Looking at the title one might wonder what these two personalities, who occupied two different milieus, set apart by some thousands of miles and thousands of years, had in common. The latter was a wise man from Athens who vociferously argued to ban most forms of aesthetic expressions in a ‘republic.’ One of the reasons he unearthed was that by constantly playing the role of a rascal the actor himself will turn to be one. Well, then Mr. Plato here is an actor from the world’s largest democracy who played the bad man throughout his career, which spanned for more than 60 years, and remained clean all his life.
Pran Krishan Sikand or simply Pran – the actor who redefined villainy in Bollywood, the largest film factory in the world, was a villain par excellence. He took the Punjabi lane to movie world and got a break in the Hindi film industry through Ziddi (1948). Pran, the villain, first made his presence felt in the movie Badi Behen. Followed was a marathon of villain roles in which this lonely runner never exhausted, despite being beaten to pulp at the end of all those movies. The audience always wanted Pran to be killed or sent to jail before the credits scrolled-up, but nevertheless they couldn’t think of a movie without this impeccable villain. The rich Thakur with a revolver in Madhumati, the bearded villain with a Lincoln look in Amar Akbar Antony, the red-wigged Sher Khan in Zanjeer… the list never ends. There were films where the charisma of the villain overshadowed the extremely-good heroes and other characters. Whoever be the lead players, directors or music directors, it was the title card ‘and Pran’ (later became the title of his Biography) that raised the expectations of audience more than anything else.
But when the celluloid became multihued this versatile villain also received characters with various shades. From a hardcore villain Pran became a ‘character actor,’ Pran became Pran Shaib. During the sixties, seventies and eighties he was the highest paid actor than most of the then heroes including Vinod Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, and Rishi Kapoor.
Coming back to Plato’s theory, as far as our ‘good bad man’ Pran is concerned Platos’s theory of impersonation fails pathetically (we all know Plato’s ideas, though venerated much in the history books of philosophy, is of no use but to bring a grin among the under graduates of philosophy or arts.) Pran had a long standing friendship with his colleague Ashok Kumar. Together they appeared in 27 films. He was also friend to the living legend of Bollywood Amitabh Bachchan, with whom he shared the celluloid space in about 14 films. It was Pran who recommended Bachchan’s name for Vijay in Zanjeer. In Bachchan’s own words “Pran sahib never interfered with anyone’s work. He never argued with anyone, he never asked for alternations in the dialogue or a situation in the script and he never once lost his temper. He would complete a day’s work diligently and leave.”
Mourning the death of this great actor Big B blogged – “A gentleman of the finest order, an admirable colleague, a thorough professional, a master of disguise in the characters he played, a delightful companion after ‘office hours’ and a considerate human, Pran Saheb.” What else do we need than this great testimony from a great hero to a great villain?