Bollywood never had any scarcity of male villains but few of them could command the towering respect from film fraternity and get huge popularity among the masses like Pran had. Pran Kishan Sikand, commonly known as Pran, was born on 12 February 1920 in an affluent Punjabi family. In a successful career covering six decades and comprising over 350 movies, including some blockbusters and critically acclaimed flicks, Pran was one of most respected actors in the Hindi film industry. He carved a niche for himself playing negative roles.
Childhood and early life
Pran was born in Old Delhi’s Kishangarh in a Punjabi family. He was a bright student and was particularly strong in mathematics. Owing to the transferable nature of his father’s job, he studied in many places, including Unnao, Meerut and Dehradun. Initially, he had a desire to pursue the career of a photographer. However, destiny had other plans in store for him. A meeting with a movie producer made him land in his first-ever film role. It was a Punjabi film titled Yamla Jat, which was released in 1940.
Early career in Bollywood and subsequent rise
While Pran started getting roles in Hindi films in the 1940s, it took some time before he could make it big in the film industry. After the Partition of India, he shifted to Mumbai with his family. When he found it hard to get suitable work and was almost of the verge of giving up, the writer Saadat Hasan Manto got him a role in Ziddi, starring young Dev Anand. It revived his career and he started getting good offers.
His famous smoke-ring blowing was first seen in the film Bari Behan (1949). While he did play the role of protagonist in a handful of films in 1950s, Pran found playing negative characters his forte. However, he also played side characters with a strong part in screenplay in several successful films in his career. In the 1950s and 1960s, Pran played prominent negative roles in films starring eminent actors like Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand. His menacing eyes and trademark dialogue delivery became a big hit with viewers and they could not have enough of his villainy on the silver screen.
Continued success in career
Some of the critically and commercially successful films where Pran played pivotal roles include Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966), Madhumati (1958), Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961) and Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai (1960). Even in the 1970s, when he was into his 50s, Pran continued to get offers for plum roles in big-banner movies. While he was known mostly for his villainous roles, he tried experimenting with adding a comical side to it in films like Kashmir ki Kali. His association with Dev Anand was long-lasting as he continued to appear in films starring the actor in the 1970s and the 1980s like Des Pardes (1978) and Joshila (1973). Pran also played roles in comedy films like Half Ticket (1962) and Bewaqoof (1960).
He also played some different roles during the latter part of his career. The roles played by him in films like Gulzar's Parichay and Amitabh Bachchan starrer Zanjeer (1973) can be mentioned in this regard. Reportedly it was Pran who recommended the then struggling Amitabh Bachchan for the role, which launched the actor’s career. Later, Pran went on to feature in several films starring Bachchan.
Retirement from showbiz
Pran appeared in his last fully fledged role in the film Mrityudaata in 1997. The next year, he suffered a cardiac attack which made him reluctant to continue working. He did feature in some movies as cameo, though.
Awards and recognition
In his illustrious career in showbiz, Pran was showered with numerous prestigious awards. He bagged the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor thrice in 1967, 1969 and 1972. In 1997 he was conferred the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award. The government awarded him with the Padma Bhushan in 2001. In 2013, the veteran actor was given the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke Award. He also got Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards thrice in his career.
Throughout 2013, Pran suffered from ailing health and had to be hospitalised several times. Finally, on 12 July 2013 he passed away in Mumbai's Lilavati Hospital after prolonged illness. He was 93 at that time. His cremation was done at the Shivaji Park electric crematorium in Mumbai.
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