First News
Volume:7, Number:27
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LEISURE
THIS WEEK

Om Puri No More

| Tanmoy Khan |

The death of veteran Bollywood actor Om Puri came as a shock to his friends and fans, leaving a void that may not be filled any time soon

T he year 2017 started on a sad note for Bollywood as it woke up to news that one of its most talented actors, Om Puri, had died on the morning of January 6 after a massive heart attack. According to family sources, the actor was found dead in his bed. He was 66. The actor has appeared in mainstream Bollywood cinema as well as Pakistani, British and Hollywood films. The actor has received an OBE as well as Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India. An alumnus of Film and Television Institute of India as well as National School of Drama, Puri was on the forefront of what was called art films movement in the 70s. He has worked in acclaimed films such as Bhavni Bhavai, Sadgati, Ardh Satya, Mirch Masala and Dharavi. Om Puri made his film debut in 1976 with the Marathi film Ghashiram Kotwal. He was critically acclaimed for his performances in many unconventional roles such as a victimized tribal in Aakrosh; Jimmy's manager in Disco Dancer; a police inspector in Ardh Satya, where he revolts against lifelong social, cultural and political persecution and for which he got the National Film Award for Best Actor. He also portrayed the character of the leader of a cell of Sikh militants in Maachis, a tough cop again in the commercial film Gupt, and the courageous father of a martyred soldier in Dhoop.

In 1999, he starred in the successful British comedy film East is East, where he played a first-generation Pakistani immigrant in the north of England, struggling to come to terms with his far more westernized children. Puri had a cameo in the highly acclaimed film Gandhi directed by Richard Attenborough. In the mid- 1990s, he diversified to play character roles in mainstream Hindi cinema, where his roles are more tuned to mass audiences than film critics. He became known internationally by starring in many British films such as My Son the Fanatic and The Parole Officer. He appeared in Hollywood films including City of Joy with Patrick Swayze, Wolf with Jack Nicholson, and The Ghost and the Darkness with Val Kilmer. In 2007, he appeared as general Zia-ul-Haq in Charlie Wilson's War, which stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist with Kiefer Sutherlnd. In 2014, he appeared opposite Helen Mirren in the comedy- drama The Hundred-Foot Journey. He has worked in Hindi television serials like Kakkaji Kaheen as a paan-chewing 'Kakkaji', which was a parody on politicians, and Mr. Yogi as a suave 'Sutradhaar' who enjoys pulling the protagonist's leg. These two serials underlined Om Puri's versatility as a comedian. He received critical acclaim for his performance in Govind Nihalani's television film Tamas based on a Hindi novel of the same name.

He played comic roles in Hindi films like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro which reached a cult status, followed by Chachi 420, Hera Pheri, Chor Machaye Shor and Malamaal Weekly. His more recent Hindi film roles include Singh Is Kinng, Mere Baap Pehle Aap and Billu. Puri was seen in the role of Mohammad Ali Kasuri in Road to Sangam. In 2010, he appeared in The Hangman. In 2011 he was in the Indian action movie Don 2. He has also worked in some episodes of the TV series Aahat during the second season which was aired between 2004 and 2005 on Sony channel. Other notable television appearances included Bharat Ek Khoj, Yatra, Mr. Yogi, Sea Hawks, Antaral, and Savdhaan India's second season. In 2016, Puri also worked in the Pakistani film Actor in Law directed by Nabeel Qureshi.

In 2016, Om Puri was embroiled in controversy after he said during an interview with IBN-7 in October 2016 that "army men join army on their own will, no body forces them to do so". These were his words for a martyr. The media interpreted that comment as an insult to the Indian army, especially during the surgical strike on Pakistan. Puri was heavily criticized by the Indian media, after which he apologized for his remarks. Born to a Punjabi family in Ambala, Haryana on October 18, 1950, Puri’s father worked in the Indian Railway and the Indian Army. Puri married Nandita Puri in the year 1993. The couple had a son named Ishaan. They separated in 2013.

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