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Om Puri awarded Order of the British Empire
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
The east-west cruising star of films like "East is East" and "My Son the Fanatic", Om Puri has been awarded the prestigious Order Of the British Empire (OBE).
Says Om: "I just got a letter from the British high commissioner informing me that I've been made an honorary officer of the British empire. Apparently, the queen has conferred the honour on me for my contribution to the British film industry.
"I guess it's like our own Padma Shri. I'm honoured that it comes to me from a country to which I don't belong. Nor do I live in England. I don't have a British passport. Saeed Jaffrey got it. But he held a British passport."
Om is keen on going to Britain to receive the award "even if I've to bear the travelling expenses myself".
The honour comes after his stunning performance in Govind Nihalani's "Dev" where he plays a communal Islam-phobic Hindu police officer.
"I was very embarrassed to mouth those rabid dialogues. I didn't agree with my character's communal ideology. There were Muslims on the sets. Each time I'd turn around and say 'I'm not like that' they'd all laugh.
"I received a call from a lady from Punjab chastising me for my inflammatory dialogues. I tried to explain that I was playing a character who needed to be there to bring out the larger message.
"In fact I thought my character lacked a convincing motivation for the way he was... just because his friend's little son was killed by terrorists? That didn't justify my character's rabidity.
"There was no debate on the communal issue. For example if my character had said, 'Why do Muslims have so many children?' my opponent would've reminded my character that Hindus, too, have lots of children. Nevertheless, 'Dev' is an important film."
Om says his next release would be IDreams' "The King of Bollywood" in English, which was shot in London.
"It's about an aging Indian star who refuses to give up. It was great fun. If I get two to three good assignments a year I'd be happy. I have a decent role in Subhash Ghai's "Kissna". I get to sing a qawwali in the film. I haven't done that much singing and dancing in my films."
He says there had been many more offers from the West but he had to refuse because of a back surgery last year. "I didn't work for four months. Fortunately, I'm on the way to recovery. In India, I can control the number of hours I put in. But abroad one has to put in gruelling hours, which my back couldn't take."
Om also shoots a major Punjabi film in Vancouver in September with Gul Panag, Amrish Puri and Gurdas Mann. "It's a good script, very funny and rooted to the Canadian milieu. It is directed by Deepak who was production controller to Raj Kumar Santoshi. Deepak is very evolved and involved. Punjabi is my mother tongue, though not too many people know this."