Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, chairman of the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, has paid a heartfelt tribute to the late Sir Roger Moore crediting him with single-handedly raising the quality of life and transforming the economy in the city of Udaipur.
Sir Roger famously filmed in the Maharana’s City Palace and throughout the city of Udaipur for the James Bond film Octopussy released in 1983.
Several palaces in and around Udaipur were used for filming, most notably Shiv Niwas Palace as Bond’s hotel, the Taj Lake Palace and Jag Mandir Palace which doubled as the home of Octopussy played by Maud Adams, and Monsoon Palace acting as Kamal Khan’s residence.
Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, the 76th Custodian of the House of Mewar, said the city had been ‘deeply shocked and saddened’ by his passing. However, Sir Roger’s legacy continues to be felt today having positioned Udaipur as a ‘paradise’ for film makers across the world.
“The passing away of Sir Roger Moore was received in Udaipur with deep shock, sadness and disbelief,” said Shriji. “My personal memory of the late Sir Roger is of an amusing, gentle and extremely courteous man who gave time to everyone he met. He will always have a special place in the ‘heart’ of Udaipur and has left an indelible imprint in the imagination of the local people. Our condolences, thoughts and prayers are with Sir Roger’s family and friends. He will always be remembered here in Udaipur with affection, deep respect and great fondness.
“The only James Bond Udaipur recognises is Sir Roger Moore and there was an astonishing reaction in the city 35 years after the filming of ‘Octopussy’. Since that time the population of the city has risen from 250,000 to 800,000. Today people here watch just one Bond Movie ‘Octopussy’ with one immortalised James Bond. Sir Roger has entertained billions of viewers all over the world, but the unique and permanent impact he left on Udaipur has not been replicated or seen elsewhere in the world. He has single-handedly changed the quality of life of the common man and brought money into the economy of the city of Udaipur. The people of Udaipur in one voice acknowledge this fascinating contribution. Even today there are cafes in the city which run two shows every evening and diners have to time their table reservations accordingly.”
Shriji’s father Maharana Bhagwat Singh took the lead in inviting the famous producers Albert R Broccoli and Michael G Wilson to Udaipur, the Lake Palace Hotel and threw open the doors of the new hotel, Shiv Niwas Palace, ahead of time to house the stars. The Indian press recognised the huge multiplier effect which the Bond film was having in Udaipur and Rajasthan.
Shriji, who is also the Chairman and Managing Trustee of Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, said the decision to welcome Broccoli and Wilson heralded a new era for Udaipur as a global filming destination.
“The fallout of the impact of ‘Octopussy’ has left several tangible benefits for our city,” he said. “Udaipur has had a very long association with film shooting and film makers. The first silent movie was shot in 1929 but my late father was the moving force behind EON Productions’ decision to film ‘Octopussy’ in Udaipur. It was the first of a number of major Indian and International films to be shot here. The impact of ‘Octopussy’ on the economy of the city of Udaipur both then and continuing through to today has been immense. Udaipur has managed to sustain its position as a paradise for film makers for 80 years which is a big tribute to people of the city.”
Actor Kabir Bedi who played the villainous Gobinda who fought with James Bond throughout ‘Octopussy’ also paid tribute Sir Roger on social media. He said Sir Roger was fascinated by the history of Rajasthan.
“Roger Moore was the James Bond who I fought throughout the film ‘Octopussy’,” he said. “In real life he was an incredibly kind and gracious human being. Roger became my friend during the long shootings we shared in Pinewood Studios in London, the train depots of Peterborough, and the magical Lake Palace in Udaipur, India.
“Even though he played a real extrovert as Bond, he was quite a shy person. But he opened up in the course of shooting, going beyond his British wit to talk philosophy and much more. The Maharana of Udaipur, Arvind Singhji, would regale us with his stories while treating us to Udaipur’s famous Rose wine. There were magical evenings, often with our family and friends, the conversation always interspersed with Roger’s witty comments.
“I played a Sikh villain in ‘Octopussy’ so wore turbans of many colours. One day I walked onto set with a white ‘patka’ style turban which could have been mistaken for a bandage. Seeing me Roger said “Feeling better now?” with a wicked grin. That was Roger. Always having a joke in pure British style. He often made jokes about himself in his wry style.”