A noted Hindi and Bengali film actor, Pradeep Kumar is best remembered for his performances in Mughal period dramas. He was the first choice to play prince/king in numerous Hindi films.
Pradeep Kumar’s original name was Sital Batabyal. Born to orthodox brahmin parents in West Bengal, Pradeep bided his time till he was 17 years old before he announced his decision to pursue an acting career. Despite his father’s disapproval, Pradeep began acting on stage. During one of his performances, renowned filmmaker Debaki Bose spotted him and cast him in a Bengali film, Alaknanda (1947). He got his screen name from Debaki Bose.
Encouraged, Pradeep moved to Mumbai and found a job in the bustling Filmistan Studio. He brushed up on his Hindi and learned Urdu in a bid to make an impression in his first Hindi film, Anand Math (1952). In the next two years, Pradeep’s career escalated to the top with two hugely successful musical hits — the Bina Rai-starrer Anarkali (1953) and the Vyjayanthimala-starrer Nagin (1954).
Some of his memorable films include Aarti, Adalat, Rat Aur Din, Chitralekha, Bheegi Raat, Bahu Begum, Noor Jehan and Taj Mahal in which he played the role of Shah Jehan.
Even though Pradeep Kumar acted in films belonging to genres other than the historical, he is famous for his portrayals of kings and princes. His splendid performance as Prince Salim in Nandlal Jaswantlal’s tragic love story Anarkali, and as Shah Jahan in M. Sadiq’s Taj Mahal, demonstrated his ability to slip into royal roles with ease.
Despite possessing a natural gift and screen presence as well, he never quite achieved the box-office success that some of his contemporaries enjoyed.
Towards his last years, Pradeep Kumar shifted back to Kolkata. After a prolific career in film, Pradeep Kumar finally passed away on October 27, 2001, in Calcutta, at the age of 76.
A stellar actor, charming man, and regal personality, Pradeep Kumar continues to be remembered for his performances.