Remembering Om Puri: The actor who redefined intensity
Om Prakesh Puri aka Om Puri is no more. The master actor who debuted with the Marathi film GHASIRAM KOTWAL in 1972 went on to redefined intensity in AAKROSH (1980) in which he played a peasant fighting the oppression in a feudal system.
Om served the Indian, British, and American film industry in the commercial, art and independent films format remarkably. Awarded Padma Shri in 1990 Om was a celebrated alumni of NSD (National School Of Drama) who like a chameleon shifted shades of his acting genius be it the angry cop Anant Velankar from the award winning ARDH SAYTA to the alcoholic builder Ahuja from the unforgettable cult JAANE BHI DO YAARO.
The outsider, who came into the film industry with comparatively less command over English, and unconventional looks started a trend of elusive rage that became a case study for others to follow.
While the aspirants of stardom in commercial Hindi cinema dreamt and sweared on Mr. Bachchan’s iconic angry young man ‘Vijay’, the afficandos of meaningful, serious or to be precise parallel cinema where awed by Om Puri’s Anant Velankar from ARDH SAYTA.
It’s an interesting fact that in spite of Om’s lack of command over English, he has done more international projects then his NSD class mate Naseeruddin Shah, who has a formidable command over the English language.
Both Om and Naseer have been the integral part of the revolution of parallel cinema during the 70s, 80s spearheaded by Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and co.
Om despite the presence of the acting powerhouse Naseeruddin Shah who was impeccably brilliant in ALBERT PINTO KO GUSSA KYU AATA HAI, MIRCH MASALA, made his mark as the garage mechanic and Abu Miya in the above films respectively.
His sudden demise has send shock waves in the industry and amongst his followers, remembering those iconic characters that had now made Om Puri’s brilliance immortal.
ARDH SATYA: Land mark film, land mark performance that gave birth to a brilliant actor – Om Puri. Sub inspector Anant Velankar in this Govind Nihalani directed gem is arguably the best cop drama to come out on Indian silver screen.
GIDDH: playing Bhasya – the labourer who fights against the devdasi system in this T.S. Ranga directed special jury award winner in 1984. Om’s depiction as the Bhasya is just outstanding in the film that also starred Smita Patil and Nana Patekar.
MIRCH MASALA: This Ketan Mehta’s film is popularly remembered for Smita Patil’s most acknowledged act and Naseeruddin Shah’s infectious villainy but Om as Abu Miya stood apart.
NARASIMHA: The menacing Bappaji in this N. Chandra directed pot boiler was arguably Om’s first major tryst with the mainstream cinema.
GANDHI: Just a minute of appearance in this masterpiece by British filmmaker Richard Attenborough got Om Puri into the limelight amongst the foreign audience. The footage in which Om appeared was shown during the Oscar nominations and life changed for Om Puri in the international arena.
CITY OF JOY: Om Puri’s first major break in Hollywood. This 1992 French-British drama directed by Roland Joffé. was based on the novel by the same name by Dominique Lapierre.
EAST IS EAST: Arguably Om Puri most popular performance in Hollywood. Playing the first generation Pakistani father in a mixed-ethnicity household. The movie is remembered for Om Puri’s impeccable comic timing.
JAANE BHI DO YAARO: The alcoholic Ahuja from Kundan Shah's 1983 unforgettable cult masterpiece JAANE BHI DO YAARO is a an act of a sheer genius.
Om went on to shine as an actor in India and Hollywood with MAACHIS, MAQBOOL, MY SON THE FANATIC etc but till the time JAANE BHI DO YAARO will remain as a cult, Om Puri will be remembered for his remarkable brilliance and intensity.
Who toh chala gaya, kyu ‘jaane diya yaaroo’.
RIP Om Puri.