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India’s most loved villain

India’s most loved villain
Highlights

Pran was born on February 12. And, last week was his birthday and had he been with us he would be 98 going into 99. He did not live to be 100 but his...

Pran was born on February 12. And, last week was his birthday and had he been with us he would be 98 going into 99. He did not live to be 100 but his work of art has left a mark on the entire century. Which another actor can claim an impact on cinema like Pran. His impact ran across six decades. A man who started off largely as such a hated and impactful bad guy that an entire generation of parents refused to name their boys as Pran. Yes, that was the impact of his villainy.

While his dark act in movies like ‘Ram and Shyam’ chilled the spine of audiences he was also the pioneer of comic villainy too. If you think it was Kader Khan and Shakti Kapoor who brought comedy to a villain then you for sure need to check out ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’ and ‘Pooja Ke Phool’. His “shampa shata le shata le” call to Sharmila Tagore in ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’ still draw laughs when it airs on TV channels.

Manoj Kumar the master storyteller of 60s and 70s, who could do nothing wrong when he donned the director’s hat was the man who provided Pran with the much-needed shift to positive roles. The handicapped Malang Chacha was a role that Pran made his own. Till date, his song delivery of “Kasme wade pyar wafa” can drive you to tears.

That epic dialogue when he tells Manoj Kumar that Ram kind of elder brothers have come in every age but not every age has had a young brother like Lakshman was delivered with the trademark Pran punch! Pran could steal the show from the best actors and ‘Upkaar’s most memorable scenes to date belongs to Pran.

Pran’s biggest contribution, which many of us would have observed is that he along with Shashi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna ensured that Amitabh remained at the top of his game. You can probably conclude that it was Pran’s presence in some smashing hits of the 70s that defined Bachchan’s iconic rise also pushed Bachchan to deliver the kind of performances he did – a half-hearted actor would have faded in those movies against Pran. To yours truly this is Pran’s biggest contribution to Bollywood.

The first time these two came together was in Zanjeer, for the trivia oriented please note it was Pran who recommended Amitabh to Prakash Mehra after the role was rejected by Dev Anand and Dharmendra. Sure ‘Zanjeer’ became Amitabh’s epic effort but a lot many initially went in the theatre for Pran. Sure Amitabh’s kick the chair act remains its most memorable moment but Sher Khan was no less in the movie. In fact, all the punch lines of the movie were delivered by Sher Khan played by Pran like “train mein cigarette peena bahut buri aadat hai” or “Sher Khan beimani ka dhanda bhee imandaari se karta hai”.

In fact, it was in the 1978 Chandra Barot directed thriller ‘Don’ where you could feel that Pran was matching Bachchan punch for punch in what has remained their most underrated clash. The scene where Pran helps Amitabh evade the cops is totally owned by Pran also when the two confront each other for the ownership of the two kids who are actually Pran’s kids. ‘Don’ had Pran playing JJ and should you watch the movie if you have not yet seen it Pran’s JJ is a character which makes an appearance when almost half of the movie is finished and yet he makes an impact as strong as Bachchan.

The duo worked in other 70s classics like ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ too but their last clash of quality came in ‘Sharabi’ another Prakash Mehra classic. Pran plays a cold hearted numbers obsessed businessman and Amitabh his yearning for attention son. This was a movie where Pran had only moments and expressions Bachchan had all the dialogues. Yet Pran stood his ground any other character actor of that day would not have been able to stand the in-form Bachchan. Bachchan’s rebellious son act gained weight in Pran’s reflection.

In no way am I trying to take away from the Big B what he deserves. I am only saying Pran was probably the best competition he got in the 70s. Else you can look at what happened to Sanjay Dutt when he tried the Sher Khan act in the ‘Zanjeer’ remake.

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