The fact that perhaps no other actor besides Pran could manage a career trajectory like his proves just how Hindi cinema needed him. Now, must we be so unfair to an actor who made bad look so good that people stopped naming their children Pran?
The Internet is a tool so powerful that it might make virtual unknowns into global phenomenon but can very kill people on the basis of rumours. Internet rumour mongering seems to be able to kill more celebs than natural causes! Yesterday evening social media timeline claimed their latest victim - Pran. The stoic silence from the veteran actor's family suggests that Hindi cinema's oldest baddie's hasn't left us yet.
Pran's rumoured death made me think about the actor who has done it all. We talk of stars like Dilip Kumar and singers like Noor Jehan or directors like K Asif and how they are irreplaceable but Pran's name is rarely mentioned in the same context. Much like his beloved screen credit 'And Pran' it seems like the actor's punished to be an afterthought. Pran's first acting job in the 1940 Punjabi film called Yamla Jat (1940) predates Dilip Kumar's debut by four years, K Asif's by five and guess who was Noor Jehan's first hero in her maiden film as an adult actor…well…, yes, it was Pran and the film was Khandaan (1942). In spite of having started in the 1940s Pran remained the ultimate villain for decades irrespective of the hero. Pran was one of the first actors who emphasised on characterisation and left no stone unturned to play the perfect foil to leading men right from Dilip Kumar to Aamir Khan. It wouldn't be incorrect to say that his villains were fashionable to match the trends and along with his contemporary Motilal he pretty much sowed the seeds of Hindi's cinema character actors.
The fact that perhaps no other actor besides Pran could manage a career trajectory like his proves just how Hindi cinema needed him. He could kill with just the twitch on an eyebrow in films like Madhumati (1958) or Ram Aur Shyam (1967) or melt hearts like the large hearted Pathan in Zanjeer (1973) or outdo actors half his age and talent when playing a buffoon of a long haired college student in Jangle Mein Mangal (1972). It's unimaginable today to think that a character artiste could make more money than the leading man but Pran did just that for almost two decades when he was at his peak. The only other actor who made more money per film than Pran was Rajesh Khanna and so little surprise that they rarely worked together.
Does Bollywood miss someone like Pran? Of course, it does. It has tried many times right from Sanjeev Kumar to Paresh Rawal or Amrish Puri and more recently Boman Irani to fill the shoes but it hasn't managed as well. Irani is someone who could come closest to emulate Pran but Bollywood is a different place now. Why else would it think of someone like an Arjun Rampal when it comes to reprising Pran's iconic roles? Hard to believe but Rampal has done the deed with Farhan Akhtar's remake of Don (2006), where Irani reinterpreted Om Shivpuri's role and might just end up playing Sher Khan in the reprised version of Zanjeer. Now, must we be so unfair to an actor who made bad look so good that people stopped naming their children Pran?