Pran, the actor who elevated the role of villain to greatness and glory in Bollywood, died at 93 in Mumbai's Lilavati Hospital last night. Amitabh Bachchan, a frequent collaborator and lifelong friend, began the grieving process on his Facebook page.
Mr Bachchan who said he was on the way back from Lonavala, wrote: "We have lost another gem from our beautiful collection of jewels .. Pran Saheb has passed away ! He had been ailing for some time .. I had visited him on a few occasions in hospital, and was in touch with his family all along .."
"He was a gentleman to the core, completely unlike the villain roles he played .. at work he was delight to be with .. always prepared and always on time - in fact much before time ! His sense of humour and his dignified presence was a lesson for all of us that came in contact with him. The number of films that I did with him are historic in their concept and what they meant to me as an artist. It is an immense legacy that he leaves behind, one that shall never be matched or replaced. My prayers in this moment of grief and my condolences to his family, who have been close to me also."
Pran, who often commanded a higher salary than the lead actors of the films he starred in, was credited with helping Amitabh Bachchan transition from a flop actor to the Angry Young Man. Director Prakash Mehra cast Pran in his first supporting role, the Pathan Sher Khan, in 1973 film Zanjeer. He was then stuck for a hero, having asked and been turned down by Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Dev Anand and Raaj Kumar. Pran suggested Mr Mehra watch the just-released Bombay To Goa starring a little-known Amitabh Bachchan. And history was made.
Pran and Amitabh Bachchan then formed a hit partnership, appearing in films like Don, Amar Akbar Anthony, Naseeb and Sharaabi.
Mr Bachchan has often written or spoken about the man who helped get him his first big break. In April this year, he praised Pran's professionalism on Facebook: "Invariably his make up involved wigs and beards of different nature, but irrespective of the intricacy of its bearing and the time consumption in putting them on, he was always the first person on set, and never went back to his make up room even if he was not required for the shot. He never argued or disagreed with any procedure on the film, never interfered, just quietly went about his work and left. He has a great repertoire of 'shayari' and would often entertain us with the choicest works through his fantastic memory of them."
Pran and Amitabh Bachchan also struck up a firm friendship with Pran, then 92 and ill, making a rare public appearance at Mr Bachchan's 70th birthday party in October 2012.