By Lata Jha:
He could be the evil dacoit and the reticent but doting grandfather. Indian Cinema barely knew actors of the calibre that Pran belonged to. His versatility not just set him apart, but carved an entire era in our movie history when he reigned supreme as far as any character role was concerned and was often signed on even before the lead actors of his films. And why not? He was perfectly capable of carrying a film on his stable shoulders. Before Zanjeer happened, nobody knew who Amitabh Bachchan was. It was Pran they came to watch, cheer and revere.
If he was menacing as the antagonist in Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, you could totally want to cuddle up to the dadaji with a golden heart in Parichay. So monumental was his impact that people had stopped naming their children Pran.
Before you dismiss this as a belated obituary, I assure you that I shall not go on and draw up his entire filmography here. Pran Saab was a legend, and we don’t need to be reminded of that. What we do however, I think, need to pay a little more attention to is the kind of respect and attention we pay our legends once they’re technically “out of the running”.
The minimal attendance from the film fraternity at Pran Saab’s funeral on Saturday was testimony enough to the fact that no one in this world really cares. You could be here for sixty odd years, but till you affect someone’s existence individually, forget going the extra mile; they shall not even bother to give up their comfortable seats for you. The same guy who had displayed exceptional integrity by refusing the Filmfare Award for the Best Supporting Actor for Be-Imaan in protest against Ghulam Mohammed not being given the Best Music Director Award for Pakeezah in 1971, found very few people to bid adieu to in that final journey.
Not for those innumerable brilliant performances or for the many lives and careers he had supported and nurtured a lot of his colleagues and juniors couldn’t even make time to come and celebrate the six decade long career of a man the audiences will never forget. For the man who redefined the villain, the friend, the father and various other characters, scarcely a dozen familiar faces could be spotted at the funeral.
This just goes to show that Bollywood was and has always been a clear reflection of our times. Not just in its work, but also in its attitudes. It’s a callous world that we live in. Behind the gloss, glamour and the melodies of all the wonderful songs we swear by, there’s little that the industry could inspire us with.
Never mind though, Pran Saab. You live on in our hearts. For all of us who couldn’t have possibly come to bid you goodbye, we hope you know you shall remain absolutely immortal. What else can we say? Hum bolega to bologe ki bolta hai.