Albert Moses (19 December 1937 – 15 September 2017) was a Sri Lankan actor based in the United Kingdom. He played the role of Ranjeet Singh in Mind Your Language. He also appeared in The Man Who Would Be King, The Spy Who Loved Me, Octopussy, and several other films and TV series.
Moses’s film career began in India in the 1960s, where he acted in several Bollywood films before he got experience as a film producer and director.
Moses has played many roles in film, television and theatrical productions with many actors including Kirk Douglas, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, Sean Connery and Benny Hill. He has appeared in films like The Man Who Would Be King and James Bond movies like The Spy Who Loved Me and Octopussy.
Q. How did you land the role of Ranjit Singh in Mind Your Language?
Ans: I had to go for an audition. The producers were seeing 11 other actors and it was a tough competition, but in the end I won the part. I went with a false beard and a turban to look like a Sikh, which they liked.
Q. Was it difficult preparing for the role, especially the mannerism and dialect considering you are a Sri Lankan and had to portray an Indian Sikh?
Ans: I prepared myself by going to a Sikh Club and met a lot of Sikhs, watched them go about doing things and, of course, looked at their turbans. They do have different types of turbans. I decided to wear a starched turban because I liked the shape, also as it can be taken off in one piece. I asked the secretary of the club to help me with the turban. We bought the material, six yards long. He sprayed starch, folded it, and tied it around my head when it was wet. I had to keep it on until the starch dried and the turban took the shape of my head.
Q. How was the line ‘thousand apologies’ created? Did you feel, while shooting, that decades down the line it would be still remembered?
Ans: I had to think of something funny that would stick in the mind of those responsible for choosing the artist and I remembered that Indians greet people with their hands in a praying position and bow. So “a thousand apologies” seemed the right words.
Q. You ended up producing the show after two seasons? How did that happen?
Ans: At the end of three series, MYL had an audience of 16.7 million in the UK. We had entered an era of a minority of foreigners living here starting a political correctness movement and objected to any fun poked in foreigners. So the TV company dropped the series. I decided that the series should continue and produced 13 episodes of series 4, and because I was an Asian no one objected.
Q. How was the experience of working with such a talented cast in MYL?
Ans: It was indeed teamwork and each one complemented the other, unlike in drama which is serious acting. This was comedy. We used to improvise as well and moreover any mad behavior goes well. In fact, there were occasions when we forgot the written lines and we quickly did something mad and made the audience laugh. Then we would stop filming and pick up the shot. The shows were recorded in front of a live audience, which was a great challenge.
Q. You are a big fan of the James Bond series and also appeared in two Bond movies — The Spy Who Loved Me and Octopussy. How was it working with your favourite character Bond and especially Sean Connery and Roger Moore?
Ans: I simply considered it as a part in a film and did not allow the fact that it was a world famous film and they were top stars. I was, of course, very nervous in the first scene standing there on the set next to such big names in Hollywood. I had to kind of block my mind about their being stars and get on with the acting. It was great fun working with them.
Q. You have some fond memories while shooting the Hollywood mini-series Queenie with legendary Kirk Douglas in India? Tell us about that.
Ans: Kirk Douglas is a wonderful person to work with. He went out of the way to be nice to me and made me very comfortable while working with him. We went in the same car from the hotel to the film location. Ordinarily actors are taken to the location in separate cars and never in the same car with stars, but Kirk insisted on our going in the same car with me. We became great friends. I became his tourist guide and we went sight seeing together. We are friends even today.
Q. Barry Evans, who played the affable Mr Brown, was evidently murdered in 1997 when he was out of work and driving a taxi in Leicestershire, England. Were you in touch with him at that time ? Also are you in touch with other cast members of the show?
Ans: Yes, I was in touch with him. He was a great guy and a very good actor. Barry was a very talented actor and very easy to get along. He was a good team worker which helped all the cast. The main thing was that he never tried to hold centrestage although he was indeed the main star. As for the others, they are all spread out, mind you we all are very old now. Unfortunately, because of the age, there is not a lot of work going round since all shows are being targeted at young people.
Q. Do you regret the fact that you will be remembered as Ranjit Singh for the rest of your life? Did the image ‘Ranjit Singh’ hinder you in your quest for more different and diverse roles after MYL?
Ans: Definitely not. Being Ranjeet Singh made me a household name in the UK and throughout the world. In fact I got a lot of parts because of me being Ranjeet.
Q. What kind of work are you doing these days?
Ans: I am doing TV commercials and TV dramas. Only a month ago I appeared in a police drama The Bill ‘Deadly Intent’. I have also just written, produced and directed two Hitchcock type thrillers, 45 minutes long, set entirely on location in Malta. Hopefully, I will be doing more in the years to come.
In a strange twist with reel life imitating real life, Moses, in his attempt to help the community, attended a specialised class to help teach English to immigrants coming to UK. He now teaches English to a class which comprises Iraqis, Bosnians, Hungarians, Sri Lankans and Chinese, among others.
Moses is doing a lot of charity work right now and has raised a lot of money for organisations like Oxfam, WWF, Action for Blind and Help the Aged. In recognition for his charity work, especially for children, Moses was awarded the title CHEVALIER — Knight Commander Of The Order Of St John.