Where Philanthropy Meets Community Spirit

Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwah

The man behind some of the most glittering smiles in Hollywood—think Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory Peck, Sidney Poitier, even Muhammed Ali—and scores of other celebrities—is about to be honored in Los Angeles—though not for his dentistry, but for his extraordinary philanthropy and service to many communities here and abroad.

Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwah, who has lived in Malibu 50 years, first came to the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar in 1950. It took him a month to get here by boat. After finally making his way to California in 1962, Dr. Marwah set up his dentistry practice in Los Angeles. As the chairman of the Bombay-Los Angeles Sister City Committee that linked him to his native India, it was his Bollywood connections that gained him entrée to Tinseltown’s A-list. For 50 years, glitzy clientele traveled outside Beverly Hills to Marwah’s Los Angeles office for dental work. 

Marwah, who is known for his signature look—a white turban and a bow tie—achieved great success as the dentist to celebrities and politicians. Success in other businesses came as well. When western Malibu was mostly undeveloped, the now nearly 93-year-old bought a sizeable ranch there in 1968. At one time he bred Arabian horses at the property. Today, it is the site of an impressive, art-filled home where he and his late wife of 69 years, Kuljit K. Marwah, hosted a who’s who of American and Indian dignitaries, including presidents and even Indira Gandhi.

But with all of his success over five decades, Marwah has quietly been giving back. In the early 1960s he started teaching at the University of Southern California. In 1973, he was appointed by then-L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley as a city commissioner for Art and Cultural Heritage, serving 20 years. Marwah is responsible for getting historic recognition for 200 monuments throughout L.A., including Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. Even though it was a salaried position, he gave every cent back.

And then there’s his extensive giving. In 1969 Marwah, who was recently called a “walking encyclopedia” by Indian Consul General Sanjay Panda, funded the first Sikh temple in the United States. He calls the Hollywood Sikh Temple “a gift to my community.” He has gifted Howard University, where he once studied, with an emergency dental clinic and funds a fellowship at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry in memory of his late wife, who passed away in 2018. Looked on as a patriarch in his community, Marwah has paid college tuitions for 105 Indian American students. The man, who comes from a long line of doctors, hosts yearly Fulbright luncheons at his home as well as countless fundraisers.

The self-described “staunch Democrat” helped make history with his part in getting the first-ever minority elected to Congress. In 1957, Marwah served as assistant campaign manager for Judge Dalip Singh Saund. Saund, who passed as an average American, was a clean-shaven Sikh and married to a white woman. Marwah entered the candidate’s name on the ballot as Judge D.S. Saund. They campaigned hard, but Marwah never appeared beside Saund in public until Saund won the election. It was then that Marwah, in his signature white turban, escorted the winner to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Every year through 2017, Marwah traveled to India with his Sharing, Caring and Service Foundation as a “service to my mother country, India.” His family foundation has brought education to the underprivileged and underserved by providing water, electricity and paved roads to villages that were without. He has funded schools and parks. The benefactor recalled he was stunned a few years ago when a village in his native Punjab erected a statue in his honor as a thank you and inspiration for his kindness over many years.

On Feb. 2, the City of Los Angeles is honoring Marwah by naming the intersection of Vermont Avenue and Finley after him. 

“I’m really thankful and indebted to Los Angeles to honor me in that way,” the distinguished Marwah told The Malibu Times.

“I’m still sharing whatever I have with my community,” Marwah said. “My children are doing very well. My oldest is 67. They all grew up here. God was very kind to me from day one on. When I came to this country, there were no Indians around. Now there are half-million in Los Angeles. I want to share with the people of this country and people of India.”