Movies: Legendary Bollywood Villain Pran Gets Dadasaheb Phalke Award!

Pran—a name that terrorized us as little kids; a name that we loved to adore as we grew older and a name that has remained with us till now and forever. We were struck with awe by his villainous portrayals and yet we could not stop liking him—his gait, his style of talking, his looks, his smart dress code and the eternal cigarette in his hands. That time we were not capable of judging him as an actor, but the way he kept us spellbound was only due to his intensely powerful and effective performances. Since we loved him so much even as a villain we longed to see him as a good guy on the side of the fighting-for-truth hero. And, we got that hugely satisfying and gratifying experience too.

Pran Krishan Sikand (born 1920) turned 93 in February this year and yesterday, the 12th of April, 2013, he was chosen for the supreme honour of Indian cinema—the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 2012. Maybe a little late as the classic Bollywood actor is almost unable to walk around or talk articulately. But, never too late. As a media person I tried to capture his expressions and possibly his byte on camera on this momentous occasion by all means, but was advised against it by his closest kin. Quite understandable.  The superstar of the millennium Amitabh Bachchan responded immediately to speak on phone about the legendary villain of the millennium. Incidentally, in most of the 15 movies Amitabh acted with Pran the legendary villain invariably played the good guy or bad guy turned good roles. Some of these movies were runaway hits as we cherished two great superstars—one as the super hero and the other as the staunch and unflinching supporter.

In his six decade long film career Pran never had a low. Hits and super-hits followed him from the early forties to the late nineties. He had been the typical villain with all the classic heroes of those times—Sunil Dutt, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor. For our generation a few of the most memorable movies of Pran as a villain that we watched much later were Gumnaam (1965), Ram Aur Shyam (1967), An Evening In Paris (1967), Sadhu Aur Shaitaan (1968) and as late as in 1983 in Andha Kanoon (with Amitabh Bachchan) where Pran played a villain still as lethal . In between he played one or two odd positive roles. 

However, his landmark positive role came in Manoj Kumar’s Upkar (1967) when his prowess in a strong supporting role got noticed. And then, Zanjeer (1973) happened.

In Zanjeer we had the best of both worlds. We accepted the new angry superhero Amitabh Bachchan who became a household name after this movie. We were overwhelmed by the strong supporting role as the hero’s aide by Pran. For the first time we had two superstars fighting for a common cause—our cause rather considering how emotional and impulsive we were. In fact, Pran recommended Amitabh in the hero’s role for this blockbuster, and the close association between the two superstars that started then never ceased. In the late nineties when Amitabh was going through a crisis Pran helped the Big B by agreeing to act in two movies with him despite his deteriorating health.

We congratulate the perfect villain cum Robin Hood on screen and the perfect, soft spoken and amiable gentleman off screen, Pran Saheb, for this great honour that finally recognized his immense contribution to Indian cinema. He has won many other laurels and awards throughout his career, but this supreme honour just proves again how much he is still loved by people of all ages and walks of life. We hope he will have good health soon and will receive the Award in full flow and in full glow. We salute the great actor.


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