Adieu Om Puri

Wafiur Rahman
Thursday, January 12th, 2017


Bollywood loses one of its greatest method actors


It is now official, actors will find it difficult to surpass the legacy of the great Om Puri, one of the finest method actors to come out of Indian cinema.


An alumnus of Film and Television Institute of India and National School of Drama, Puri made his silverscreen debut with Marathi film Ghashiram Kotwal in 1976. Known for essaying unconventional roles, Puri gave his best to each character he played on screen.


In an industry smitten by masala films, Om Puri brought meaning to art cinema and gave us masterpieces like Aakrosh (1980), Arohan (1982), Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983), Ardh Satya (1983), Maachis (1996) and Hey Ram (2000), among others. Puri managed to carve a niche not just in parallel cinema, but in mainstream films as well. His filmography includes many regional language films—Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam, Punjabi and Telugu—as well as Hollywood and British movies (my personal favourite remains his portrayal as Pakistani Zaheed ‘George’ Khan in ‘East is East.)


Dozens of Bollywood stars paid their final tributes during the last rites of actor Om Puri, who passed away on Friday from a heart attack after returning from a shooting schedule. Among the first to reach his residence was his actor friend Anupam Kher, who confirmed the death.


Filmmaker Govind Nihalani, who made six films with Puri, starting with Aakrosh in 1980, Ardh Satya (1983), Dev (2004) and others, was one of the first to arrive. Directors Sudhir Mishra, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Kanu Behl; actors Ranvir Shorey, Mukesh Rishi, Farhan Akhtar, Paresh Rawal, Ila Arun, Shakti Kapoor were also present.


Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui tweeted, ‘The Best Actor in World, An inspiration 2 me & many, he was suppose 2 work with me in Manto.Deeply saddened by da news, RIP #OmPuri Saab.’


The recipient of two National Awards (Arohan and Ardh Satya) and the Padma Shri (1990), Puri’s versatility is evident in his filmography. Through his early films, Puri managed to break the mould of the ‘lead man’, usually reserved for the more glamorous faces.


Though mostly remembered for serious roles, Puri has also delivered many hilarious, rib-tickling performances of Hindi cinema. How can one ever forget Banwarilal who would not miss a chance to butter up his boss in Chachi 420 (1997) or the gun-wielding Khadak Singh in Hera Pheri (2000). His roles in Hindi television serials like Kakkaji Kaheen (1988) as paan-chewing ‘Kakkaji’ and as the suave narrator in Mr. Yogi (1989) underline Puri’s versatility as a comedian.


Puri’s contribution to the Indian film industry goes much beyond the four decades he devoted to the craft. Today, parallel cinema has a strong footing among cinema lovers, but it was the efforts of Puri, among others, that changed the way art films are perceived in India.

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