This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
'Prem Naam Hai Mera – Prem Chopra' – It is pretty much expected that anyone who was born in the last Millennium would have most certainly heard of this iconic dialogue. In fact the ones who have lived the films of the 70s and the 80s could well have mouthed this dialogue in a party or a gathering too. Such is the kind of lifelong appeal that this self appreciation line from Bobby enjoys that it has made Prem Chopra a much memorable and loved person as well as character for more than half a century.
However, for the man who has over 300 films to his credit, it wasn't a straight forward kick-start in the world of films. He had to go through rejection, dejection, struggle, breaks, struggle again and more before he became THE Prem Chopra.
All of this and more is told well in this Rakita Nanda written book which makes for an easy 200 odd page book. Of course, it does fluctuate from being highly interesting to monotonous at times. Also, on at least half a dozen instances it makes one wonder if there was no editor on board to cut down the repetitive lines (and even instances). Still, one can pretty much sense that Rakita, who is Prem Chopra's daughter, has narrated this entire tale from her heart.
So what if this heartfelt tale turns out to be such an ode from a daughter to her father that it turns out to be an entirely goody-goody account of a man who has been one of the most loved villain over the decades. No, playing a villain certainly doesn't insinuate that a person needs to have elements of villainy in real life too. Still, every individual, whether it is a hero or a villain or a character actor has his own grey shades (it is a different matter though that biography of one such subject – Om Puri – went a little too far) but in this book, all one gets to read is ear pleasing stuff that presents a man who could do no wrong.
Nevertheless, if one is willing to ignore that aspect of the book, it has to be admitted that 'Prem Naam Hai Mera – Prem Chopra' is a well narrated account of the veteran actor who came from a humble background, only to struggle for many years in succession before finding his due. Of course, the struggle here wasn't around sleeping on the pavements or surviving off friends and relatives. In that aspect, Prem Chopra was quite sorted in his survival tactics, what with a full time job with Times of India ensuring that he had ample funds in place.
Still, it was the filmy element that kept haunting him and it is well explained that how he juggled between Hindi and Punjabi films before realizing that at that point in his career, it made sense to be a stylish villain with handsome looks instead of being yet another hero joining the block. The book does explain how it wasn't an easy call to take but the actor did that, the fruits of which he is enjoying today after being in the business for five decades.
The book also features quite a few anecdotes, many of them being shared by his friends from that era who are still around – Jeetendra, Rakesh Roshan and Rishi Kapoor to name a few. Of course this yet again means that all information shared pretty much belongs to the 'protected' category, something that Jeetendra too acknowledges in a cheeky tone. Moreover, there are friends and relatives, many of them belonging to the world of films, who talk about Prem Chopra – the man with whom they have been interacting for over the years.
While quite a lot of it doesn't turn out to be more of a family endorsement than a complete account of the man in picture, that can be comfortably kept aside, considering the fact that a lot more is packed into this book by Rakita. What also makes the book special is the fact that it is narrated in first person. So when Prem Chopra talks about his villainous image, the tag of a 'rapist' being attached to him, the nostalgia attached to his many visits to Simla, the manner in which he never indulged in professional rivalries, the fact that he made it on his own despite his Bollywood connections – it all makes for a good read indeed!
The book also works in stepping into the personal space of Prem Chopra, albeit to an extent that he wants you to. Still, when compared to many other superstar heroes that one keeps reading about, it is good fun to know a lot more about an iconic actor who has an integral space of his own in Bollywood.
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