If you walked into the Durg district headquarters police station in Chhattisgarh, you will likely run into a camera-friendly, suave policeman who’s a celebrity of sorts in the area. Meet Shashi Mohan Singh, a 46-year-old additional superintendent of police (Addl SP) with Chhattisgarh police and a theatre aficionado who has acted in 35 Chhattisgarhi and Bhojpuri films.
Singh not only acts in commercial movies, he channels his passion for the medium to complement his duties as a law enforcer. He makes short films on socially relevant topics like cybercrime, witchcraft, ATM card frauds, drug addiction, etc and uploads them on his YouTube channel to educate people on these issues. Since internet access is low in rural areas, he arranges screening of these films and even distributes CDs among people so his messages can reach a wide audience.
Shashi Mohan Singh makes short films on socially relevant topics like cybercrime, witchcraft, ATM card frauds, drug addiction, etc and uploads them on his YouTube channel to educate people on these issues
He believes films are the biggest influencer in this day and age in our country, and the medium should be harnessed to bring about a change in society. “I have been very disappointed and worried about the fact that the youth of our society is getting addicted to drugs and other harmful substances. So, I decided to make Siskiyaan,” he told FactorDaily.
Siskiyaan is a 40-minute short film that seeks to educate people about the perils of substance abuse. It was uploaded on YouTube in November 2016 and had over 440 views at the time of publishing this story. He paid for the making of the video himself, though he refused to disclose the amount. He said he received a good response from the audience, so he directed and acted in another short film, Gomti, about witchcraft. Superstition about witchcraft continues to be prevalent in Chhattisgarh, and Gomti seeks to dispel myths surrounding this issue.
As word spread about Singh’s prowess in filmmaking, he started getting acting offers from the Chhattisgarhi and Bhojpuri movie industry. With the permission of his department, he accepted some roles that appealed to him. He has acted in films like Wardi Wala Goonda, Maya De De Mayaari, Elaan-e-Jung and other regional hits, mostly crime plots intertwined with love stories. Most of the roles Singh has played are that of a policeman.
His dabbling in commercial movies hasn’t taken away from his passion for making short films for social awareness. In fact, it has only helped him. Singh said his friends in the film industry help him source cameras and sound-recording equipment at a low cost. A friend of his who is a social activist even chips in to finance his short films.
Singh has uploaded 16 videos on his YouTube channel, with the most-viewed being 1 2 ka 4G with more than 11,400 views. It’s a 30-minute film on cybercrime. At the time of writing this article, his channel had 596 subscribers and just under 38,500 views. He doesn’t make any money from the YouTube videos.
Born in Buxar district of Bihar and brought up in Bhilai, Chhattisgarh, Singh always loved the performing arts. As a child, he actively participated in plays in school and college. Later, he joined the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) to hone his skills.
“At the IPTA, I learnt acting as well as direction, and pursued theatre till I was in college. Even while preparing for the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission, I took out time from my busy schedule to do theatre,” he said.
Singh said his friends in the film industry help him source cameras and sound-recording equipment at a low cost. A friend of his who is a social activist even chips in to finance his short films
Singh’s first posting after clearing the civil services was as a deputy superintendent in 1997. In 2008, he got promoted as Addl SP, but the demands of his job kept him away pursuing acting. That’s when he came up with the idea of making films on social awareness.
Sharad Srivastava, an admirer of Singh and a teacher by profession, told FactorDaily the Addl SP is a down-to-earth person and is very helpful. “There are very few people in the world like Shashi sir. He is a very good human being, a great inspector, and a brilliant actor. He is always up for helping anyone and is very keen to teach acting to the youth of our society. I wish every police officer was like him,” he said.
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The ‘Tech Meets Bharat’ series brings to you stories on how technology is impacting and changing lives in hinterland India. Hitesh Sharma is a Durg-based independent journalist and is a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.