Pran: Truly a legend
In the hundredth year of Hindi cinema one more monumental loss has been added of the individual who was single-handedly responsible for resurrecting scores of films and careers, but who never hankered and bothered about any recognition of any form, he just kept on doing his job, and creating new benchmarks of performance with each of the films he acted in, from the time when he made his acting debut in 1940 in YAMLA JATT. The man, Pran left for heavenly abode after a prolonged illness, and has left behind him a void, which nobody would be able to fulfill as the contours of villainy as also character portrayals that he evolved, is a feat that has not yet been emulated by anybody so far.
The ultimate recognition to his prowess as a performer was from the manner in which his name used to appear in the casting of films-AND PRAN, and this was the title of the book that Bunny Reuben had written on him, which indeed is an encapsulation of the man and his performance. For fans of Pran, Bunny Reuben's book is a treatise to savor and understand, why nobody else would be able to repeat the performance and the benchmarks that he has set and left behind.
If a Jagga of JIS DESH MEIN GANGA BEHTI HAI would not been there, would a Raj Kapoor have been able to give such a performance, or for that would a Dilip Kumar have been able to deliver the double role with such a finesse in RAM AUR SHYAM where it not for the daunting Pran. A Big B would not have been able to make such an impacted arrival through ZANJEER where it not for Sher Khan who gave him an opportunity to experiment and implored him to let his natural self-come out through 'Yaari Hai Imaan Mera yaar meri Zindagi'. Indeed, Pran was perhaps one of the few actors who lived and died for yaari. A Manoj Kumar would not have emerged as the director having a feel of the society, but for the performance of a Malang baba in UPKAAR, and the song- 'Kasme Vaade Pyaar Wafa'.
Pran being a man without much muscles to create menace, leveraged on his eyes, and getups to become frightful in his performances. The mannerism of moving his hand over the throat in JIS DESH MEIN GANGA BEHTI HAI was a carefully thought off gesture, underlining the fact that for a dacoit the noose is the eventuality.
Pran was the first actor who invented innovative ways of smoking the cigarette and the manner in which he used to blow smoke in the air became his style which was later on adopted by Shatrughan Sinha and Rajnikant as well.
Pran was also perhaps the only actor in the history of Hindi cinema who introduced numerous flasks to drink whiskey through the various characters that he portrayed. No other actor took such pains to prepare for a role as a Pran did, and each of his films had a dialogue that made his role immortal, and this was the case even in the films that may not have been a box office success, which otherwise was a rarity for Pran. Be it- 'Ilaka tumhara hai'- from ZANJEER, or the way he used to say 'Barkhurdar, Hum bolega to Bologe Ki bolta hai', or the dialogue of KAALIA- Pran was perhaps the only villain who used to draw maximum claps and cat whistles. As Javed Akhtar in his tweet as tribute to Pran said- Pran always used to invent something about the character he played- and this was the USP of his performance, which has never been emulated thence.
It is not that he was born to be a villain, when he ventured into comedy with Ashok Kumar in VICTORIA NO. 203, he again created a new benchmark of performance. The scores of character actor roles, be it in NASEEB, KAALIA, or SANAM BEWAFA, his performance always was the talk of the town. When he returned back to villainy once again to help Rajnikant launch his career in Hindi films through ANDHA KANOON, he again through his getup, way he smoked and the enactment of the role underlined that nobody could surpass him when it came to villainy, though the film had two more villains in the form of Prem Chopra and Danny.
In essence Pran was the actor who injected and instilled PRAN in the roles that he enacted over an acting career of more than six decades and for the present generation to really understand, one would have to see the films of black and white era where he gave some scintillating performances. Pran may have physically gone, but his oeuvre of performances would continue to enthrall fans through generations. As villainy has gone out of vogue, it will be through his performances that fans of cinema would be able to understand what a performer he was.
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