The fall of the titans

Actor Pran’s death brings focus to the amazing actor that he was and the legendary villains of the bygone era..

Tributes flew in and there were tears… some retrospective and others, a whole lot of drama. Actor Pran’s death did not shock us. Well in his 90s, chances of his death were ever-present. But yes, sadness does linger on as one of the last villains to have graced Hindi films passed away. You just can’t help talking about that one man who managed to hammer through your head that cruelty thy name is Pran signifies (in movies that is). One of my distinct memories of his devilish characters was that from ‘Ram Aur Shyam‘ where he thrashes Ram with a hunter. I might have seen his other films but this movie and scene, remained entrenched in my mind.


jeevanWhile going through television channels talking about the actor, it struck me that to achieve a different villain in every film must have been such a daunting task. The proof of his work was so believable was the fact that people stopped naming their son’s name Pran during the time. I personally love the tale of when his son refused to recognise his own father, while visiting the sets of one of his films. He put his heart and soul into being the villain that everyone hated. And in an amazing way, it never really became personal as he was equally known to be a good soul, in real life. Yes, he played Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes very well, be it Malang Chacha from ‘Upkaar’ or Sher Khan from ‘Zanjeer‘. When Chacha says “Bharat, tu duniya ki chhod! Pehle apni soch! Ram ne har yug mein janam liya hai, lekin Lakshman jaisa bhai dobara paida nahin hua!” in ‘Upkaar‘, you cannot help but trust him. However, what stayed in one’s mind were those evil eyes and the oh-so-fabulous dialogue delivery.


KN-SinghHis death made me think of the time and era when villains were much applauded and more in demand than even the heroes. A few like Pran could outshine the heroes. In the early 40’s to the late 70’s, KN Singh probably brought in the suave, gentleman bad guy complete with a pipe. His polished style of speaking and those drooping eyes made the villainous act so much enjoyable. I personally loved Ajit and his Loin act. He was the cool dude who would kill a fly with his dialogues. His Loin jokes still kill us.
‘Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra’, Prem Chopra truly caught the train with this dialogue from ‘Bobby‘. His was the slimy baddie whose actions and expressions radiated pure evil. God bless Jeevan for being an amusing villain whose nasal dialogue delivery was a mimic artiste’s delight. Amrish Puri also was another such baddie whose deep voice, bald head and big eyes frightened you. His ‘Mogambo Khush Hua’ frightened you, yet left you in awe. Like Pran, I found his goody-acts fabulous as well, especially his funny films. Hint – ‘Gardish’, ‘Muskurahat’ and ‘Virasat’ are few of my favourites. He was a Shyam Benegal regular.
ranjeetAmongst the ladies, Lalita Pawar was a crowd-puller too. But not many would know that a botched-up-slap in a scene resulted in defective eyes. Well, she used it to her credit. One of the most funny yet full of hatred lady evils was Manorama. Her autocrat chachi character in ‘Seeta aur Geeta‘ was spot-on. Ranjeet and Shakti Kapoor are the self-elected joint presidents of the new age rape specialist. Ranjeet’s open shirt button and cheesy dialogues sent shivers down your spine. Shakti Kapoor played the suave as well the buffoonish villain with ease. His ‘Aaaooooo Lolita’ is every villain’s dream and a sati savitri’s nightmare. Gulshan Grover was the last of the lot. His great get-ups and a mix of dead-pan face and good dialogue delivery meant serious business. By the way, Paresh Rawal happened to be a fantastic villain too. I was impressed with his Pinky in the mostly forgettable ‘Daud’. This humorous villain seriously scared me out.


The rise of anti-hero sounded the death knell on the fabulous villains. But these heroes made evil look like boiled eggs with a little pepper on it. We want the masala. Actors like Pran or even Amrish Puri made sure each villain was as different as say Cuban cigar and desi beedi… now you understand. Though the era of the typical potboilers is gone and so villains are no longer the same, we hope to see some interesting evil to pour our hatred into.
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