Prem Chopra

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Prem Chopra
Prem Chopra at Navin Nischol's Funeral
Chopra at Navin Nischol's funeral
Born (1935-09-23) 23 September 1935 (age 81)
Lahore, Punjab, British India
(now in Punjab, Pakistan)
Nationality Indian
Occupation Actor
Spouse(s) Uma Chopra (m.1969)
Children Prerna Chopra
Punita Chopra
Rakita Chopra
Parent(s) Ranbirlal Chopra (father)
Rooprani Chopra (mother)
Relatives Prem Nath (Brother-in-law)
Rajendra Nath (Brother-in-law)
Narendra Nath (Brother-in-law)
Krishna Kapoor (Sister-in-law)
Sharman Joshi (Son-in-law)
Vikas Bhalla ( Son-in-law)

Prem Chopra (born 23 September 1935) is an Indian actor in Hindi and Punjabi films. He has acted in 320 films over a span of over 50 years. He has a soft-spoken diction despite being a villain in most films. His 19 films with him being the antagonist and Rajesh Khanna in lead role remain popular with audience and critics.

Personal life and education[edit]

Prem Chopra, the third of six children of Ranbirlal and Rooprani Chopra, a Punjabi Hindu family, was born on 23 September 1935, in Lahore.[1][2] After the partition of India, his family moved to Shimla, where he was brought up.[1] His father desired that Prem be a doctor or an Indian Administrative Services officer.[3]

Prem Chopra completed his schooling and college from Shimla after his father, who was a government servant, got transferred there.[4] He graduated from Punjab University.[2] He took part in college dramatics enthusiastically. At his father's insistence, he completed his graduation and then went to Mumbai.[3] Soon after he made his debut film, his mother was detected with mouth cancer and she died, leaving his then nine-year-old sister Anju to be looked after by his father and his four other brothers. The brothers had given warning to their respective wives that only if their sister is happy would they be happy and Prem considers his sister as his first daughter.[5] Noted writer-director Lekh Tandon brought the proposal of Uma for marriage to Prem. Uma was the younger sister of the siblings Krishna Kapoor, Prem Nath and Rajendranath.[3] The couple have three daughters, Rakita, Punita and Prerna Chopra.[6] Rakita is married to film publicity designer Rahul Nanda. Punita owns a pre-school called Wind Chimes in Bandra, suburban Mumbai, and is married to singer and television actor Vikas Bhalla. Prerna is married to Bollywood actor Sharman Joshi.[7] He resides in a duplex apartment in Pali Hill, Bandra in Mumbai.[3]

His relationship with two of his four brothers got estranged in the late 1980s. Prem Chopra had bought a bungalow in 1980 in Delhi, which was jointly owned by him and his father, and his father and his one brother used to stay there. Prem had got his brother a job in Delhi and made him stay at the bungalow. But his father, a day before his death, was made to sign a will favouring one of his brothers, taking away Prem's rights in the bungalow.[5] Later an income tax raid happened in that same house and his brother said in the raid that Prem had given them the bungalow and so the house still was in name of Prem Chopra.[5] Prem had two other houses in Mumbai also, which were sold off cheaply by his other brothers without telling him as they needed the money.[5] His biography titled Prem Naam Hai Mera, Prem Chopra, written by his daughter Rakita Nanda, was released in April 2014.[8]

Early career 1961–1967[edit]

In Shimla Prem Chopra developed an interest in acting as he had begun to take part many plays in his college days. Despite stiff opposition from his parents, he managed to go to Mumbai to pursue his dream of acting in Bollywood films.[4] In his initial days he stayed at guest-houses in Colaba, Mumbai.[3] He started visiting film studios to display his portfolio: The response was not encouraging.[9]

To survive in the fast life of Mumbai, he took up a job with The Times of India while trying to gain a foothold in the film industry. He looked after circulation of the paper in Bengal, Orissa and Bihar and was required to tour 20 days a month. Prem used to cut his touring time by calling the agents to come and meet him at the station so that he could quickly return. This way a tour that would normally take 20 days would get completed in 12 and he would spend the rest of the time going from one studio to the other.[5] While traveling by the suburban train one day, a stranger accosted him and asked if he was interested in joining films. Chopra nodded in agreement and went with that stranger to Ranjit Studios where the producers of Chaudhari Karnail Singh were in search of a hero.[9] Jagjit Sethi, a Punjabi producer, gave him the break as Jabeen's hero in Chaudhary Karnail Singh, a Punjabi film. His debut film was a Hindu-Muslim romantic love story set against the backdrop of Indo-Pak partition and it turned out to be a big hit. The film even won the National award.[3] He was paid Rs 2500 for his debut film.[9] The movie took almost three years to complete.

During his stint with the Times of India, he worked in Punjabi films including Sapani and Hindi films such as Woh Kaun Thi?, Shaheed, Main Shaadi Karne Chala and Teesri Manzil.[2] Prem did not consider acting as a full-time profession in the early 1960s, and he kept trying to get roles in films due to his passion for acting. Among his early films he played Sukhdev in Shaheed, one of his rare positive leading roles. Prem had done four movies before Woh Kaun Thi?, a box-office hit of 1964, had released. On the sets of Woh Kaun Thi? which had Manoj Kumar as lead hero Prem met Manoj for the first time. Manoj offered Prem a positive role in Shaheed, for which Manoj was the presenter. During the shooting of Main Shadi Karne Chala someone suggested that he become a villain.[9] He continued working with ToI, when already he was part of box-office hits like Nishan, Sikandar E Azam in 1965 and Sagaai, Mera Saaya in 1966. After Teesri Manzil and Upkaar, he was flooded with films as a villain.

After Upkaar in 1967, he left The Times of India to concentrate solely on acting.[1]


He has since 1967 been a leading villain in Hindi films and his peak period as main villain in Hindi films was from 1967-1994. In the 1970s he got plum roles as a villain often with Amjad Khan and Ranjeet. In few films he played secondary villain to villainous characters of Ajit, Madan Puri, Pran, Jeevan in 1970s and 1980s and to Amrish Puri and Amjad Khan's in the late 1980s. In the critically acclaimed comedy film Hulchul (1971), a remake of Anubhavam Pudhumai, played the lead hero in this suspense thriller and was not a villain. He played the main lead in 1970 box-office hit small budget comedy film Samaj Ko Badal Dalo as lead hero and was paired opposite Telugu actresses Kanchana and Sarada. The song sung by Rafi and picturised on Prem Chopra -Tum Apni Saheli Ko Itna Bata Do Ki Usse Koi Pyar Karne Laga Hai from this 1970 film and the song Rah Mein Kaliya - a song sung by Kishore Kumar and performed on-screen by Prem Chopra in the film Nafrat(1973), a box-office flop in 1973, continues to be popular. The dialogue " Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra" (My name is Prem, Prem Chopra) from the film Bobby has been very popular. Another famous Prem Chopra dialogue is from film Souten - "Main wo bala hoon jo sheshay se pathar ko todtee hai" which closely translates to "I am that trouble which crushes stones with glass". "Main jo aag lagata hoon use boojhana bhi jaanta hoon" from Kati Patang was famous as well. He was the regular in villainous role in the films with Rajesh Khanna in the lead role from 1969-1991 from Doli(1969) till Ghar Parivaar(1991). The duo of Prem and Rajesh Khanna acted in 19 films together and had 15 of them as box office hits and were very close friends in real life till Khanna's death. Prem quoted in an interview "Rajesh Khanna and I were considered a lucky pair and distributors used to tell Rajesh Khanna that we don't care who your heroine is, all we want to know is whether Prem Chopra is in the film."[10] He also mouthed dialogues in the song Aaj Pila Dey Saathi Apni sung by Mahendra Kapoor from the film Doli(1969).He also mouthed dialogs in the song Lo Mera Pyar Lelo from Nafrat in 1973 with Asha Bhosle and Kab Se Ye Dil Hai Pyaasa from Mera Muqaddar in 1988.

Unlike other villains, Chopra's on-screen evil didn't rely on gizmos and his characters didn't rely on henchmen to do the dirty work and he never needed wicked names.[11] Some of his famous dialogues from the 1990s include - "Sharafat aur imaandaari ka certificate ye duniya sirf unhe deti hai jinke paas daulat hoti hai' from Aag Ka Gola (1990), "Bhains poonch uthayegi to gaana to nahi gayegi, gobar hi degi" Aaj Ka Arjun (1990), "Tu Madhuri se thodi kum aur Mandakini se thodi zyada hai" from Aaj Ka Goonda Raj (1992), "Rajneeti ki bhains ke liye daulat ki lathi ki zaroorat hoti hai" from Khiladi (1992). "Kar bhala to ho bhala" from Raja Babu (1994) and "Nanga nahayega kya aur nichodega kya" from Dulhe Raja (1998).


After 1995, he appeared as a villain in very few films. He took up positive character roles from 1996 and started getting more positive roles from 2005. His screen space got reduced in the films after 2005.

He had a good career spanning 50 years and was popular for villain roles in Bollywood. Prem Chopra regards his best roles were in Shaheed (1965), Upkaar (1967), Purab Aur Pashchim, Do Raaste (1969), Kati Patang (1970), Do Anjaane (1976), Jaadu Tona (1977), Kala Sona, Dostana (1980), Kranti (1981), Phool Bane Angaarey (1991), Bewaffa Se Waffa and the 19 films with Rajesh Khanna.[10][12][13][14] He regards his best performances in positive roles came in Sikander-e-Azam, Kunwari, Shaheed, Jaadu Tona, Prem Pratiggya,Chori Chori Chupke Chupke.[10]He disclosed in an interview "My films with Rajesh Khanna are very special to me. Right from Doli then Do Raaste, Kati Patang, Daag, Ajanabee, Prem Nagar, Maha Chor, Mehbooba, Tyaag, Bebus, Aanchal, Jaanwar, Souten, Maqsad, Awaaz, Shatru , Oonche Log, Waapsi, Ghar Parivaar. 15 of 17 released were hits.Each of those films showed different shades of my personality in villainous role." When asked on how he could continue so long in cinematic career, he quoted "Although I came to be a hero, my films as a leading man, flopped. Which was good in a way because a whole new world opened in front of me. There were so many more roles I could do. When I established myself as a villain it could continue for years."[10]


Amongst other awards won the Giants[clarification needed] honoured him with the "Lifetime Achievement Award". His talent won the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award in 1998, and has also been a recipient of the "Lions Club Award", "Ashoka Award", "Ashirwad Award" and the "Punjabi Kala Sangam Award."[16]


Selected Bollywood filmography[edit]


External links[edit]