With his gentleman’s mannerisms and intensity, the veteran actor came to be known as the most fearsome villain in the Hindi cinema ever had before breaking the mould to play iconic character roles in films like Zanjeer and Upkaar in a career spanning six-decades. So effective was his screen persona of a villain that no one wanted to name their son Pran.
The legend died at a hospital in Mumbai last evening at the age of 93. Such was the magic of his onscreen villainy that people stopped naming their children ‘Pran’ at the height of his fame.
Ironically, while he was feared as a villain on screen, he was a gentleman in real life. Pran Kishan Sikand was born on February 12, 1920, to a civil engineer in Delhi.
He wanted to be a photographer but a chance meeting with writer Wali Mohammad Wali, who was writing Punjabi film Yamala Jat, brought him to the world of cinema. He played the hero in the film opposite Noorjehan. The film became a hit and the pair starred together in their first Hindi film Khandaan.
After Partition, he started trying his luck in Mumbai without much success. With the help of Saadat Hasan Manto and actor Shyam, Pran landed a role in Dev Anand-Kamini Kaushal starrer Ziddi. With the success of the film, Pran never looked back playing negative roles in Madhumati, Ram Aur Shyam, Munimji and Kashmir Ki Kali. With a string of powerful performances, Pran had at one stage commanded almost the same price and sometimes more than onscreen hero and his name would appear alongside the name of the lead actor.
Recalling the magic of Pran, Amitabh Bachchan in a foreword to Pran’s biography And Pran, wrote, “Onscreen villainy is a thankless job which Pran Saab accepted and carried out with such a degree of perfection that he became the actor the entire nation loved to hate. “That indeed was the measure of his extraordinary success. Parents did not want their children to meet him. Occasionally, he would even be feared and dreaded at public gatherings. Evidently, he came to terms with that, bemused with the power of cinema to influence the audience in a way that sketches only a thin line between the real and the reel.”
Pran will be forever remembered for bringing villains on par with the heroes, ruling the industry from 1969 to 1982. He commanded equal money and respect for his negative characters in Madhumati, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Ram Aur Shyam and Devdas. The actor’s baritone and good looks helped him bring charm to his villainy which was very unique to Pran.
His chameleon-like ability helped Pran transform himself from one of the most hated onscreen villains to one of the most beloved character actors — be it the Mangal chacha in Upkar, Sher Khan of opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer or the discipline-loving but soft-hearted grandfather in Gulzar’s Parichay.
(With inputs from agencies)