April 13, 2013

Pran- The Bollywood's Black gold





It is long delayed especially since Pran Saab made the audience tremble with his acting skill when he played those characters, dyed in the coat of villains color with arched eyebrows. The decision of honoring the “Black Gold” of Indian Cinema with the Dadasaheb Phalke award for lifetime achievement could have been done a long ago


When the country was fizzing with loyal passion in the 40s, It was then that Pran Kishan Sikand, a young man with a curved nose and sharp features, played a villain in the film “Yamla Jat”, Such was the magic of his unique on-screen villainy, that people stopped naming their children 'Pran' at the height of his fame as an actor. He is perhaps the only Bollywood actor to have crushed stereotype by playing good and bad characters with equal ease and success. In a career that spanned six decades, The actor who appeared in 350 films which included pretty much every blockbuster film that released in the 1960s and '70s , has been voted Villain of the Millennium and also made it to CNN's list of top 25 Asian actors of all time.

Born in 1920 in old Delhi's Ballimaran area, Pran's father was a civil engineer whose job took the family from Delhi to Dehradun and Meerut. A photography admirer, the young Pran took a job as an apprentice with a photo studio in Delhi after finishing school. But he was not destined to remain behind the camera. A chance encounter with the writer Mohammed Walli in Lahore's famous Hira Mandi market led to an introduction to producer Dalsukh Pancholi who cast Pran as the villain in 1940 Punjabi film Yamla Jat. He went on to star as the hero in 1944's Khandaan.

After Partition, Pran, now married and with one son, moved to Mumbai with a propose, to continue his celluloid dream. Unemployed and in terrible financial condition, Pran had all but given up hope of reviving his career. It was 1948 and  writer Saadat Ali Manto get involved and helped him get a role in Ziddi ,starring Dev Anand and Kamini Kaushal. The film proved a turning point for his career.
 
With box office success, the film brought more acting offers. The basic shifts in the social environment in the 50s brought along a new set of villains, dark characters from princely kingdoms and the landed gentry, as seen in films like “Munimji,” “Madhumati” and “Devdas.” Pran had all that was required to portray the absolute ruler, thakurs, zamindars and sahukars. Over the next two decades, Pran left an ineffaceable mark in a genre that also saw stalwarts like K N Singh, Madan Puri and Jeevan in their prime. 

Pran, in his portrayal of the manipulative “sahukar” or the robust zamindar or the scheming corporate who orders demolition of slums, avoided hamming and imparted a natural flavour to on-screen villainy.

Pran effectively depicted through his finesse of acting, the desperation of upper class trying to adhere on to their peaceful days. Though many of his films were standard in format, Pran handled with grace to light up the screen by rendering certain sharpness to the dark plots emerged by the well-known villains.  In the 60s, Pran, by then a numero uno villain in Hindi cinema, began experimenting with roles. He brought in comic elements to negative roles in films like “Half Ticket” and “Kashmir ki Kali,” while playing a sarcastic, world-weary lawyer in “Gumnaam” with style. 

 The 60s and 70s saw villains morphing into gangsters. Pran, interestingly, switched to character roles. His portrayal of a cynical outsider in the cult film “Upkaar” put his career on a different route altogether. Following the success of “Upkaar,” Pran started playing character roles. In “Zanjeer,” Pran showcased his acting prowess yet again by playing the role of a pathan. The success of the film and his character brought him a slew of roles, each showcasing him as characters from different communities.

Like his name, he is the jaan of Indian cinema. Considered one of the most versatile actors in Hindi films intended to be a hero who ended up playing one of the best villains it ever had in the last 65 years.

The long wait for him is finally over. The honour came late for the iconic villain of Hindi cinema at the age of 93. As Actor Rishi Kapoor, said who worked with Pran in films like Naukar Biwi Ka, Karz, Naseeb and Bobby, said he was happy to see the veteran finally being honoured. "Why so late recognition? He should have been given these years back. “ We too realize the same.

Anupam Kher tweeted, "Delighted that Pran Saab is finally given the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award. Sir, in my mind I congratulated you 20 years back." Rishi Kapoor “I am delighted for Pran sahab. We grew up seeing him in films as a villain but he was a hero. I miss him."

And this is utmost true that bollywood screen misses an actor like him and perhaps the only actor , who elevated the status of a villain equal to that of a Hero.

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