Article Hindi

How Pran shaped dacoit Raaka in Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai

On the actor’s 5th death anniversary today, we revisit one of his famous roles from Raj Kapoor’s film, where he played a fearsome dacoit.

Pran with Chanchal in the film

Sonal Pandya

Hindi cinema’s most famous villain, Pran, made film audiences gasp out aloud at his actions and quake in fear with his intentions. In a career spanning nearly 65 years, Pran played many iconic roles from Madhumati's Raja Ugranarain in 1958 to Zanjeer’s Sher Khan in 1973.

However, one role still stands out, almost six decades later.

In Raj Kapoor’s Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai (1960), Pran took on the role of the antagonist, dacoit Raaka. The chameleon-like actor was known to change his look and character in each film according to the part written in the screenplay. However, Pran also worked to add his own touch to every character by observing those around him and reading up on real-life events.

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

With Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai, actor-producer Raj Kapoor expected that Pran would bring in a unique look and mannerism to the character of Raaka. After much deliberation, Pran did so, and he did not disappoint.

For Raaka’s look, Pran found what he was looking for in an English newspaper. A news report about a captured gang of dacoits featured a photograph of one of its members. In Bunny Reuben’s biography, titled ...and Pran, the actor said, “It turned out that he was the most cruel of his gang. When he was killed in the police encounter, his body was found riddled with 21 bullets! Looking at his picture, I felt this is Raaka!”

Pran and Kapoor modelled Raaka’s look (with the wig and moustache) from the dacoit’s photograph. But there was still one element missing from the character.

During the filming, Pran embodied the character even after he went home after the shift. One night, after a particularly vivid dream, he woke up and the final piece of Raaka came to him. Back on set, he acted out his scene and ended it with the act of running his finger across his throat.

When Kapoor asked him about the action, Pran said. “I told him how I had been trying to see him [Raaka] as a person rather than a character in a film. Waking up with a start from a dream one night, I found myself rubbing my fingers across my throat because I felt suffocated. I then decided that this gesture would convey what every dacoit must know — that justice or nemesis will eventually catch up with him."

In 1961, Pran was nominated for the Filmfare award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film, along with Mehmood, who was nominated for Sasural (1961). Both lost out to veteran Nana Palsikar for BR Chopra's Kanoon (1960).

However, Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai won the top honours for Best Film and Best Actor for Raj Kapoor. Editor GG Mayekar and art director MR Acharekar also won technical awards for their work on the film.