Om Prakash (19 December 1919 – 21 February 1998) was an Indian character actor. He was born in Lahore, now Pakistan, as Om Prakash Chibber. He used to play the role of Kamla in the stage play by the famous Dewan Mandir Natak Samaj Koliwada. Since his career began in 1942, he was a popular supporting actor from the 1950s until the 1980s.
Om Prakash played the leading man in films like Dus Lakh, Annadata, Charandas and Sadhu aur Shaitan. His pivotal roles in the films Dil Daulat Duniya, Chupke Chupke, Julie, Joroo Ka Ghulam, Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Pyar Kiye Jaa, Padosan and Buddha Mil Gaya are considered to be among his best along with Daddu in Namak Halaal and De Silva in Zanjeer. His roles in Sharabi, Bharosa, Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Mere Humdum Mere Dost, Loafer and Dil Tera Diwana were also appreciated.
He is known for his roles in comedy films. One of his best performances in his later years were Naukar Biwi Ka, Sharaabi (1984) and Chameli Ki Shaadi, where he played a role that was pivotal for the movie.
He was fascinated by theatre, music and films. He started taking lessons in classical music when he was just twelve and was recognised as a master in no time.
He joined All India Radio in 1937 on a monthly salary of Rs 25. He was known as “Fateh Din”, a radio personality and his programmes made him popular all over Lahore and Punjab.
He was regaling people at a wedding one day when the well-known filmmaker Dalsukh Pancholi spotted him and asked to see him in his Lahore office. Pancholi gave Prakash his first break as an actor in the film Daasi. He was paid only Rs 80, but the film earned him the kind of recognition that would give him a means of livelihood for a lifetime. It was his first major role; he had played a bit role in Sharif Badmash, a silent film. He followed his good work in Daasi and with Pancholi’s Dhamki and Aayee Bahar.
Soon after the Partition he came to Delhi and then to Bombay (now Mumbai). Baldev Raj Chopra noticed his talent when he was a film journalist and critic; he urged Prakash to carry on with his acting career. He was sure Om Prakash had the talent to prove himself a versatile actor. The actor had to struggle initially. He got his first break as a villain in a film called Lakhpati. It won him acclaim and got him roles in films like Lahore, Char Din and Raat Ki Rani. It was during this phase in his career that he did Azaad with Dilip Kumar, Sargam with Raj Kapoor and Miss Mary, Bahar, Pehli Jhalak, Asha and Manmauji with Kishore Kumar followed by Howrah Bridge with Ashok Kumar and then Tere Ghar Ke Samne with Dev Anand. He was noted for his performance in both films in spite of the presence of powerful star personas like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar and Dev Anand. He had developed a style of his own, a style which was going to take him places and earn him a big name in the world of film entertainment for the next forty years.
Om Prakash soon became a household name. He was good in almost every character he played. He was the comedian, the family man burdened with problems, the accountant, the alcoholic fallen on bad days because of the evil designs of the villain, the nagged husband, the old man in love, the wily politician and the big brother with a heart of gold. He played an assortment of characters with the same ease and had some of the best directors vying for him every time they had a role which they felt only he could play. His role in Gopi is still remembered, some analysts believe he has overshadowed Dilip Saab.
Om Prakash was a versatile actor with 307 films to his credit. One can never forget his comic performances in Howrah Bridge, Dus Lakh (he won his first major award for this performance), Pyar Kiye Jaa, Padosan, Sadhu Aur Shaitaan, Dil Daulat Duniya, Chupke Chupke, Namak Halaal, Gol Maal and Chameli Ki Shaadi. His performance as Dilip Kumar’s elder brother in Gopi gave his career new impetus. He proved that he could play mature roles with equal ease and depth: Films such as Chacha Zindabad, Khandan, Haryali Aur Raasta, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Pati Patni, Neend Hamari Khwab Tumhare, Mere Hamdam Mere Dost, Annadata, Ek Shriman Ek Shrimati, Doli, Chirag, Amar Prem, Aankh Micholi, Ek Hasina Do Diwane, Anuraag, Zanjeer, Sagina, Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Loafer, Roti, Julie, Khushboo, Lawaaris, Bandish, Sharaabi and Chameli Ki Shaadi.
Om Prakash had a special rapport with Amitabh Bachchan and both worked in many successful films from Zanjeer to Sharaabi.
Prakash produced many films including Sanjog (1961), Jahan Ara (1964) and Gateway of India (1957).
Om Prakash suffered a massive heart attack in his home and was rushed to Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai where he suffered another heart attack and went into a coma from which he never recovered. He died on 21 February 1998.