By Aglaia Staff

Pran had a screen presence that was too impressionistic to be confined to cinema libraries or web graveyards after paying a handful of perfunctory tributes.

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Pran - Zanjeer (Photo credit: Kaddele)

162632 Pran: In Memoriam

Cover of Amitabh Bachchan

Pran. The moniker infused fear and respect in equal measure in the minds of Indian cinephiles. It is almost a month since he left us, physically. Though more famous for doing negative roles, Pran sa’ab rarely let himself be a caricature/stereotype on screen. A multifaceted actor, his persona was too larger than life to fit into any single template; his skills too diverse to be caged in any single narrative; and his screen presence too impressionistic to be confined to cinema libraries or web graveyards after paying a handful of perfunctory tributes.

In his career, he did all kinds of roles – apart from negative ones of course. He did lead role in just his third film ‘Khandaan’, then went on to do supporting roles in the likes of ‘Aah, gumnaam’, ‘Adalat’ and ‘Shaheed’ – much before ‘Upkaar‘, which marked a definite shift toward such roles. He even played characters having lighter shades in films like ‘Victoria No. 203‘, ‘Kasauti’, ‘Jungle mein mangal’ and ‘Aap ke deewane‘.

However, one of the leitmotifs when it came to his characters — right from very early in his career — was songs picturising him. They were at times written keeping him/his character in mind, certainly not as distractions or as ‘item numbers’ but as an indispensable part of the overall narrative. Surely not the ones for which you could leave the theatre for a smoke or a tea.

Bunny Reuben, author of Pran’s biography, ‘…And Pran’, didn’t choose to include in his prologue description of the scene in ‘Badi bahen‘,his first appreciated negative role, where he makes entry after blowing a smoke ring at Geeta Bali, or a scene from ‘Halaku’ which Pran himself considered one of his most important roles. He didn’t even opt for scenes from films like ‘Madhumati’, ‘Ram aur Shyam‘ or ‘Dil diya dard liya‘, where Pran was the epitome of evil. Reuben, instead, chose a song sequence, hisjugalbandi with Bindu in ‘Raaz ki baat keh doon’. This is what Reuben says after observing the audience’s reaction to Pran’s performance in the song:

The audience goes mad. They whistle and scream and clap to the beat of the qawwali. Some even dance in the aisles. And as the qawwali draws to a close, the audience is in a frenzy.

As Reuben himself adds in the very next line, such spontaneous reaction would usually be reserved for stars – not mere heroes but stars. The likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. But to have that kind of reaction for an actor people loved to hate, there must have been some X-factor associated with him!


 Pran: In Memoriam
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