It was during the period of mid-70s when popular screenwriter duo Salim-Javed went on to create the ultimate villains in their movies. Who can forget the terror that the character of Gabbar Singh (played by late Amjad Khan) in ‘Sholay’ (1975), instilled in the hearts of the viewers. But, much before this there was another performer who had popularised the menacing power of villains in the era of 50s and 60s. Undoubtedly, he became and was the ‘King of Villains’. It was none other than the late legendary star Pran. Today, we and the ardent cinema lovers fondly remember him for his iconic performances in memorable films like ‘Madhumati’, ‘Milan’, ‘Upkar’, ‘Zanjeer’, ‘Don’ and many more. However, did you know that there was a time when this iconic star had no work for more than six months? And surprisingly, this was after he had worked in more than 20 films. Yes! You heard that right. The actor had made his debut with a Punjabi film ‘Yamla Jat’ (1940).
Recently, we stumbled upon an old interview of this legendary star where he recalled about that time. It was in the year 1947 when he had to shift to Bombay from Lahore. He said, “When the riots began in Lahore in 1947, I packed off my wife and one-year-old child with my sister-in-law to Indore. My son’s first birthday was on August 11, 1947, and my wife said I must come to Indore or she would not celebrate it. That’s how I reached Indore on August 10. The next day, All India Radio announced that an inter-communal massacre had begun in Lahore. Since I could not go back, we came to Bombay. My family and I reached here on the eve of Independence, August 14, 1947. We stayed at the Taj Mahal Hotel, the best hotel at that time.” [sic] (Also Read: When Sanjeev Kumar was offered the lead role in a film, after playing an extra in it)
He continued saying, “After more than 20 films there, I thought Hindi films would welcome me, but I was wrong. Yahan to bahut dhakke khaane pade! I had no work here for more than six months. I had to sell some of my wife’s jewellery to settle the bills. We then shifted to smaller hotels!” [sic]
“The first film I signed here was Bombay Talkies’ ‘Ziddi’ (1948), directed by Zia Sarhadi. Then, in one week, I signed three more films, S M Yusuf’s ‘Grihasti’ (1948), Prabhat’s ‘Apradhi’ (1949) and Walisaab’s ‘Putli’ (1949). After I signed AVM’s first Hindi film ‘Bahar’ (1951) things picked up. Sohrab Modi gave me ‘Sheesh Mahal’ and since most of my films proved hits, my demand kept rising,” added the veteran actor.” [sic]
After that, there was no looking back for this talented performer. We now know that it was not a cakewalk for this actor who faced his share of hard times while looking for work. However, he later made a mark.
Pran’s story is indeed inspirational.