in Sri Lanka. He was not recognized for that, but in England, he was made a knight of the order of St. John. But, he used to tell his media friends who met him in London that he preferred the Sri Lankan rice and curry to a fish and chips plate of the Englishmen.
In Sri Lanka, talents and fortunes are not recognized. He desired to contribute to Sri Lankan television and other productions, but his talents were not utilized.
After doing Mind Your Language, he went back to Africa and made documentaries. Returning to London’s East End, he made a variety of videos. An accomplished singer and dancer, Moses knew English, Arabian, Tamil, Sinhala, German and Sanskrit. He contributed to Channel 4’s East Is East, and wrote, produced and directed television programmes in Malta.
He chose Hertfordshire to spend his retirement. There too, he remained active, teaching English free of charge to migrants coming from East Europe.
This man, known by the world, but unknown by his motherland, is laid to rest today (09) at Gampola, where he was born.
We, as a country, have to repeat what he said in the first episode of Mind Your Language, after 10 minutes and 32 seconds, ‘thousand apologies for my lateness!’
- Krishanthi Rajapakse