Pradeep Kumar was born in early 1925 to orthodox Brahmin parents in West Bengal. Pradeep bided his time till he was 17 years old before he decided to pursue an acting career. Despite his father's disapproval, Pradeep began acting on stage.
During one of his performances, renowned filmmaker Debaki Bose spotted him and cast him in Bengali films like Krishna Leela (1946) and Alaknanda (1947). Pradeep also worked with Pashupati Chatterjee in Swami (1949). Pradeep moved to Mumbai and found a job in the bustling Filmistan Studio. He brushed up on his Hindi and learnt Urdu in order to make an impression in his first Hindi film, Anand Math (1952). The film had strong nationalistic overtones and co-starred Prithviraj Kapoor and Geeta Bali. Pradeep‘s next film was Anarkali (1953), starring opposite Bina Rai. The film was a huge hit and even its music was very popular. He then did Nagin (1954) with Vyjayanthimala, which became a blockbuster. This film had great music too. Badshah (1954), co-starring Mala Sinha, and Albeli (1954), along with Geeta Bali, didn’t do too well. He then did Raj Hath (1956), alongside Madhubala, which was a big hit. Pradeep starred in the critically acclaimed film Jagte Raho (1956), along with Raj Kapoor and Smriti Biswas. This led to a rise in Pradeep’s career graph. In 1956, Pradeep did a few more films like Ek Shola, Durgesh Nandini, Bandhan, Anjaan and Heer. Most of them failed to do well. After Raj Hath’s success (1956), the actor tried to make a hit pair with the beauty queen Madhubala. They did five other films together, viz. Yahudi Ki Ladki (1957), Gateway Of India (1957), Police (1958), Mahlon Ke Khwaab (1960) and Passport (1961), but Pradeep's hopes went down the drain. Pradeep’s next film with Vyjayanthimala was Ek Jhalak (1957) which flopped. He then worked with Mala Sinha in films like Naya Zamana (1957), Fashion (1957), Detective (1958), Duniya Na Mane (1959), and Mitti Mein Sona (1960). Most of them were poor. His Adalat (1958) with Nargis was a good film. In 1960, Pradeep starred in Ramanand Sagar’s Ghunghat which was a huge hit. He then did Rakhi (1962), along with Ashok Kumar and Waheeda Rehman, which won critical acclaim. He was seen again with Madhubala in Half Ticket (1962) which faired above average. Aarti (1962), also starring Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari, was a huge commercial and critical success. This film’s success ensured that Pradeep and Meena worked unceasingly in a series of films like Chitralekha (1964), Bahu Begum (1967), Saat Phere (1970), but they flopped. Bheegee Raat (1965) was the only one that did well at the box-office. Pradeep also played Arjun in Babubhai Mistri’s Mahabharat (1965). He then directed and also featured in Do Dilon Ki Dastaan (1966). Afsana (1966), also starring Ashok Kumar, was a critically acclaimed film. Raat Aur Din (1967), along with Feroz Khan and Nargis, was a good film too. In 1969, Pradeep saw a glimpse of success once again with Sambandh, directed by Ajoy Biswas. Pradeep next appeared in Rajesh Khanna-starrer Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971) which unfortunately flopped, though its music was a hit. He worked again with Ramanand Sagar in Jalte Badan (1973) and also featured in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Chaitali (1975). Do Anjaane (1976), also starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha in lead roles, was a hit. Pradeep also starred in Basu Chatterjee’s Safed Jhoot (1977). He then featured in the blockbuster film Dharam-Veer (1977), starring Dharmendra and Zeenat Aman in the lead. He also made a guest appearance in Basu Chatterjee’s comedy flick Khatta Meetha (1978). Pradeep’s next few releases like Parmatma (1978), Amar Shakti (1978), and Aakhri Insaaf (1980) had flopped. Manoj Kumar’s Kranti (1981) became a huge blockbuster. Pradeep also appeared in Kishore Kumar’s Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi (1982) and the hit film Teesri Aankh (1982), starring Dharmendra. He had also starred in the Dharmendra-Hema Malini starrer Razia Sultan (1983), which won critical acclaim. Pradeep then played small roles, before he retired, in films like Duniya (1984), Purana Mandir (1984), Oonche Log (1985), Ek Daku Saher Mein (1985), Mera Dharam (1986), Akhri Muqabla (1988), Waaris (1988), Aakhri Baazi (1989) and Jaan-E-Wafa (1990).
Despite the huge successes of some of his films, Pradeep was only considered as a second line hero, like Bharat Bhushan. He played great characters from history, viz. Prince Salim in Anarkali, Emperor Shah Jahan in Taj Mahal, yet another Prince in Nagin. Most of Pradeep’s films were successful at the box office, mainly because of the presence of outstanding heroines and great music. Ajoy Biswas had a short-lived and unhappy marriage with Pradeep Kumar's actress daughter, Bina. Pradeep Kumar died in Calcutta on 28th October 2001, at the age of 76.