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5 times Pran borrowed from real-life people for his characters

Pran, once Hindi cinema's most feared villain, was loathed so much that for a while no one would name their child Pran. On his 97th birth anniversary, we look at some instances in which the actor added extra flair to his characters by modelling his looks and style on real-life people.

Sonal Pandya

Pran Krishan Sikand, better known to Hindi film audiences as just Pran, gained iconic stature as villain and character actor in films like Madhumati (1958), Upkar (1967), Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Zanjeer (1973) and Amar Akbar Anthony (1977). He was honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke award just before his death in 2013. Throughout his six-decade career, he was known for his dedication to his craft, which included adding extra touches to characters by imbibing unique mannerisms and looks. Here are five times he looked at real-life people to enhance his roles.

1. Khandan (1965)

In A Bhimsingh’s familial drama, Pran played Naurangi Lal, nephew of Lalita Pawar’s Bhagwanti, who arrives at his aunt’s home to break apart the family and divide the family assets. Surprisingly, for Khandan, Pran modelled his look on Adolf Hitler, with the parted hair and severe moustache. He gave the character a comic touch by twitching his nose for emphasis.

2. Jugnu (1973)

Dharmendra played a Robin Hood-esque character Jugnu in Pramod Chakravorthy’s 1973 film. Pran played his long-lost father who must change his identity to avoid being arrested for his role as a revolutionary before Partition. As Shyam, Pran designed his look after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the late prime minister of Bangladesh, complete with the slicked-back hair, glasses and conservative style of dressing.

3. Majboor (1974)

Author Diptakirti Chaudhuri pointed out in the book, Written by Salim-Javed: The Story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters, that for Ravi Tandon’s Majboor starring Amitabh Bachchan and Parveen Babi, Pran looked no further than the director himself to get inspired for his role as Michael D’Souza, a thief who liked to drink too much but had a heart of gold. The book says D’Souza had “a cool habit of circling his fingers around his eyes to get a closer look. Pran borrowed this gimmick from director Ravi Tandon who used to frame his shots like that.”

4. Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)

For Manmohan Desai’s cult classic, Pran looked towards the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, borrowing his style of beard and choice of clothing with a frock coat and bow. Pran’s character Kishanlal is transformed from a dutiful employer and father to a vengeful gangster after he loses his wife and family.

5. Nigahen (1989)

Hindi cinema’s first ever sequel, Nigahen (1989), was a follow-up to the 1986 blockbuster Nagina starring Sridevi and Rishi Kapoor as Rajni and Rajiv, respectively. Sridevi played the daughter, Neelam, who is raised by her kindly grandfather, played by Pran. Here, the veteran based his character’s hairstyle and glasses on Sam Pitroda, the successful telecom inventor, entrepreneur and friend and adviser of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.