He is that precious diamond who gave 60 years from his life of 94 years to the film industry with a history of 100 years. Cruel villain and then best character artist in later years is the journey of Pran in films.
Pran was born on 12th February 1920 to his father Lala Kewal Kishan and mother Rameshwari. He was the favorite son of the Sikand family with his four brothers and three sisters. Their home town was Bharowal in Punjab where the family had some lands. His father was a structural engineer and hence was liable to be transferred frequently and so childhood of Pran went through Agartala, Merath, Dehradun, Rampur, etc.
He passed his matric exam from Raza High school of Rampur. He wanted to be the best photographer, so he learned photography in ‘A Das and Company’ that belonged to a friend of his father. The company had opened branches in Delhi, Shimla, and Lahore and Pran reached Lahore.
During the time he met with renowned film writer Vali Mohammed and he got his first film ‘Yamla Jatt’ in 1940. This movie gave a competent actor to the industry.
Roles played by Pran in films Chaudhary (1940), Khajanchi (41), Khandan (42), Kaise Kaun (45) started becoming popular. Having knowledge of photography, Pran was well aware of light, cameras, make–up, lenses, angles, etc. so he quickly adopted how he should appear on the screen. In his initial period of struggle, he married the girl, Shukila Ahaluwaliya, selected by his father, on 18th April 1945. They had two sons and a daughter.
He arrived in Mumbai and suffered from a hard time for some period. Once, to pay the rent he had to sell bangles of is wife. But he did not give up and continued to struggle.
He started getting roles and appeared in Khamosh Nigahen (1946), Mohini (1947), Barsaat Ki Ek Raat (1948), Badi Bahan (1949), Sheesh Mahal (1950), Afsana (1951), Bewafa (1952), Aah (1953), Sheeshe Ki Deewar (1954), Azad (1955), etc.
He used to stare with steady eyes and smoke in a stylish way throwing circles; that made him special. His first producer Dilsukh M. Pancholi had once called him the favorite villain of the Indian film industry. He proved this name to be worth always and made his roles immortal.
Films like Ram Aur Shyam, Rajkumar, Gumnaam, Khandan, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Bahati Hai, Devdas, Andha Kanoon are some of his popular films which must be mentioned. Working with Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, and Dilip Kumar, the great trio, Pran used to get scolded (in fact appreciated) for his roles of cunning villains.
His role of Raka in ‘Jis Desh Me Ganga Bahati Hai’ used to frighten viewers in the theater. When he slaps whips on Dilip Kumar in ‘Ram Aur Shyam’, one gets shocked. He used to step into the shoes of that character and his acting was felt real. It’s the reason, no parents ever dare to name their son Pran! It’s a receipt of his natural and effective acting. After so many negative roles, he started his second inning as a character artist.
His Malan baba in the film ‘Upkar’ was loved by the audience and then he decided to do what audience like. He came forward as a character artist after ‘Upkar’ in all films like Purab Aur Pashchim, Sanyasi, Dus Nambari, Beimaan, etc. Sher Khan in ‘Zanjeer’ with Amitabh Bachchan in 1973 made a special place in the hearts of people. His style was appreciated in the song, ‘Yaari Hai Imaan Mera, Yaar Meri Zindagi.’ He was equally competent in character roles with renowned heroes like Dharmendra, Jitendra, Vinod Khanna, Shashi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, etc.
Movies like Dharam Veer, Amar Akbar Anthony, Kaaliya, Maan Gaye Ustad, Jwalamukhi, Don, Bobby, Naseeb, Dosti Dushmani were released one by one and he was amazing as either father of hero/ heroine, police officer, etc. Thereafter names of heroes and heroines were used to change but the list of credits was always incomplete without mentioning ……And Pran!
He could bring limelight to any role he used to perform. He used to adopt all the details of character with the study of costumes, make-up, dialogue delivery, style, body language, etc. That is the reason we can see him in various get-ups that count more than 70 with examples of Zanjeer – Sher Khan, Kaaliya – Jailor Raghuveer Singh, Upkar – Malang Chacha, Dus Nambari – Hawaldar, Sanyasi – monk, and the list goes on.
During the initial period of my journalist career, I had an opportunity to meet Pran Ji and I had conducted his interview in film city at a set of the village. I could see his work actually; he was very much respected at the shoot.
May it be a role of villain or character artist, songs picturized on him were highly appreciated, just like they were made for Pran only. For example, the song, ‘Yaari Hai Imaan Mera…Yaar Meri Jindagi’, from Zanjeer and ‘Ham BolegaToBologe Ki Bolata Hai’, from Kasauti. As well as ‘Kasme Vaade Pyaar Wafaa’ from ‘Upkar’ movie with the role of Malang Baba has made a place in the hearts of people. The song ‘Michael Daru Pi Kar Danga Karta Hai’ from ‘Majboor’ with Amitabh and the fun is memorable. The qawwali, ‘Ishaaro Ko Agar Samazo, Raaz Ko Raaz Rahane Do’ from Dharma is still popular. His performance in qawwali is appreciable. We can never forget his various get-up roles in ‘Jungle Mein Mangal’. The song by Kishore Kumar, ‘Aake Sidhi Lagi Teri Tirachhi Nazar’ from ‘Half Ticket’ is the apex in performance. Pran has just put life in the songs and that’s the reason they are still popular.
Pran Sahab was honored with many awards along with Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2013. He also received Padma Bhushan in 2001 and the state government gave him Raj Kapoor Award.
He received too many awards to list them out. However, he always felt that love & affection by fans to be the most valuable award. Pran Sahab was not only a great artist but also a great human being and lovable person. Though he is not with us, he will be always there in our memories.