Shukla and Pran Sikand
Next week when the Taj at Apollo Bunder celebrates Independence Day by reproducing the exact same menu that was served on the historic occasion 70 years ago, we cannot help thinking of the legendary actor, the late Pran (Sikand), who along with his wife Shukla, and their one-year-old son happened to be staying at the hotel on that day.
Like many other stories of that period, the story of how the Sikands happened to be there, is both serendipitous and miraculous. A successful pre-partition actor in Lahore, the star had flown to Indore only a week earlier, packing just a suitcase of his finest suits, to celebrate his son’s first birthday with his wife and her family. It was only after he had arrived that news had come in of a massacre and bloodbath in Lahore, as riots had broken out. Borrowing money from friends, the 27-year-old actor left for Mumbai in the hope of finding similar work here, knowing there was no going back.
But true to his style, he had booked himself and family into the city’s classiest hotel of its time — The Taj! “On the night of August 15, Pran and his family went riding in an open jeep along with the dancer-actress Cuckoo and her parents, to see the celebrations across the city,” says a relative of the actor about that historic day. “They had met the actress in the foyer of the hotel and she had invited them to drive along.”
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