Among the many character artistes to have graced the Indian silver screen, the genial and affable Om Prakash holds a special place. In a career that spanned nearly 5 decades, he acted in more than 300 films and also directed and produced some films. No matter what the role, Om Prakash always left an indelible mark, whether as villain or comedian.
Born in an affluent family in Jammu on December 19, 1919, Om Prakash was attracted to the performing arts from a young age. During his childhood, he participated in the local Ram Leela during Dussehra, his first venture into acting. He was also trained in classical music while growing up. His sustained love for the arts eventually led to his career in All India Radio as an actor and singer.
Using the name Fateh Din, Om Prakash wrote plays and dialogues and performed them on air. Fateh Din became so popular that the famous producer Dalsukh Pancholi wrote to him asking him to work in one of his films. Legend has it that Om Prakash went from Jammu, on receiving Pancholi’s telegram, to Lahore. Upon meeting him, Pancholi completely denied sending any such telegram. Just before he left for Jammu, a chance meeting with Pran cleared this misunderstanding up. Pancholi had sent a telegram to Fateh Din not knowing that Om Prakash was Fateh Din.
Om Prakash made his debut in Pancholi’s Dasi (1944), wherein he played a villain. A couple more films with Pancholi made Om Prakash a fairly familiar face. Following Partition, Om Prakash moved to Bombay and had a tough time trying to make ends meet and find suitable roles. But eventually the struggle paid off and then began his golden phase – one from which he never looked back.
It was his role in Azaad (1955) that brought him to prominence again. By the end of the 1950s and the early 1960s Om Prakash had carved a place for himself – working in diverse roles, comic and villainous, opposite all the top heroes of the time, including Dev Anand in Jaali Note (1960) and Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Dilip Kumar in Azaad, and Raj Kapoor in Kanhaiya (1959), a movie that Om Prakash wrote and directed).
By the end of the 1960s, Om Prakash had become a staple character in most movies either as the father or uncle, often lending a touch of comedy, in successful films like Padosan (1968) and Pyar Kiye Jaa (1966). In Dus Lakh (1966) and Sadhu Aur Shaitaan (1968), he got the chance to play the hero. His turn as Dilip Kumar’s elder brother in Gopi (1970) was so acclaimed that the legendary actor himself is said to have commented that Om Prakash overshadowed him with his performance.
Om Prakash’s prolific output continued over the next two decades, as he churned out stellar performances in Buddha Mil Gaya (1971), Chupke Chupke (1975), Julie(1975), Namak Halaal (1982) and Sharaabi (1984). By then a well-recognized character artist, Om Prakash was known to lend his inimitable touch to any character he took on, often acting well enough to rival the lead.
Besides acting and writing, Prakash also received a chance to flex his classical music training when he sang a song for the film Bindiya (1960). He turned his remarkable talents to direction with Kanhaiya (1959) and Duniya Gol Hai (1955), and turned producer for films like Sanjog (1961) and Jahan Ara (1964). A giant of the industry, Om Prakash died on 21 February 1998, thus bringing to an end a glorious career.