Pran (1920-2013) was a renowned Indian actor, who was known for playing the antagonist and character actor in many popular Hindi films. For the portrayal of negative roles in Hindi films, he earned the name ‘Villain of the Millennium.’ From 1940 to 1990, he was among one of the top-paid Bollywood actors. In 2001, he was honoured with India’s third highest civilian Padma Bhushan, given by the Government of India. On 12 July 2013, he took his last breath at Lilavati Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai and died of a prolonged illness.
Pran aka Pran Krishan Sikand was born on Thursday, 12 February 1920 (age 93 years; at the time of death) in Ballimaran, Old Delhi, British India (now Delhi, India). His zodiac sign is Aquarius. Due to his father’s transferable job, he attended various schools in Dehradun, Lahore, Kapurthala, Meerut and Unnao (Uttar Pradesh). Later, he completed his class 10 at Hamid Inter College, Rampur, Uttar Pradesh. He was good at mathematics in school. Later, to become a professional photographer, he joined the photo studio A. Das & Co., Delhi as a trainee and used to earn Rs 300 per month. He then went to Shimla, Himachal Pradesh for some photography work, where he performed on stage for the first time in a ramleela in which he played the role of a Sita. Later, he went to Lahore, British India (now Pakistan) to learn photography from professionals.
Height (approx.): 5′ 7″
Hair Colour: Black (grey at the time of death)
Eye Colour: Brown
Pran belonged to a wealthy Punjabi Hindu family.
Parents & Siblings
His father, Lala Kewal Krishnan Sikand, was a government civil contractor, who was involved in the construction of the Kalsi bridge near Dehradun. His mother’s name is Rameshwari Sikand. Pran had six siblings; three brothers and three sisters. His brothers were named Prem Krishen, Kripal Krishen, and Raj Krishen.
Wife & Children
In 1945, Pran got married to Shukla Ahluwalia, who passed away in 2016 due to age-related ailments.
The couple has two sons named Arvind Sikand and Sunil Sikand, and a daughter named Pinky. Sunil is an ad filmmaker and film director.
During the pre-partition of India, Pran started his career as an actor in Lahore. In 1940, he made his Punjabi film debut with the film ‘Yamla Jat’ in which he played the role of Pran.
He then appeared in another Punjabi film ‘Chaudhry’ (1941).
Pran made his Hindustani film debut with ‘Khazanchi’ in 1941 in which he played the role of a man who complains about the new bank treasurer.
In the pre-partition of India era, he acted in the Hindi films like ‘Sahara’ (1943), ‘Badnami’ (1946), ‘Khamosh Nigahen’ (1946), ‘Paraye-Bas-Men’ (1946), and ‘Rehana’ (1946).
In 1947, he relocated from Lahore (Pakistan) to Indore (India) after the partition of India. In 1949, he came into the limelight with the Bollywood film ‘Ziddi.’
Gradually, he started gaining popularity as an antagonist in Hindi films such as ‘Azaad’ (1955), ‘Devdas’ (1955), ‘Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai’ (1960), ‘Rajkumar’ (1964), and ‘Ram Aur Shyam’ (1967).
He used to focus on the minute details of his character in films for which he recived the tag ‘Character Actor.’ He used to take care of every nook and corner of his character right from dress to makeup. Some of his famous characters/roles are Afratyam in ‘Alif Laila’ (1953), Raka in ‘Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai’ (1960), Malang Chacha in ‘Upkar’ (1967), and Sher Singh in ‘Chakkar Pe Chakkar’ (1977).
Pran, along with the Indian actor Ashok Kumar, appeared together in around 27 Hindi films such as ‘Afsana’ (1951), ‘Victoria No. 203’ (1972), ‘Chor Ke Ghar Chor’ (1978), ‘Apna Khoon’ (1978), ‘Raja Aur Rana’ (1984), and ‘Naya Zamana’ (1971).
Pran and Amitabh Bachchan acted together in around 14 Hindi films including ‘Zanjeer’ (1973), ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ (1977), ‘Ganga Ki Saugandh’ (1978), and ‘Nastik’ (1983).
He was also known for his films with the Indian actor Mehmood. They appeared together in the Hindi films like ‘Gumnaam’ (1965), ‘Love In Tokyo’ (1966), ‘Sadhu Aur Shaitaan’ (1968), and ‘Lakhon Me Ek’ (1971).
After 1990, due to his old age, he started rejecting films and appeared in a few films like ‘Bewaffa Se Waffa’ (1992), ‘1942: A Love Story’ (1994), ‘Gudia’ (1997), and ‘Ek Hindustani’ (2002).
His last film was the 2007 Hindi film ‘Dosh.’
In 1973, he made his Bengali film debut with ‘Jeewan Rahasya’ as Dr Kaul.
In 1990, he made his Telugu film debut with ‘Kodama Simham’ in which he played the role of Mayor Ranjith.
In one of his interviews, he shared that he played the role of a detective in the 1996 TV serial ‘They Call Me Dangerous’ but after three episodes, he left the serial as he did not like their working style. Pran also appeared in the Hindi television series ‘Baap Se Bada Rupaiya,’ which aired on Doordarshan.
In 1992, he made his debut as a producer with the Hindi film ‘Lakshmanrekha.’ In an interview, he shared that he became a co-producer of the film for his son. He said,
My son, Sunil, who was assisting Manmohan Desai, was keen on directing a film. He had directed Farishta in 1984, but that had not done well. He had also announced a big film with Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan in the ’70s, which did not take off. So, I co-produced a film with Satyen Choudhury only for him.”
In 1984, he worked as a presenter in the Hindi film ‘Farishta.’
Awards & Honours
Film Journalists Association Award
- 1960: Andhra Pradesh Film Journalists Association for Best Villain
- 1961: Andhra Pradesh Film Journalists Association for Best Villain
- 1963: Uttar Pradesh Film Journalists Association for Best Villain
- 1967: Andhra Pradesh Film Journalists Association for Best Villain
- 1967: Special Award for Upkar by Uttar Pradesh Film Journalists Association
- 1970: Top Awards Winner by Andhra Pradesh Film Journalists Association
- 1970: Supporting Portrayal in Ansoo Ban Gaye Phool by Andhra Pradesh Film Journalists Association
- 1973: Best Performance in Zanjeer by Bengal Film Journalists Award (Calcutta)
- 1973: Best Actor of the Decade for Zanjeer by Uttar Pradesh Film Journalists Association
- 1967: Best Supporting Actor for Upkar
- 1969: Best Supporting Actor for Ansoo Ban Gaye Phool
- 1972: Best Supporting Actor for Be-Imaan (refused to take award)
- 1997: Special Veteran’s Award
- 1970: Best Supporting Actor for Johny Mera Naam
- 1971: Best Supporting Actor for Adhikar
- 1972: Best Supporting Actor for Victoria No: 203
- 1973: Actor of The Year – Everest Award
- 1984: Abhinay Samrat (King Of Acting)
- 1991: Abhinay Samrat Award for Contribution to Indian Cinema for 50 years
- 2000: Icon of The Millenium – Pran The Versatile Actor
Bombay Film Awards
- 1975-76: Most Versatile Actor
- 1977-78: Most Versatile Actor
- 1984: Extra Ordinary Special Award as Wizard of Acting
Awards by Government
- 1980: Shiromani Award for Outstanding Motion-Picture Performances by the Vice President of India
- 2001: Padma Bhushan
- 2004: The (late) Raj Kapoor Award by The Government of Maharashtra
- 2013: Dadasaheb Phalke Lifetime Achievement Award
- 1970: Lenin Centenary Award for services in the fields of art and culture
- 1970: The Nizam’s Gold Medal by Andhra Urdu Periodicals’ Association
- 1970: Social And Cultural Bureau’s (Bombay) Award for Supporting Portrayal in Ansoo Ban Gaye Phool
- 1970-71: Maharashtra Film Fan Club for Best Supporting Actor for Johny Mera Naam
- 1970/71: Bhavnagar Cine Circle for Best Supporting Actor for Ganwaar
- 1972: Shama – Sushma Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for Be-Imaan
- 1972: Lion’s Club of Bombay (Colaba) Awarc for Most Outstanding Supporting Actor of 1972
- 1972: Crystal Association Trophy doe the Hindi film Be-Imaan
- 1972-73: Chitralok Cine Circle (Ahmedabad) Award for Best Character Artiste
- 1973: Lion’s Club of Bombay (Cumballa Hill) for Best Supporting Actor
- 1973: Shama – Sushma Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for Zanjeer
- 1973: Crystal Association Trophy for Zanjeer
- 1973: Lion’s Film Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor
- 1974: Shama – Sushma Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for Dharma
- 1974: Lion’s Film Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor
- 1975: Lion’s Film Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor
- 1975: Best Supporting Actor by Mehendi (Gujarati Monthly)
- 1976: Lion’s Film Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor
- 1978: Best Character Actor by North Bombay Jaycees
- 1983-84: Best Character Actor for Lalach by Punjabi Kala Sangam (New Delhi)
- 1985: Kala Bhushan Award by Punjabi Kala Sangam
- 1987: Outstanding Performance of the Decade by North Bombay Jaycees
- 1990: For 50 Years in the Industry by The Punjab Association
- 1990: Kala Rattan Award For Completing 50 Glorious Years In Cinema by Punjabi Kala Sangam
- 1990: Recognition of Invaluable Services to Charity at the Celebration of The Golden Jubilee of his Services to Film Industry by Southall Lion’s Club (London, U. K.)
- 1992: Outstanding Contribution to Indian Film Industry by IMMPA Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association
- 2000: Hero Honda-Stardust ‘Villain of the Millennium’ for Best Actor
- 2000: Lifetime Achievement Award by Screen Awards
- 2010: CNN’s Top 25 Asian Actors of all time
Note: He has many more accolades to his name.
Pran charged Rs 10-20 lakh per film.
On 12 July 2013, Pran died of a prolonged illness at Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai. He was detected with pneumonia, and even after recovering from it, gradually, his health deteriorated. On his demise, the former Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh shared his grief and said,
Pran had entertained several generations of Indians with his riveting performances in hundreds of celluloid roles. His versatility in etching a lasting impression on cinema audience’s mind improved with time for which he was bestowed with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.”
- In childhood, Pran used to live in Unnao with his family for a few years.
- In an interview, one of his friends’ grandchildren shared that Pran loved flying kites.
- Pran was known for his unique style of smoking cigarettes in the film scenes. A scene from one of his films in which he made smoke rings became very popular.
- He was often spotted drinking whiskey.
- At the age of 16, Pran ate a paan for the first time and since then, he developed a habit of eating it daily. Once, while he was in Lahore buying a paan, he met the Indian writer Mohammad Wali. In an interview, Pran talked about it. He said,
One day, a man came and stood there, staring at me from head to toe. He then introduced himself as Wali Mohammed Wali, a writer for Mr Dalsukh Pancholi, the great producer and studio owner. We are making a Punjabi film called Yamla Jat. My vision of one of the main characters fits you perfectly. Will you do the role? I was 19 and cheerfully said, “Fine!” He gave me his card and asked me to meet him the next day at 10 am.”
However, Pran did not visit him and went for a matinee show at Plaza cinema, unaware of the fact that Wali was also present there. Wali abused Pran in a Punjabi accent. In an interview, while talking about it, Pran said,
He actually walked across and began abusing me with choice Punjabi invectives! He had relied on me, he said, and had told Mr Pancholi not to sign anyone else! I promised him that I would come the next day. But this time he took no chances — he took down my address and came the next day and picked me up! My photographs and interview were taken and I was signed on as the villain.”
- Before the partition of India, while he was in Lahore, he used to carry a Rampuri knife with him. Later, he gave up this habit.
- After the birth of his first son, his family shifted to Indore from Lahore; a few months before the partition of India. while Pran stayed back in Lahore. However, in 1947 during the partition of India, he also left Lahore and shifted to Indore. He had to leave his pet dog in Lahore which he regretted for years. At that time, his acting career was well-established in Lahore. On 13 August 1947, he reached Mumbai from Indore to restart his acting career which was adversely affected by the partition of India. Initially, Pran, along with his family, stayed in the Taj Hotel (Mumbai), but due to a lack of finances, he shifted to a low-budget hotel in Mumbai. Later, he shifted to a guest house as he could not find any work in Mumbai and was unable to pay the hotel bills. He even worked in a hotel on the marine drive to meet his financial expenses. However, his ultimate goal was to restart his acting career for which he used to audition from studio to studio in search of work but failed to get any acting projects. In that phase, the Indian writer Saadat Hasan Manto and actor Shyam helped him in getting a role in the Hindi film ‘Ziddi’ (1948). For the film, he received Rs 500 as fees which was way less than what he used to earn in Lahore. In an interview, he talked about it, he said,
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!”
- In the initial years of his career in Mumbai, he used to live in a rented two-bedroom flat in Pali Hill, Mumbai. Later, he bought a bungalow in Union Park, Bandra, Mumbai.
- Pran was considered one of the most punctual actors in Bollywood. He used to get ready by 9:00 am even if his shooting schedule was from 11:00 am. The veteran Indian actor Manoj Kumar once shared that Pran was so dedicated towards his work that even on his sister’s demise, he completed the shooting schedule.
- His hobbies were playing football, hockey, and cricket. He also loved reading books.
- He owned a football team “Dynamos Football Club” in Mumbai.
- He was actively involved in various social services and donated funds for Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, Maratha Sikshan Sanstha, and Film Industry Welfare Trust. He also organised cricket matches and charity events like ‘Hope 86’ and ‘Hope 87’ shows for needy people.
- In an interview, Pran shared the names of his films he loved the most. He said,
Halaku is one of my all-time favorites. I also loved my roles in Madhumati, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hain, Dil Diya Dard Liya, Shaheed, Upkar, Zanjeer and Victoria No 203.”
- Pran loved doing negative characters because he did not want to do songs where actors dance around a tree.
- He once shared that as an antagonist he loved the acting of the Indian actors Amrish Puri and Paresh Rawal.
- As a villain in films, he was so effective that people feared him in real life. After the 1950s, people did not name their children Pran. Once a survey was conducted in schools and colleges in Bombay, Delhi, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh to check who was named Pran and there was no student with the name Pran. In an interview, while talking about his fear among the public, he said,
When I went to someone’s house in Delhi for tea, his young sister was whisked out of my sight! My friend later phoned me and said his sister had fought with him for bringing a bad man into the house! But after Upkar, I remember the late Om Prakash’s daughter’s wedding was being held in Delhi where all the film artistes had come. People there were actually harassing them by grabbing their hands, clothes and so on. But when I reached there, the same public actually cleared a path for me saying, “Malang Chacha aa gaye, hat jaao, unhein jaane do!”
- During one of his initial meetings with the Indian actor Raj Kapoor, Pran got offended by him as Raj made a large peg of alcohol for himself and a small peg for Pran. Pran then rejected to take even a sip from the glass and thought Raj Kapoor was a miser. Later, when Raj got to know about this, he apologised to Pran and then they started shooting for the film.
- Pran gained immense popularity for his dialogues in Hindi films. Some of such dialogues are ‘Main bhi purana cheedie maar hoon, par katarne achchi tarah se jaanta hoon’ from Sheesh Mahal (1950), ‘Raashan par bhaashan bahut hai! Bhaashan par koi raashan nahin! Sirf yeh jab bhi bolta hun, zyaada hi bolta hun, samjhe!’ from ‘Upkar’ (1967), and ‘Oye Bhagathsingha, yeh bharat mata ki hondi hai … maine itne khoon kitthe Bhagatsingha’ from ‘Shaheed’ (1965). The way he said “Barkhurdaar” in the films also become popular among the audience. In an interview, he shared that one of his uncles used to say ‘Kyon? Theek hai na theek?’ which Pran used in the Hindi film ‘Pathar Ke Sanam’ (1967).
- The Indian music directors Kalyanji–Anandji were not happy with Manoj Kumar’s idea of picturising the Hindi song “Kasme Wade Pyar Wafa” from the film Upkar (1967) on Pran. However, when the song was completed, Kalyanji called Pran and apologised. Kalyanji said,
Aap pehle artiste hain jinhonein munh se nahin, gale se hamara gaana gaaya hai!”
- From 1969 to 1982, Pran was one of the highest-paid actors in Bollywood.
- In 1970, he started his own film distribution company in Delhi.
- In 1972, he won a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for the Hindi film ‘Be-Imaan.’ However, he refused to accept the award as he was upset with the jury of the Filmfare Awards for not awarding the Indian music composer Ghulam Mohammed for the film ‘Pakeezah.’
- While the Indian producer Raj Kapoor was making the 1973 film ‘Bobby,’ he approached Pran to play a significant role in the film. At that time, Pran was one of the highest-paid actors in Bollywood, but when Pran learned that Raj Kapoor lacked funds, he agreed to do the role for a shagun of one rupee and said that he would take his fees if Raj earned good profits from the film. The film was declared a massive hit. As decided, Raj paid a cheque of Rs 1 lakh to Pran but it was way less than his fees. Pran felt cheated over this and decided that he would never work with RK films again. In an interview, he shared an incident while shooting for ‘Bobby.’ He said that during one of the scenes in the film, he almost drowned in a river. However, he managed to get a hold of a rock nearby and came out of the water safely.
- Pran was the one who recommended Amitabh Bachchan’s name for the Hindi film ‘Zanjeer’ (1973).
- In one of the fight sequences of the Hindi film ‘Tumsa Nahin Dekha’ (1957) the lead actor Shammi Kapoor mistakenly hit Pran on his nose after which his nose started bleeding. Shammi followed Pran everywhere on the sets of the film to seek an apology. However, Pran ignored it and continued the shooting.
- From 1975 to 1977, the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi imposed an emergency in India for which Pran criticised her in one of his articles. In an interview, while talking about it, Pran said that he never expected to receive an honour from the government as at that time the ruling party was of Indira Gandhi. He further said that if he had been in England, he would have received Sir’s title.
- In 1976, while shooting for the Hindi film ‘Dus Numbri,’ he met with an accident. He was shooting for a scene where he had to jump off 15 feet. He insisted on doing the scene himself and broke his ankle, and after that he was immediately rushed to a hospital.
- In an interview, the veteran Indian actor Aruna Irani shared that unlike his films he was a gentleman in real life. While sharing an incident, she said,
Once, Pran and I were travelling from Hong Kong to Calcutta to Bombay. But the Bombay flight got delayed, and we had to spend the night in Calcutta. I was very terrified of Pran’s onscreen persona but I was very touched when Pran dropped me to my room and said to lock the door from inside and not open the door for anybody.”
- Pran shared a good bond with the Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan. He helped Amitabh financially when Amitabh was about to get bankrupt. Even when Pran’s health was not well, he worked in two films of Amitabh’s production house ABCL Productions.
- For the 1978 Hindi film ‘Don,’ Pran charged Rs 5 lakh, whereas Amitabh’s fees for the film was half of it.
- Pran was an avid animal lover. He had three pet dogs named Whiskey, Bullet, and Soda. Once he kept a monkey as a pet, but after his neighbours’ objection, he returned the monkey.
- He was fond of collecting walking sticks. He even used some of his walking sticks in his films, some of which had hidden swords.
- Pran was not fluent in reading Hindi, so his scripts were written in Urdu.
- He was good at playing cards and often organised card parties at his home.
- He was close friends with the Indian politician Padma Vibhushan George Mathew Fernandes and former West Indies cricketer Sir Frank Worrell.
- Pran was one of the key persons who were present on the occasion of the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Kuldip Chemical & Oil Mills, Kuldipnagar, Ambala Cantt., Haryana.
- Pran had developed a love for white colour. He used to wear a white shirt and white trousers oftenly.
- Pran loved to host parties at his home. Every year, he used to organise a Holi party at his home, and the regular celebrities on his guest list were Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Balraj Kohli, Satish Bhalla, and Dilip Kumar.
- He was a follower of the Indian spiritual leader Fakir Kammo Baba.
- In 1989, he suffered a heart attack after which he started distancing himself from the media. He used to get afraid of crowd and spent most of his time at his home in Bandra along with his wife, children, and grandchildren.
- His first car was a Hillman car, and he was among a few actors at that time to own it.
- Pran’s son insisted on fixing his wedding date on Pran’s birthday.
- In 2005, the Indian journalist authored a biography on Pran titled ‘…and Pran: A Biography.’
- In 2012, his hand was printed at ‘Legend’s Walk, Mumbai,’ a waterfront walkway which has the hand impressions of various Bollywood celebrities.
- As a regard, many Bollywood celebrities used to call him Pran Sahab.
- In 2018, a chowk on the intersection of Carter Road, Bandra, Mumbai was named after him.