{ Page-Title / Story-Title }


Om Puri: The actor who turned 3-minute roles into a tour de force

An actor who balanced the ridiculously comic and deep character flaws with utmost ease, Om Puri passed away on Friday morning due to a heart attack. 

Shriram Iyengar

Veteran actor Om Puri passed away in Mumbai on 6 January after suffering a severe cardiac arrest. He was 66 years old. A two-time National Award winner, Puri belonged to the generation of actors who birthed a revolution of parallel cinema in the Hindi film industry. 

Born on 8 October 1950 in Ambala, Punjab, the actor joined the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in 1970s. He made his debut in the film version of Vijay Tendulkar's dark satire, Ghashiram Kotwal (1976). Puri's unique facial expressions and vivid eyes gave him a captivating presence on screen. He went on to become a pillar, alongside Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, and Smita Patil, for art cinema in 1970s India. 

Films like Aakrosh (1980), Ardh Satya (1983), Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983), Tamas (1987), were signs of his stellar acting capabilities and expression. He won the National Award for Best Actor for his performances in Arohan in 1981 (the film released in 1983) and Ardh Satya in 1983. To say that Puri was simply a product of art cinema would be to underrate his talent. A versatile actor, he was equipped with the gift of taking his own art lightly. He could deliver a campy dialogue with equal ease as the quiet silences in a dark, art film. His career spans several genres of films from Indian regional cinema, commercial cinema, live theatre, and teleserials in the UK. 

It is not just his work in India, but overseas that earned Puri recognition as a fabulous actor. His tryst with British films began with the Academy Award- winning film, Gandhi (1982) by Richard Attenborough. Given a three minute sequence, Puri delivered a scene worth adding to his stellar CV. It also brought him further offers, including the cult film, East is East (1999). He remained a popular choice for an South Asian character in Hollywood films, making a mark in films like City of Joy (1992), Charlie Wilson's War (2007), The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014). His last international appearance now would be in Gurinder Chadha's Viceroy House (2017). 

Also Read: Why the silence of Om Puri defined his best cinematic moments

In a much awarded career, besides the National Award, Puri also won the Filmfare award for Best Supporting Actor for Aakrosh (1980). He was awarded the highest civilian honour of the land, Padma Shri, in 1990. His contribution to film and theatre in England also saw him awarded as an honorary officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2004. 

Though recent years saw Puri's career wax and wane, his merit as an actor never faltered in the industry. The passing of a legendary actor has shocked the industry with the responses flooding social media. The actor is survived by spouses, Seema Kapoor and Nandita Puri, as well as his son, Ishaan Puri. 

The actor's death brings to an end a stellar career, and one of the leading faces of Indian cinema in the west. 

Watch the Cinestaan.com tribute to Om Puri below: