Our ESP-ionage reporter files another report!
Following his last mission in June: Helping the Nene Valley Railway celebrate their 40th anniversary with something James Bond related; our esp-ionage reporter has returned for duty. Last seen riding off into the distance onboard a steam train with two of the Octopussy Circus girls – he’s back from his sabbatical with this report…
6pm, and London commuters are busy rushing here and there. After catching a train from Peterborough to King Cross I head over to Liverpool Street station to meet my latest contact – Del Singh. Codenamed – Del 5 Boy. Del has vital information to impart concerning the filming of Octopussy at the Nene Valley Railway. In September 1982 Del was on-set alongside the formidable henchman Gobinda, played by Indian actor Kabir Bedi. There he was entrusted with a vital role. He was the man employed to tie the turban on Bedi’s bonce.
So just how did a turban Del wore at Jack Hunt School in Peterborough as a student come to feature in an old film? Well, who better to ask than the new host of ‘Late Night Banter with Del Singh’ on Sikh Channel TV. (www.latenightbanter.com)
Del’s on his way to be guest speaker at a special screening of Octopussy, at the Institute of Light cinema in Hackney and I joined him in an overground train carriage to travel to the venue. I’m minus my favourite Octopussy circus girls from the NVR (they’re busy on another glamorous assignment I expect), but I settle in for some late night Bond banter with the former co-owner of the Park Nightclub in Peterborough.
“It all started in the summer of 1982,” Del revealed, “just before I went off to college. I used to run a mobile rock disco with my brother, and I got a phone call from this guy asking me if I was a Sikh and if I wore a turban? I wondered where the conversation was going, but thankfully I didn’t hang up. Instead I carried on listening as he told me he was from Eon, the company behind the James Bond film franchise. He went on to say the next Bond film (Octopussy) would have scenes filmed at the steam railway in Peterborough and the movie’s main villain would be wearing a turban and they needed someone who could tie a turban, and could I do this for them?
“It was a rather surreal conversation, but I agreed to meet them with my brother at Peterborough’s only 5 star hotel. I was introduced to Kabir Bedi the movie’s villain and Roger Moore who was there too. I then spent the next 4 weeks on set tying what was my grey school turban on Kabir’s head as ironically the ones they had purchased in India were too small and kept falling off him and his stunt double, especially when they were up on top of the train.
“We managed to negotiate being paid £50 per day each for what was basically 10 minutes of time to tie on the turban. The rest of the time we hung around the set ‘chatting’ with the Bond Girls or in Kabir’s trailer which was next to Roger Moore’s.
Del continued, “Roger would often sit outside his trailer smoking a cigar and I found it really easy to sit and chat with him as he loved cinema as much as I did. I talked to him about his working with my favourite actor Richard Burton in the movie The Wild Geese, his role in The Saint and The Persuaders. He wasn’t even offended when I told him that Sean Connery was my favourite Bond as Goldfinger was the first Bond film I saw at the cinema! I remember reporters on set trying their best to goad him about the Connery vs. Moore Bond rivalry since Connery was coming back to do a Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again. But Roger never rose to it, just saying that both he and Sean interpreted Bond in their own way and some would like his version and others Sean’s version.
“He had a fantastic and very dry sense of humour and was very self deprecating. After he passed away earlier this year I wrote an article called ‘My Summer with Sir Roger’ and it was picked up by The Guardian who published it amongst their tributes to him.”
The showing of Octopussy we’re going to has been arranged by London based film club Supakino. It’s part of their ‘Turbans seen on screen’ series – film screenings featuring notable characters wearing turbans. Quite rightly they’ve chosen the Bond film as their inaugural foray. Projecting it on the screen at the hipster friendly IOL – the cultural hub of South Hackney. Fittingly it’s only a yoyo saw throw away from London’s Olympic Park and the stadium made famous by ‘007 James Bond’ and ‘HRH The Queen’. Who can forget the moment they parachuted in at the start of London 2012 (The precise moment everyone realised the Olympics weren’t going be a massive embarrassment after all.)
When we arrive at the venue to meet Ranjit and Pritti, the husband and wife behind Supakino, Ranjit is having a conversation on Skype with a familiar face. Del almost does a double take when he sees who it is… Kabir Bedi!
Speaking together for the first time in 35 years Del says…
“I remember you wrote your phone number and address in Los Angeles on the back of one of my DJ cards – but I lost it almost straight away. Then about 2 years ago I was sorting out some old photographs and it fell out from in between them! I tried ringing the number but of course you’ve moved since then.”
Kabir laughs and the pair catch up like it’s only been 35 minutes since they last spoke, rather than 35 years.
Afterwards, once people have taken their seats – Del gives a short talk to the audience about his involvement in the filming, repeating what he’s told me and Ranjit does a live link-up to Kabir in Mumbai to share his memories of the filming with the audience.
It’s a nice surprise for everyone, and he and Del have a playful conversation about what happened to the old turban from filming. Kabir then signs off, and the film is then shown in its entirety (prefixed with a piece of behind the scenes footage from an old BBC Look East report). Del can be spotted around the train station at the 2min mark and there’s a wonderful example of Roger Moore’s sense of humour when he’s asked to explain what the film is about.