A guy in his 20s, with gloved hands, pushed the wheelchair into the room at his Bandra residence. Pran Saab did look old but not without some of the glamour that lit up the silverscreen for decades. The metal frame of his specs gleamed, the shawl that wrapped his frail frame looked elegant and there was nothing really amiss.
This until I&B minister Manish Tiwari handed over the citation and put the medallion around Pran Saab's neck. The man didn't even blink. Pran Saab sat motionless, seemingly aloof from the occasion he himself had necessitated. An actor didn't emote. That too when receiving the premier recognition of his supreme ability to do just that. Cruel old age has taken its toll on him.
The guy with gloved hands dabbed a hanky on the corner of his wet mouth. An elderly woman whispered something into his ear and, for the first time, Pran Saab's pupils dilated. Even the upper lip slightly twitched. That's it.
His family gathered around him for a group photo with the minister, elated at the recognition of one of India's most liked performers whose primary on-screen job, rather ironically, was to try and be as much disliked as possible.
Done with the group photo, the minister stepped forward to address the media scrum, articulating how the awardee had enhanced the award's stature.
The melee of family members gathered to form a wall behind the minister, shielding Pran Saab from vision. The TV channel cut away to a panel discussion on what they have been calling Railgate and you felt a distinct relief.
For it made painful viewing where the cruelty of old age overshadowed what should have been a celebration of Indian cinema and one of its most beloved sons.
There was just not enough Pran on that occasion.