Think of Bollywood villains and Prem Chopra will definitely fall in the top five – alongside late Pran sahib and Amrish Puri. From being a dapper, young gentleman, making his debut in the black-and-white era, he quickly transitioned into the most-hated actor upon the dawn of colour TV. His autobiography ‘Prem Naam Hai Mera, Prem Chopra!’ emulates his journey in the Indian film industry, his struggle in life, his movies and his personality, off screen!
For more than five decades, Bollywood antihero Chopra has terrorized audiences with his unique brand of villainy – while other villains are loud, he is soft; when others are not as good looking, he has striking features; and while others don’t get along with their co-stars, from veterans like Amitabh Bachchan to emerging stars such as Ranbir Kapoor consider him as one of the most civilized actors they have worked with. These are a few things one gets to learn from his autobiography that has been penned by his daughter Rakita Nanda, but narrated in the great actor’s own words.
The memoir reveals fascinating facts about the talented actor – how he manages to stay fit after 50 years in filmdom, why he opted to go for negative roles despite have appealing looks to his advantage, and what made people work with him inspite of his on-screen persona. He reels off about his friendship with Bollywood stars Jeetendra, Rakesh Roshan, Rishi Kapoor to name a few and acknowledges legendary Manoj Kumar for believing in him and helping him become an actor that people loved to hate.
Further on, Chopra reminiscences about his early days in Lahore, his father’s decision to migrate to India before partition in 1947 and his decision to pursue a career in films, against his father’s wishes. The book reveals that it was his conscious decision to experiment which saw him develop his own style, and stand out amongst his contemporaries. He shares how he became an actor people loved to mob outside Clarks Hotel in Shimla where he used to hang out as an aspiring youngster just to catch a glimpse of film stars at the time.
Not only does Chopra give readers a peek into his life, his friends also pitch in with their version of Prem Chopra as the person behind scenes. B-town’s original macho Dharmendra discloses that Chopra, who may be disliked for his characters, delivers beautiful couplets in Urdu which are known in Bollywood as ‘Prem Awargi’; actor Sharman Joshi details his amazing relationship with Chopra, his father-in-law, while others share anecdotes of how he may be in the spotlight for his vileness, he is a great family man in real life.
There are other co-stars who share their experiences of working with the actor over the years. From Manoj Kumar, the director who cast Chopra in his career-defining role in Upkar and Amitabh Bachchan who starred with him in countless films including the award-winning Do Anjaane to Rishi Kapoor who acted alongside Chopra in Bobby when he delivered the one dialogue that would become the most popular tagline of his career defining his existence on camera – “Prem Naam Hai Mera, Prem Chopra” – everybody had something positive to say.
The book takes you on trip back in time featuring a timeless memorabilia of pictures that show Chopra with Bollywood actors such as Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Prem Nath (his brother-in-law), Amitabh Bachchan, Sunny Deol, Ranbir Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan. So if you are interested in getting a glimpse of Chopra’s exciting life in Bollywood, working with two different set of generations – old and new alike – and sharing screen space with each and every Kapoor from the versatile Prithviraj Kapoor to his great grandson Ranbir Kapoor, this book, available in the market, will surely suffice your desire.
5 Things You Don’t Know About Prem Chopra
• Men and women may be afraid of Chopra on screen, but the veteran villain is afraid of – snakes! He has on multiple occasions refused to act in scenes where snakes were involved.
• Chopra wasn’t happy initially with what turned out to be his iconic dialogue – “Prem Naam Hai Mera … Prem Chopra!”
• The 78-year-old actor made his feature film debut as a hero in Chaudhary Karnail Singh, a Punjabi film released in 1960.
• Chopra can’t read or write Hindi, he writes his dialogues in Urdu – his first language.
• Chopra prefers to rehearse his dialogues in Urdu, Punjabi and English, a technique he learnt from the great Dilip Kumar.
Omair Alavi works for Geo TV and can be contacted at [email protected]