An IIPM Initiative
Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Remembering Uncle Pran


Film critic Monojit Lahiri goes down memory lane, to pay a personalised salaam to B-town’s most warm and wonderful baddie – Pran Kewal Sikand!
MONOJIT LAHIRI | Issue Dated: July 28, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Pran | Bollywood | Pran Kewal Sikand |

My twin calling, advertising and cinema – one a profession; the other, a passion – was born in the Bombay (not Mumbai) of my childhood, at a place, Arcadian and picturesquely peaceful, called Union Park in Pali Hill, a sleepy little neighbourhood in the fifties and sixties.

A little distance away was Danda beach where, as kids, we played our more serious inter-colony cricket matches, desperately trying to ignore the god-awful fish-stink (emerging from the adjoining fishing village) while polishing our extra-cover drives!

Pali Hill was – in those days – full of trees and old bungalows, a legacy of the Raj. Union Park and Pali Hill was also home to several movie personalities. There was sidey comedian Maruti, star comedian Gope and small time heroine Purnima (grand mom of Emran Hashmi). There were also directors M. Sadiq (Chaudhvin Ka Chand, Taj Mahal) and Amiya Chakravarti (Daag, Patita, Seema) and tragedy queen Meena Kumari, tragedy king Dilip Kumar and a small distance away, Sunil Dutt-Nargis. Closest of course was… Pran!

Much has been written about the great thespian regarding his position and contribution to both Bollywood and lending glamour n’ style to the role of the baddie. Suffice it to say that he invested into that predictable track, a class and cool all his own. Sure it was a thankless persona, factored in to make the dumb hero more virile, virtuous and noble, but despite this drawback, Pran invariably stood out, irrespective of the leading man’s star-wattage. Be it Dilip, Dev, Raj, Shammi, Rajendra, Dharam, Manoj, even Rajesh and Amitabh, he always left his mark through some innovative gestures, catch phrases, whatever.

For us kids, however, he was far from the object of terror or source of evil connivance to get the girl and loot and destroy the hero … he was simply Uncle Pran, the dad of our pals Babboo and Tunni (Pinky was too small) a warm, benign, friendly and generous person who enjoyed our company a lot. Let me give you some examples.

We kids were always on the lookout for a place to play cricket, football or Daaba-Doobi but were constantly shooed away by the elders and ended up playing on the road. Uncle Pran saw us playing one day and invited us to play in his large garden. He didn’t give a damn to his maali’s passionate pleas and warning that the wonderful lush grass would be ruined by the stampeding hooligans, plants and flowers destroyed and made it very clear to him that if there was ever any complaint against him from us, he would be given marching orders! Imagine!

Sometimes, if he got back early from shooting, he would join us in whichever game we were playing. I remember once, I hit him really hard during a game of Daaba-Doobi and the tennis ball left an ugly mark! I apologised profusely. He just laughed and said “Tu to humse bhi aur khatarnak, bete!”

He always ensured that we got cold water and maybe some snacks after the game. During Holi, it was freak-out time! Actors from all over – including Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar – dropped by for hungama, song n’ dance! Huge drums of colour were placed outside his gate for us kids to play with. Snacks, cold drinks and lassi (laced with bhang?) made frequent rounds with the revelers and mauj masti ruled!

On one occasion, his son Tunni, I and another friend were invited to a party. Since he himself was going to a party downtown, he offered to drop us. As we were getting down, he put some money in his son’s hands and said “This is for the three of you. Have a good time and don’t be too late.”

In all those years that I knew him, never ever did I see him behaving rudely or inappropriately with anyone. He was always decent, warm, jovial and caring. Once, over a coke, I remember asking him about the bruise on his chin. He laughed. “Arre kuch nahin bete. Yeh Shammi jo hain, fight scene mein zara zyada hi role ko seriously le liya … aur wajah, yeh  dishoom!”

A thorough gentleman, adored by all the heroines (whom he forever threatened to paw, molest, harass or traumatise on screen!), he made sure that he treated them with the utmost chivalry. He also ensured that no one in his family ever abused, misused or exploited his stardom to grab anything not due to them. That has remained to this day.

Today, as the gentleman moves from sight to memory, a million thoughts invade the mind belonging, as if, to another lifetime. Sure – to quote Showbiz’s greatest truism – the show must go on, but it will undoubtedly be a show poorer for the loss of a person called Pran Kewal Sikand, to the world … and Uncle Pran, for me and my childhood friends, who pranced around his glorious lawn, all muddy and grubby playing football in the rain, while his three beloved dogs Bullet, Whisky and Soda watched from their little castle all those years ago.
Farewell Sir, respected, loved and admired ex-neighbour… a rare soul who gave villainy such a glorious name…


Rate this article:
Bad Good    
Current Rating 0
Post CommentsPost Comments

Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017