Prayag Raj (1935-2003) was an Indian writer, director and actor. He worked on many popular Bollywood films including Gair Kaanooni (1989), Coolie (1983), and Ponga Pandit (1975). Apart from acting, he did direction, singing, and songwriting. On 23 September 2023, he died at his residence in Bandra due to age-related illness.
Prayag Raj Sharma The Times of India was born in 1935 (age 88 years; at the time of death) in Allahabad, United Provinces, British India (now Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India). Prayag’s father died when he was very young after which he shifted to Mumbai. He did his schooling in Mumbai itself. While he was in school, he started working as a child actor in plays at Prithvi Theatre. He was nine years old at that time and to help his family financially, he took up the job. He worked at the theatre for sixteen years and wrote and directed many plays.
Parents & Siblings
Prayag’s father’s name is Ram Das Azad. He was a popular poet. He died when Prayag was very young.
Wife & Children
Prayag was married to Pushpa Raaj, a writer, who died in 2008. His wife’s real name was Rabiya Khatoon. The Times of India He has two sons, Aditya Raaj, who works as an assistant director, and Rahul Raaj, who is a dubbing artist.
Prayag made his debut as a writer with the 1963 film Phool Bane Angaare for which he wrote dialogues.
He worked in more than 100 films as a writer. He worked on the script of the film Juaari (1968). In the same year, he wrote additional dialogues for the film Jhuk Gaya Aasman. He started accompanying the producer duo Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. The first film he worked on with them was The Householder in 1963. He wrote dialogues for the Hindi version of the film. He worked on the script of the film Shakespeare-Wallah in 1965 with them.
He worked with the duo for a long time on films such as In Custody (1994) and Cotton Mary (1999). He wrote the script of other films including Bhai Ho To Aisa (1972), Roti (1974), Parvarish (1977), Desh Premee (1982), and Allah-Rakha (1986).
Director and Assistant Director
In 1965, he worked as an assistant director in the film Jab Jab Phool Khile. In 1972, he made his directorial debut with the film Kundan. The film did not gain much recognition, but in an interview, Prayag said that the film earned three times profits than the invested amount.
His most famous direction was the film Coolie in 1983.
Some of the other films directed by him include Paap Aur Punya (1974), Ponga Pandit (1975), Chor Sipahee (1977), Hifazat (1987), Gair Kaanooni (1989), and Oonch Neech Beech (1989).
He was a second-unit director in the film Cotton Mary (1999).
Prayag made his acting debut with the film Aag in 1948 as a child artist.
In 1951, he appeared in the film Awaara. He played small roles in many films including Professor (1962), The Guru (1969), Sachaa Jhutha (1970), My Love (1970), Bombay Talkie (1970) and Prateeksha (1993).
In the film Shakespeare-Wallah (1965), he composed and wrote a song, ‘Dil Dhadke.’ He received special credit in the album for the song. He sang refrains in songs including Yahoo! for the film Junglee (1961), Affu Khuda for the song Affo Khudaa Hum Ko Tum Pe Pyar Aya for the film Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965), Accident Ho Gaya (Alla Rakha) for the film Coolie (1983).
He composed the tunes used in 1940s Prithvi theatre plays and recorded them on a CD. He recreated the notations and interludes of the tunes. The CD was titled Memorable Songs From The Plays Of Prithvi Theatre.
Prayag died on 23 September 2023 at his residence in Bandra after struggling with heart disease and age-related issues for a long time. His last rites were performed at Shivaji Park crematorium in Dadar. After the death of his news came out, actors Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and Shabana Azmi expressed their condolences on social media. Anil Kapoor took to X and shared a photograph with Prayag from the sets of the film Hifazat and wrote,
I'm truly saddened by the loss of the late Prayag Raj. Working with him on "Hifazat" was a privilege. May his soul rest in peace.🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/Al4RP7poFb
— Anil Kapoor (@AnilKapoor) September 24, 2023
- While he was working at the Prithvi theatre, he became close friends with actor Shashi Kapoor, who was the same age as Prayag.
- Prayag used to play important roles in different plays on-screen. He was also a backup actor for Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, who also worked at the same theatre. After practising for the plays in the day, he used to take additional training under filmmakers M.Sadiq and Lekh Tandon in the evening.
- After appearing in many films, he decided to write films because he was more interested in writing and filmmaking. He received his first chance to work as a writer in a project with Lekh Tandon and Shammi Kapoor, but the film never got released.
- In an interview, while discussing his passion for singing, he mentioned that he initially wanted to pursue a career in playback singing, but he decided to quit after he realized that he would have to face a lot of hardship in the industry.
- He has worked with famous actors including Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna, Kamal Haasan, and Rajinikanth.
- The last film he worked on as an additional screenplay writer was the 1997 film Deewana Mastana.
- Prayag wrote the film Zamaanat: And Justice for All which was released in 2021. The film was written in 1996; however, it was released after a decade due to financial issues faced by the production. First Post
- His name is also spelt as Prayag Raaj Sharma.