NEW DELHI -- 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 as a character actor -- but was best known for his bad guys, earning the honorific "Villain of the Millennium." He was hospitalized more than two weeks ago at Mumbai's Lilavati Hospital, 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.
Pran Krishan Sikand, just known as Pran, received 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 began acting as a hero in hit 1940s films like "Khandaan" (Family) and "Aurat" (Woman). In a career that lasted into the 1990s, his most famous villain roles came 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 were key to his screen presence, drew audiences to "Zanjeer," which helped a young Amitabh Bachchan become India's biggest film star. After reportedly recommending Bachchan for the part, Pran would team with the superstar in over a dozen films.
Tributes streamed over Twitter as fans and film stars remembered their favorite lines and roles.
Pran is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter. His cremation took place on 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 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.
He never wanted to live in Mumbai, but couldn't return to Lahore after partition, his daughter Pinky Bhalla said in an interview with Rediff.com, an Indian portal.
"He had to start all over again and it was quite a struggle," she said.
Pran persevered and a year after partition, he got a role in "Ziddi" (Haughty) with Dev Anand and Kamini Kaushal as lead actors.
Pran never looked back after that. In 1960, he 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 possessed a special kind of magic that allowed him to captivate so many filmgoers as a villain, recalled Bachchan in a foreword to the biography, "And Pran" by film journalist Bunny Reuben.