SABSE KHOONKAAR KHALNAYAK PRAN ASAL MEI BAHUT HI JAANBAAZ, DILDAAR AUR PYARE INSAAN THE… BY ALI PETER JOHN
My first encounter with the villain, Pran was when my mother took me to see a film called “Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai’. He was the badman in the films and his name was Rakka – Ali Peter John
I hated him even though his character, Rakka had a change of heart towards the end. The next morning when I went to school, my class teacher told me before the whole class that I looked so much like Pran and from that day he and my classmates called me Pran or Rakka and I didn’t mind. I then saw almost every film which had him as the Badman and I continued hating him and when I read an article in ‘Screen’ which said that the impact of his performances as the Badman was so strong that no one in a state like Maharashtra had named their sons Pran for more than thirty years…… Years later, I had joined ‘Screen’ and was asked to cover the shooting of a film in which Pran was shooting. I hesitated at first, but finally decided to go to the only air-conditioned studio in Bombay called the Seth Studio, I didn’t know that my bosses were following me.
Pran was resting in one of the air-conditioned room and I barged into the room without even knocking and I heard Pran saying,“ Aao barkhodaar aao, kaha se aaye ho?’ And a shiver went down my spine, but when he asked me to sit down next to him, I was completely at ease and we kept talking for an hour and my bosses kept walking up and down in panic and finally when they couldn’t bare their own torture, one of them looked inside and asked Pran whether I was giving him any trouble because she said I was a ‘dimag kharab’. Pran told him that we had become friends and he would call me,“Ali, ya Peter ya John’. That was the beginning of our forty year long friendship with a man who I once hated with all my heart. He made it a point to see that his producers invited me to all his outdoors shootings anywhere in India and he made sure that I had a suite next to his and made sure that I was treated in the same way as him and the other stars.
We spent as much time as possible together all through the day, but our best time was in the evenings when he invited me to his suite and we spent the next few hours telling stories to each other, drinking the best Scotch and having the most delicious snacks which was followed by an even more delicious dinner after which we said farewell to each other and to the night. I had heard countless stories about his ‘dildaari’. He had donated lakhs of rupees to various charitable causes without any distinction made about caste, creed or community. He was the mind and the money behind the building of several hospitals and clinics all over the country. He took part in various entertainment programs to raise funds for causes, but his favorite cause was the welfare of junior artists, fighters and artists who had fallen on bad days or were very sick……
This is a very rare story about how he came to the health of the great cricketer Kapil Dev. Pran sahab loved cricket next to films and even cancelled or postponed shooting when he had to watch a cricket match. He was shooting Rishi Kapoor for a film called “Dhan Daulat’ in a village and was watching a match in a farmer’s house on a black and white TV set. He was closely watching a young man who was still new to the world of cricket and was very impressed with the fire with which the young man was bowling and called Rishi Kapoor to look at the young bowler and told Rishi that the bowler would become a very big name in Indian cricket. Four years later that young bowler was Kapil Dev who was the captain of Indian team.
It was around this time that Kapil Dev suffered a serious foot injury and the doctors advised the Board of cricket to fly him to London for some special treatment, but the Board could not afford to pay for the treatment. Pran Sahab came to know about this serious problem and he went to Chandigarh, met Kapil Dev and told him not to worry and that he would pay for the entire treatment. Kapil Dev who is now in his late sixties very often remembers Pran sahab and his humane gesture which saved his foot and made him play for many more years, to win the World Cup for India and continue to make his valuable contribution to cricket in India, and even inspire a director like Kabir Khan and an actor like Ranveer Singh to make a film on the high drama during the World Cup of 1983, which India won.
There are many other stories to tell about Pran Sahab and a book like ‘And Pran’ cannot do justice to the man. And for me one of my greatest moments was when I, a nobody could help him to solve one of the most dicey problems of his life. That I could do something for the man who was a symbol of a great life is something that has made my life memorable.