12-2-1920 - 12-7-2013
Pran Sikand, a beloved Bollywood character actor who for much of his career specialised in playing villains, has died in Mumbai. He was 93.
His death was confirmed by his daughter, Pinky Bhalla.
In some 400 films over more than six decades, the suave and stylish Sikand, known professionally by his first name only, played a wide range of roles. But he was best known for the air of menace he brought to his evil characters.
His approach to those roles, beginning in the late 1940s, had no precedent in Hindi cinema. Villains of the black-and-white era were usually caricatures, but Sikand introduced a measure of complexity and even humor. And although only 172cm tall, his intense eyes and majestic voice made him an intimidating antagonist to much taller actors.
Sikand turned to more positive roles in the late 1960s. His performance as a rough but kind Pashtun in the 1973 film Zanjeer solidified his stature as a character actor, while the film itself elevated Amitabh Bachchan, who played his friend, to superstardom. The on-screen chemistry between Bachchan and Sikand was strong, and they went on to work together in 14 films.
Pran Kishan Sikand was born into an affluent Punjabi family in Delhi on February 12, 1920, one of seven children. His family later moved to Lahore, now Pakistan but then part of India. He had some onstage acting experience but was pursuing a career as a photographer when the screenwriter Wali Mohammed persuaded him to play a villain in the Punjabi film Yamla Jat (1940).
The celebrated Pakistani singer and actor Noor Jehan was also in that movie, and she became Sikand's leading lady in the Hindi film Khandan (1942), in which he played a romantic hero for the first time. Khandan was a hit, but Sikand shied away from lead roles after that because he did not enjoy the song-and-dance routines that came with them.
After moving to Mumbai on August 14, 1947, just a day before India's independence, Sikand struggled at first to find work, but his career took off after he was offered a role in Shaheed Latif's Ziddi (1948), which established him as a screen villain.
By the 1970s, Sikand was commanding a higher salary for his bad-guy roles than most of the top stars of Hindi cinema. For the 1978 blockbuster Don, he was paid three times as much as Bachchan. When the actor and director Raj Kapoor wanted to cast him in his 1973 film Bobby but could not afford his fee, Sikand agreed to do the film for one rupee.
In 2001, Sikand was given the Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian award. Two months before his death he was given the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for lifetime achievement, the government's highest honour for cinema.
In addition to his daughter, Sikand's survivors include his wife, Shukla Ahluwalia, whom he married in 1945, and two sons, Arvind and Sunil.
During the height of Sikand's fame, his sneers and snarls had such an indelible influence that mothers in India were said to be reluctant to name their sons Pran. A few years ago Sikand's family conducted a search for men born in the 1950s and 1960s with that name. They could find only three.