Prem Chopra, One of the most popular on-screen villains in Bollywood, who turned 81 today.453 views
Birthday Greetings to Prem Chopra, One of the most popular on-screen villains in Hindi cinema, who turned 81 today.
Prem Chopra is one of the pioneers of the Hindi movie industry, a legendary and enigmatic personality who has acted in over 400 films over a period of more than 50 years. Besides Hindi films, his works also include numerous Punjabi films. His contribution to the Hindi film industry has been immense and he has indeed left an enduring mark which has been very much difficult to repudiate or even mimic.
My first break – Prem Chopra
“There was a feeling why I am being offered dark characters because I looked as good as the heroes and felt that my acting skills were at par with the best but then destiny has its strange ways.”
How it Happened
I was associated with the theatre groups in Shimla – where my parents settled after Partition – after completing my graduation from Punjab University. I wanted to act in films but my father felt it was full of insecurity and that given my good academic background I must go for a white collar job.
Eventually I joined the circulation department of Times of India, Bombay. The idea obviously was to keep trying for a role in films in spare time. However, things didn’t work out as I expected. Then one day while I was travelling in the local train, a stranger asked me would you like to do a Punjabi film. I said I won’t mind. He took me to Ranjit Studios where I was signed for “Chaudhary Karnail Singh”. It was a film based on a Hindu-Muslim love story with Partition as the background. It went on to win the National Award and I was noticed.
How It Felt
I got Rs.2500 for the role but as I had a steady job, money didn’t matter much. I was looking for fame. I was noticed but as Punjabi films have a limited appeal I was not flooded with offers. So I didn’t quit my job.
Thankfully, Mehboob Khan saw my work and offered to make a film with me but unfortunately he fell ill. Those days films were completed in years. “Karnail Singh” took quite a while so I decided to accept small roles. “Shaheed” and “Woh Kaun Thi” followed and eventually Manoj Kumar offered me “Upkaar”, which changed the course of my career as I turned a villain with the film. It was a huge hit and finally I had arrived on the scene. I quit the job. Mehboob Sahib saw “Upkaar” and remarked “Mian Apne Jaldi Kar Di”.
How life changed
Life changed after “Upkaar”. With “Upkaar”, Pran switched to character roles and I stepped into his shoes. I decided not to go for weird makeup to accentuate the impact. Only in films like “Kala Sona”, I sported a false eye because the character demanded it. It was my punch lines – like Prem Naam Hai Mera – Prem Chopra – that made me popular. At times there was a feeling why I am being offered dark characters because I looked as good as the heroes and felt that my acting skills were at par with the best but then destiny has its strange ways.
Look I have lasted longer than most heroes of my times. There was a time when Rajesh Khanna and I were signed even before the heroine was finalised because our pairing was considered lucky. Then with Amitabh Bachchan, I gave a series of hits. I consider him the best. He is one of those few who know how to carry relationships off screen as well. Right from “The Great Gambler” days whenever we meet we greet each other in Italian. I have worked with all the Kapoors right from Prithviraj Kapoor to Ranbir.