There are Hollywood superheroes and there are multiple Hollywood Super villains… for every Supermans and the Batmans, there were the Lex Luthors and the Jokers as a perfect foil… and then there was in the Hindi Film Industry… the one and only Pran!
Those were the days when the film credit rolled and the actors’ list end with … and Pran, a murmur of excitement would spread around among the audience for that one man who generated awe, loathness, revulsion, hatred and yet at the same time they loved the badness in him. He was Pran, the perfect foil for the protagonists of his time – from the Dilip Kumars to the Dev Anands, from Shammi Kapoors to the Raj Kapoors. Without him, the picture perfect story of the girl meets boy would be incomplete and there would be no twists and turns in the film.
When we talk about Hindi Film Industry, there have been villains who carved a name for themselves. But most of them were confined to one film wonders or their career didn’t stand long except for an occasional Amrish Puri, Danny Denzongpa, Amzad Khan or for that matter Prem Chopra. Prem Chopra too in his hey days sent shivers down young girls’ spines but none of the villains could match upto Pran who was as colorful and as devious a villain as they come.
Born in 1920 in Old Delhi, Pran led an easy life in his younger days and was inclined towards acting from an early age. No doubt, his acting career took off when he was just 20 with a Punjabi film Yamla Jat opposite Durga Khote and Noor Jehan.
And then there was no turning back for this gifted act who over the years won countless awards for his acting prowess including the most recent Dadasaheb Phalke Award for lifetime achievement at the age of 93! One can’t really blame the government for the delay in gifting the Dadasaheb Phalke Award to this gentleman so late in life. But then this man who had previously won the ‘Villian of the Millennium’ title is gentleman enough understands how the government bureaucracy works.
Moving on from playing majorly villainous roles in the 50s, the 60s and through the 70s, the actor diversified into playing character roles including comedy roles (Vishwanath, Karz, Victoria No. 203) for which he too had a penchant for. Despite some stellar performances in positive roles in films like Upkaar, Johnny Mera Naam, Purab Aur Paschim, Dus Numbri, etc, Pran yet become synonymous with negative roles and continued with an occasional grey roles in his later years though mellowing over as his age progressed.
Such was the negative impact of his villainous character portrayal in his hey days on the minds of his audiences that parents feared to name their child ‘Pran’. And yet those very parents rushed to see their favorite villain on screen for more than a couple of decades. And it was the right tribute for the great actor by naming his biography ‘and Pran’ because that would be the way his name would appear in the film’s credit roll in nearly 50-60% of his 350+ films in a career spanning nearly 6 decades!
Some of his most memorable films:
- Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai
- Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai
- Kashmir Ki Kali
- Johnny Mera Naam
- Purab Aur Paschim
- Victoria No. 203
- Amar Akbar Anthony
The list is exhaustive.
For now, here’s wishing the great actor our best wishes for getting the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke Award for lifetime achievement this year. And good health too!