Actor-singer Alakh Nath Upreti is no more.
The voice that sang patriotic songs “Jaag Rahaa Insaan”, “Desh Hamara Dharti Apni” and “Aao Mukt Karo — Mukt Karo” is now silent forever. A revolutionary cultural activist and performing artiste of Uttarakhand, Alakh Nath Upreti died at the age of 80 after prolonged illness in Delhi on December 12.
Born in Bareilly and brought up in Almora town, Alakh Nath did his M.A. in economics from Allahabad University and was associated with Lok Kalakar Sangh, Almora, which was part of the cultural renaissance ushered in by Mohan Upreti in Uttarakhand during the 1950s. He gave memorable performances in socio-political plays written by poet and playwright Brijendra Lal Shah, a creative collaborator of Mohan Upreti.
When Mohan Upreti shifted to Delhi from Almora due to political compulsion and founded Parvatiya Kala Kendra (PKK), Alakh Nath joined as its artistic and music director. The excellent actor-singer that he was, Alakh Nath performed in significant roles in grand operas like “Rajula Malushahi” and “Rashik-Ramola”, apart from singing in PKK’s singing ensemble.
Founder of Sanskritik Kranti Manch, Almora, Alaknath played the role of the hardy and brave subedar of the Indian armed forces in the first Kumaoni film, “Megha Aa” — produced by Jeevan Singh Bisht — which was shot in the scenic hills of Ranikhet. He also acted in a few TV plays produced by Doordarshan.
All his life he remained committed to the communist ideology without being a member of any official communist party of the country.
Apart from writing articles on socio-cultural issues to expose forces responsible for perpetuating obscurantism, casteism and communalism, he used to conduct study classes to spread progressive ideology among the youth. Popular among young activists, he would sing patriotic songs immortalised by the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) in his full throated voice at progressive students’ rallies and meetings.
Alakh Nath will be remembered for his singular invaluable role in getting reprinted the book “Proverbs and Folklore of Kumaun and Garhwal” by his grandfather, Rai Bahadur Pandit Ganga Datt Upreti. Considered a classic in Indian folklore, the first print was published in 1894. A valuable resource for research in the field of folk literature, the book had gone out of print. Thanks to Alakh Nath’s passion for culture, he had preserved a copy in his personal library. Taking with him the faded and crumbling book, he went from pillar to post to get the work reprinted. Finally, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, reprinted it in 2003 with an introduction of the author by Alakh Nath. To enrich the new print the publisher required the author’s photograph. Since Pandit Ganga Dutt Upreti died in 1910, it was almost impossible to get one. With his passion for research, Alakh Nath managed to get the author’s photograph from the archives of a national paper. it is thanks to his persistent efforts that the photograph adorns the book.
A number of people assembled at Nigambodh Ghat on the bank of Yamuna to pay a last tribute to the artist. Among those who came to the ghat were Pradeep Tamta, M.P. (Almora Constituency), Almora-based social activist and environmentalist Sham Sher Singh Bisht, and Chandan Dangi from the Nainital-based publication Pahar.
Alakh Nath is no more but he will be remembered by his friends and comrades for his bold critique of the communist movement in the country. And the young people who heard him with rapt attention as he rendered patriotic songs will continue to be inspired by his music to change the existing oppressive system.
He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.