How Amrish Puri's role in Temple of Doom inspired his trademark bald look

The veteran actor worked in his first Hollywood film with Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Sonal Pandya

The quintessential character actor of the Indian screen, Amrish Puri could transform himself to become any character, from a stereotypical villain, to a formidable prosecutor or a loving yet stern father. For Indian movie buffs, he lives on as Mogambo, he of the catchphrase 'Mogambo khush hua' from Mr. India (1987). Puri, who was born on 22 June, 1932, was known internationally as the villain from Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). He was initially hesitant to take the project, thinking it wouldn't be much different from a Bollywood movie. But his Gandhi (1982) director Richard Attenborough convinced him to take up the role of Mola Ram opposite the swashbuckling hero and adventurer Jones, played by Harrison Ford.

Puri's fears weren't unfounded. Actor Roshan Seth, who played Prime Minister Chattar Lal in the prequel, observed in Empire's feature on the making of the film that Puri "was a very nice guy. He was operatic; he couldn't have been a better villain. But I have to say this: Indian people are very embarrassed when they see one of their own playing roles like that." Temple of Doom was actually shot in Sri Lanka as Spielberg had trouble getting the tax and equipment clearances by the Indian government. For awhile, the film was temporarily banned in India due its depiction of Hinduism. The shooting schedule in Sri Lanka lasted only three weeks and Puri was a busy actor, shooting on 18 other films at the same time but the producers were able to shoot all of his scenes in pieces.

Afterward, Spielberg claimed that Puri was his "favourite villain, the best the world has produced and ever will". Seth Seth recalled in the featurette, "He was bald for this. Do you know he has never since had any hair? He shaved it like Yul Brynner, ever since that film." Such was the popularity of Puri's character from Indiana Jones that he retained his shaved look from Temple of Doom to seem more menacing as a villain in his later films.