The iconic grand old man of Indian cinema who worked for over three decades in the entertainment industry. We are talking about vetran actor Om Puri who suddenly left all of us with the beginning of the year 2017. The kind of actor you don’t much get to see anymore.
An irreplaceable loss for the film industry Om Puri was one of the finest actors of all times. Someone whose talent was not just within India, besides doing numerous of Indian films, he acted in British and American movies.
Here are some lesser-known facts about Om Puri:
1. Born in a Punjabi family
Om Puri was born and brought up in Ambala in a Punjabi family.
2. No birth certificate or records
With no birth certificate or record his family was unsure about the date and year of birth, however his mother had told him that he was born two days after Dussehra.
When Om Puri began his schooling his uncle choose 9 March 1950 as his official birthday, but when Puri moved to Mumbai he changed his date of birth to 18 October 1950 after looking into 1950 calendar when Dussehra was celebrated.
3. Worked at tea stall
At a small age of seven Om Puri had to work in a tea stall. A year later he worked at a dhaba.
4. Joined NSD
Puri was an alumnus of the 1973 class of National School of Drama where he learned acting. In NSD he became good friend with his fellow classmate Naseeruddin Shah, whom Puri eventually joined in the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune.
5. FTII almost rejected Puri
The interview with the board at Film and Television Institute of India wondered how and why they can take Om Puri as a student as, ‘He doesn’t look like a hero, nor like a villain, nor a comedian. What use will he be of to the industry?’ they chorused. ‘That is not our problem,’ and eventually when Karnad, being a director of FTII, insisted on taking Om as a student.
6. David Dhawan was Om Puri’s roommate
Om Puri used to share his room with the director David Dhawan at FTII, and Dhawan thought that Puri is completely humourless and wanted to change his room.
7. Debuted with Marathi film
Om Puri made his debut in film industry in 1976 with a Marathi film Ghashiram Kotwal.
8. One of the key actors to start niche of art house
Along with Amrish Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil, Puri was one the key actors to started the wave of art films in Bollywood.
9. When Om saves Naseeruddin Shah’s life
Once Om Puri was having lunch with Naseeruddin Shah at a restaurant in Khar when one of the Shah’s batch mates and close friends, Jaspal, stabbed him. At that time it was Puri who stopped attacking Shah and saved Shah’s life.
10. Om Puri as a teacher too
Om Puri taught at an actor school in Mumbai where his students include Anil Kapoor, Gulshan Grover, Mazhar Khan, Surinder Pal and Madan Jain.
11. Relation with Amrish Puri?
Om Puri shares absolutely no relation with Amrish Puri except they only share the surname.
12. When Om Puri replaced Amitabh Bachchan
Govind Nihalani actually thought to cast Amitabh Bachchan in Ardh Satya (1982), but Nihalani failed to get the date from the busy superstar and later Om Puri was selected for the role and gave one of his most powerful and successful performances.
13. Part of Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning film ‘Gandhi’
The film Gandhi changed Om Puri’s professional life completely. The movie won 8 of the 11 Oscars it was nominated for.
Once Puri said:
“I had barely one-and-a-half-minute screen-time in Gandhi. But what an impact my cameo made! I believe it was shown as the footage during the Oscar nominations, a huge honour in a film that starred the most distinguished cast possible…,”
14. Ran barefoot pulling rickshaw
In City of Joy (1992), Puri has to play the role of a rickshaw puller, so he started learning to pull rickshaw from two regular rickshaw-pullers. He even ran barefoot to get himself perfectly into the character, as most of rickshaw-pullers run barefoot.
15. Pain of the broken marriage
Om Puri tied knot with Seema Kapoor in 1991, the sister of actor Annu Kapoor. Sadly Puri’s marriage with Seema survived only eight months.
16. Second marriage
In 1993, Om Puri married journalist Nandita Puri, with whom he is having a son named Ishaan.
17. Nandita wrote biography, “Unlikely Hero: The Story Of Om Puri”
In 2009, Nandita penned down a book on her husband Om Puri, titled as “Unlikely Hero: The Story Of Om Puri”. After book’s publication, Puri became angry, as it revealed explicit details of his previous relationships.
18. Accused of domestic violence
In 2013, Nandita filed an allegation of domestic violence against Om Puri and eventually the couple opted for a judicial separation.
19. A spiritual reader
Om was not ritualistic, but still, he was kind of god believer. He used to take “solace in spiritual reading”, particularly in the writings of spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran.
20. Cooking and gardening
Puri finds relaxation by cooking or gardening.
21. Won National Award Twice
Om Puri received The National Film Award for Best Actor twice, one for Arohan (1981) and Ardh Satya (1982).
22. Awarded Padma Shri in 1990
The actor was awarded with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India in 1990.
And in 2004, Puri was made an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
23. Sudden or lonely demise
On 6 January 2017, Puri died at the age of 66, after he suffered a heart attack at his residence in Mumbai.
Rest In Peace Om Puri.