(AP) India's legendary actor Pran, who played some of Bollywood's most memorable villains in a career that spanned six decades, died of pneumonia at a Mumbai hospital Friday, his doctor said. He was 93.
Pran acted in more than 350 Hindi movies in a prolific career dating back to the 1940s. He played a vast range of roles a hero, villain and character actor but was best known for his bad guys, earning the honorific "Villain of the Millennium."
Pran Krishan Sikand, popularly known as Pran, was hospitalized more than two weeks ago at Mumbai's Lilavati Hospital and died Friday, said his doctor, Sanjeev Mehta.
"Indian cinema has lost an icon,"" tweeted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
In May, an ailing Pran was presented the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the Indian government's highest honor for cinema, at his Mumbai home by Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari.
Pran also received several other prestigious awards, including Filmfare magazine's "Lifetime Achievement Award" in 1997 and the 'Villain of the Millennium' by Stardust magazine three years later.
Pran started out acting as a hero in hit 1940s films like "Khandaan" (Family) and "Aurat"" (Woman). In a career that lasted into the 1990s, he became most famous for his roles as a villain in movies such as "Bari Behen" (Elder Sister), "Azaad" (A Free Man), "Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai" (A Country Where the Ganges River Flows)," ''Half Ticket," and "Johnny Mera Naam" (Johnny Is My Name).
Pran is especially remembered for his supporting role as a villain-turned-hero in 1973's smash hit "Zanjeer" (Shackles). The appeal of Pran, whose menacing eyes made him appear as the most dreaded villain on the Hindi cinema screen, drew audiences to "Zanjeer," which helped a young Amitabh Bachchan become India's biggest film star. The pair would team in over a dozen films.
Tributes streamed over Twitter as fans and film stars remembered their favorite lines and roles by Pran. Overcoming his average height, Pran famously stood up to the six-feet-two (1.88-meter) tall Bachhan in "Zanjeer."
Bachchan tweeted: "A gentleman, most collaborative colleague. Another magnificent pillar of the film industry falls."
Earlier in 1960, Pran looked every inch a bandit in a beloved portrayal in "Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai," a Raj Kapoor film about the mass surrender of bandits.
Pran is survived by his widow, two sons and a daughter. His cremation will take place Saturday in Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital, the Press Trust of India news agency said.
The New Delhi-born son of a civil engineer, Pran wanted to become a professional photographer.
However, a chance meeting with writer Wali Mohammad Wali in Lahore, now in Pakistan, led to his first role opposite actress Ranjhana in a Punjabi film "Yamla Jat" in 1940. He acted in several films produced in Lahore before shifting to Mumbai after the partition of India in 1947 by British colonialists.
A year later, he got a role in "Ziddi" (Haughty) with Dev Anand and Kamini Kaushal as lead actors.
Pran never looked back after that. He played a villain in several hit movies opposite Bollywood's top actors, including Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand. Pran also earned acclaim for roles in smaller Bengali-language films.
Bachchan, recalling the actor's magic in a foreword to Pran's biography, "And Pran" by film journalist Bunny Reuben, wrote, "Onscreen villainy is a thankless job which Pran accepted and carried out with such a degree of perfection that he became the actor the entire nation loved to hate."