Cineblitz December 1989

The public despised Pran. His sinful deeds and his dark, roguish looks made it easy for them to hate him. Consistently. But the one close to him, called him a gentleman. Professionally, he makes tall claims, " I've never been late for my shooting. And once I've reached, I've not left the sets till pack-of ." The industry will vouch for this. But on the personal front he has been accused of sleazy, shady liaisons with pretty little girls. And no one belives this. Laughing heartily, the gentleman star reveals his darker side - the one which dates back to nearly four decades ago…and refused the film when they said 500 a month. They informed me that even their hero was being paid the same. We finally agreed on Rs.600 a month if I kept the secret to myself. It was a victory for me.

That was when I explained to her that God has given us a car and now if he doesn't want us to have one he has taken it away. Maybe he'll give us another one someday. Bahar an AVM film, was my first South banner. This was also Vyjayanthimala's first film. I had thought to myself that I'd attend the premiere of this film in a big car. So in spite of the fact that I had to pay a little extra, I bought one. This was one of the few premiere's that my wife attended with me. Like I had explained to her, God had bigger things in mind for us. It was not long before I got fed up of playing a typical stereotyped villain. I started thinking up different mannerisms and get-ups to make the role more interesting. I even added a few comedy touches, like in Kashmir Ki Kali my constant dialogue was 'Satale, Satale, Kabhi to apna bhi samai aaye ga.' - it became very popular.

While recently in Nigahen I've used a beard which is exactly like the one Rajiv Gandhi's man, Sam Pitroda, sports. When I did Halaku, Meena Kumari was not exactly pleased that a villain was playing the title role. But when she saw me dressed up like him, she was very impressed. In those days that was a very difficult get up. My favorite film to date remains Dil Diya Dard Liya. This was the only film in which I gave laughter. Dilip Kumar helped me a lot with my performance in this film. So much so that people asked him - 'Where were you in the film?' I got very close to Dilip and Raj Kapoor and had a long association with both. The day Dilip was to get married, I was in Kashmir and it was pouring. With great difficulty I managed to reach Bombay because I had to attend it. I still remember how all of us, Raj and the gang got totally drunk and banged on Dilip's bedroom door, forcing him to open up and say hello to us on his wedding night.

The man is such a good actor, has a lovely voice and is a very good comedian. From a hero I turned to villainy because I could never run around trees and sing songs. Maybe because I played the bad man, I've never been loved by the public. Wherever I went people called me names - Chor, badmaash, daku, 420… Children and girls were scared of me. I don't know how people have had enough respect for me, and no one has manhandled me in a crowed. Their contempt for what I portray on the screen, only speaks a lot for my acting. Maybe because of this I never received any letters written in blood, etc. Who'd think of doing that for a villain? But I've had my share of crazy fans. There is this Parsi boy who has become like family today. Years ago he met me in Delhi with a thick scrap book with all my cuttings in it.

I have two sons and a daughter, but I never forced films on them. they were free to be and do what they wanted. The elder one has settled in London and has done Chemical Engineering and also has a PhD degree. While the younger one takes after me - not good in studies and an absolute loafer! He wanted to be an assistant director and so joined MKD. Nadiadwalla's gave him a break to direct an Amitabh starrer, but it had to be shelved because Praveen Badi left. I produced a film which he directed - Farishety, but it flopped. Now, he's directing a film for Suresh Bhagat. My daughter is married and just when I was thinking I'd finished my responsibility I realize, it has doubled. I have five grand children! Today, I am doing character roles more than playing a villain. Because I want to keep myself busy. But it's very disappointing when one comes across producers who are not very professional. For instance S.Ramanathan. I knew him when he ws an assistant

On my return home, my wife informed me that Vali sahib (my friend from Lahore), had called. He was making a film and made me an offer of a thousand a month. After that I signed Ghrihasti. So while I went from one studio to another looking for work I got nothing. But in four days time I signed four films ! From a hotel we shifted to Byculla as paying guests, staying with an old man who offered us his kitchen too. My career took off in earnest and I kept climbing. I bought a small car - Hillman. One evening, I received a phone call from my wife saying that they'd met with an accident. I was informed that they were safe but the car was badly damaged. I was irritated that I'd had to climb all those floors to take the call only to be told this.On coming home, my wife lost her temper with me accusing me of being unconcerned.

In Jis Desh Mein Ganga Beheti Hai even though I was playing a dacoit I spoke slowly, walked slowly and kept running my finger round my neck. Because I felt a dacoit would subconsciously, always think of a rope around his neck, as one day he would surely be hanged. This was very well appreciated. Today, a villain's get-ups are such that they don't seem to belong to this world. Though I find Sadashiv Amrapurkar and Kiran Kumar very natural and talented. Whenever I saw an interesting character or even a photograph I'd keep it in mind to use later. Especially world famous personalities fascinated me. In Jugnu, I was playing a professor and I copied Mujibur Rehman's get up - the wig, the glasses, the mustache. Though the viewers noticed a familiarity, they could not pinpoint the man I had copied. In B.Subhash's film I took Abraham Lincoln's get-up.

The best part was, the next day none of us could remember what we'd done ! I enjoyed working with Bimal Ray, Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar… But today I don't know what's happened to Manoj as a director. I mean, look at Clerk… Unfortunately, I didn't work with him after Upkar and Purab Aur Paschim. When he was planning Shor, he did come to me and asked me to play a pathan in the film. But I had to refuse the offer because I had already agreed to play one in Prakash Mehra's Zanjeer. And I didn't want to be unfair. He felt bad because after all he had given me Upkar. I think till today he's annoyed. But if he sits down and thinks, he'll realize how right I was. Only this year a big star like Amitabh has ruined two men by doing similar roles in both their films. So many years back my conscience would not let me do it. Talking about Amitabh, he used to be a natural on screen but today in his latest films, look at the way he's overacting. For what?

Recently, he presented me with a set of nine cassettes in which he has recorded all my scenes from my films. It's so beautifully done that I was moved to tears. In fact, many artistes keep borrowing them from me. Not only in the screen, but even in reality, many have tried to make me out to be a villain. Recently a magazine wrote about how I'm extra fond of 14-and 15-year old girls. but let me tell you one thing - I don't think anybody can snatch away my reputation from me. It doesn't make any difference to me about what `s written. I don't think there is any man in this world who doesn't like pretty girls. There is nothing wrong. Otherwise, why would God make pretty girls? Everyone appreciates and admires a good thing. Who is to judge at what length one stops? Anyway, its like Christ said, "Let the one who's innocent throw the first stone."

and then he made big films with super stars.He came to me a Gangaa Jamunaa… and offered me a role. There was nothing in writing. Next thing I knew, he contacted me at the fag end of the film and offered me a bit role calling it a guest appearance. The cheek of the man! I refused politely. But then there are still people like Rajiv Rai, who make it a point to come and see me only to explain that in his next film there is no suitable role for me. I'll never even forget this kind gesture. It talks of the background you come from. I feel I've done one third of all that I wanted to do. I always wanted to play Chanakya my dream role, but no one made that film. One can do something only if one gets a good role, which is a difficult proposition today. The one film I'm really looking forward to is Ratan Kumar's Isi Ka Naam Zindagi - it's a challenging role. But in spite of everything, even today, a night before the release of any of my films I'm so anxious…

Interview by - SANTOSH SUD