Monday, October 04, 2004 11:18 IST
By Santa Banta News Network
Feared for his scary looks and evil disposition, Pran -- generous, magnanimous and congenial gentleman, conversely is a hero in real life. Now a frail, tired; yet an affable octogenarian -- Pran can proudly look back at a life well lived, with achievements galore.

Pran was born in 1920, in the prosperous house of Late Lala Kishen Chand Sikand of Delhi. Sikand, was a well established civil and government contractor. However, it was at Lahore when Pran was sowing raw oats that famous producer D S Pancholi and director Wali Muhammed Wali identified his latent talent and cast him in a Punjabi flick ‘Yamala Jat'. It is a different matter that he had to act in the film on the sly, because actors were looked down upon in that era. And youngsters from affluent families were forbidden to join this lowly profession. A couple of more films like Khazanchi and Choudhary came his way. In 1942, he debuted in Hindi films opposite Noor Jehan -- the renowned ‘singing and acting' star of those times. By 1947, he had already done a marathon 22 films.

Incidentally, it was hurly burly of partition, that brought about a transition of Pran from a hero to a villain. Landing in Bombay, he could not find a role till Shaheed Latif pitted him against Dev Anand in Ziddi as the ‘bad boy'. From then on Pran was to cultivate and hang onto his distinct but precious ‘villainous identity'; that arouses nothing but contempt and derision in the minds of his audience. He got a chance to work with Parbhat banner in ‘Apradhi'. The 50s and 60s saw him hectically churn villainous roles in scores of films. However, there were exceptions, when he played a hero, as in H.S.Kwatra's ‘Pilpili Saheb' (1954) with actress Shyama and in Raj Kapoor's ‘Aah' (1953). He regaled the audience with his comic heroism in both the films. But it was not a long lasting change and he reverted to his forte. He featured in ‘Kashmir Ki Kali' (1964) with Shammi Kapoor. Khandaan (1965), Shaheed (1965), Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966) are some of his other known films. But a character role for which, Pran shall be remembered for all times is that of a ‘Malang Chacha' --- the nationalist, in Manoj Kumar's Upkaar (1972). The country just out of a war with Pakistan delighted in the patriotism of Pran. For a moment, his sordid face embedded in the public psyche was lost in the image of -- the Good Samaritan ‘Malang Chacha'.

Following this ephemeral pause, Pran hung onto his popular roles in a number of movies opposite all big names of the industry; whether it was the angry young man -- Amitabh Bachhan, the dandy Kapoor – Shashi, the jumping jack – Jeetendera or the Garam Dharam. He performed memorable roles in Zanjeer, Majboor, Amar Akbar Anthony, Dus Naumbri, Kaalia, Don, Naseeb, Andhaa Kanoon (1983) and Dunia (1984). His last major film was ‘1942- A Love Story'. He bade a graceful and a gradual adieu to the silver screen.

Pran had married Shukla in 1945 and has two sons from a satisfying matrimony. Both his sons are well settled in their separate ventures.

But there is much more to Pran than that meets the eye. Out of the screen, Pran is known as an amicable man, who has always taken keen interest in socialising, sports and hobbies. He had made a football club of his own called the ‘Dynamos', which besides other known players also included one former Olympian. Fencing is also one of his favourite sports. Pran is known for his love for dogs. His collection of hundreds of pipes is also a collector's delight. A keen socialite he is an active member of Punjab Association, Mumbai, CCI Club Mumbai, Bombay Provincial Hockey Association, Western Indian Football Association Bombay, Chelmsford Club Delhi, Press Club of India Delhi, Otters Club Bombay, and Play-mate Club Bombay. Among a vast of list of honours he has received, the most noteworthy are the Padma Bhushan from the Government and "Villain of the Millennium Award" by Stardust.

Soon famous publishing house Harper Collins is releasing a biography of Pran authored by Bunny Reuben.

But nothing can be more satisfying for Pran that no one names a child after his name. An honour bestowed upon only Ravana in Indian history. This is the greatest testimony to the fact that he has done full justice to the role of a villain. For who can forget the smirking wicked face behind the curls of smoke? Even imagining his name, sends a shiver down the spine amongst three generations of people of the country. Hats off to Pran!

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