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Prem Chopra (born 23 September 1935) is an Indian actor in Hindi and Punjabi films. He has acted in 380 films over a span of over 60 years. He has a soft-spoken diction despite being a villain in most films. His 19 films, with him as antagonist and Rajesh Khanna in the lead role remain popular with audiences and critics.Chopra, the third of six children of Ranbir Lal and Rooprani Chopra, a Punjabi Khatri family, was born on 23 September 1935, in Lahore. After the partition of India, his family moved to Shimla, where he was brought up. His father desired for him to be a doctor or an Indian Administrative Services officer.
Chopra completed his schooling and college from Shimla after his father, who was a government servant, got transferred there. He graduated from Punjab University. He took part in college dramatics enthusiastically. At his father’s insistence, he completed his graduation and then went to Mumbai. Soon after he made his debut film, his mother was diagnosed with mouth cancer and she died, leaving his then nine-year-old sister Anju to be looked after by his father and his four other brothers. The brothers had given warning to their respective wives that only if their sister is happy, would they be happy and Prem considers his sister to be his first daughter. Noted writer-director Lekh Tandon brought the proposal of Uma for marriage to Prem. Uma was the younger sister of the siblings Krishna Kapoor, Prem Nath and Rajendranath. The couple have three daughters, Rakita, Punita and Prerna Chopra. Rakita is married to film publicity designer Rahul Nanda. Punita owns a pre-school called Wind Chimes in Bandra, suburban Mumbai, and is married to singer and television actor Vikas Bhalla. Prerna is married to Bollywood actor Sharman Joshi. He resides in a duplex apartment in Pali Hill, Bandra in Mumbai.
He became estranged with two of his four brothers in the late 1980s. Chopra had bought a bungalow in 1980 in Delhi, which was jointly owned by him and his father, and his father and one brother used to stay there. Chopra had gotten his brother a job in Delhi, and made him stay at the bungalow. But his father, a day before his death, was made to sign a will favouring one of his brothers, taking away Chopra’s rights to the bungalow. Later, an income tax raid happened in that same house, and his brother said in the raid that Chopra had given them the bungalow, but the house still was in name of Prem Chopra. Chopra had two other houses in Mumbai as well, which were sold off cheaply by his other brothers without telling him, as they needed the money.
His biography titled Prem Naam Hai Mera, Prem Chopra, written by his daughter Rakita Nanda, was released in April 2014.In Shimla, Chopra developed an interest in acting as he had begun to take part in many plays in his college days. Despite stiff opposition from his parents, he managed to go to Mumbai to pursue his dream of acting in Bollywood films. In his initial days he stayed at guest-houses in Colaba, Mumbai. He started visiting film studios to display his portfolio: The response was not encouraging.
To survive in the fast life of Mumbai, he took up a job with The Times of India while trying to gain a foothold in the film industry. He looked after circulation of the paper in Bengal, Orissa and Bihar and was required to tour 20 days a month. Chopra used to cut his touring time by calling the agents to come and meet him at the station so that he could quickly return. This way a tour that would normally take 20 days would get completed in 12, and he would spend the rest of the time going from one studio to the other. While traveling by the suburban train one day, a stranger accosted him and asked if he was interested in joining films. Chopra nodded in agreement and went with that stranger to Ranjit Studios where the producers of Chaudhari Karnail Singh were in search of a hero. Jagjit Sethi, a Punjabi producer, gave him a break as the hero of the established star Jabeen Jalil in Chaudhary Karnail Singh, a Punjabi film. His debut film was a Hindu-Muslim romantic love story set against the backdrop of Indo-Pak partition and it turned out to be a big hit. The film even won the National award in the categories for best actress and best film. He was paid Rs 2500 for his debut film.The movie took almost three years to complete.
During his stint with the Times of India, he worked in Punjabi films including Sapani and Hindi films such as Woh Kaun Thi?, Shaheed, Main Shaadi Karne Chala and Teesri Manzil.