Om Puri dies at 66

MUMBAI, Jan 6: Om Puri, who broke the stereotype of conventional ‘good looking’ Bollywood hero to star in some of Indian cinema’s most memorable films such as “Ardh Satya”, “Aakrosh” and “City of Joy”, died here today after he suffered a massive heart attack.
A giant of parallel and new wave cinema, the 66-year-old actor, who is survived by estranged wife Nandita and son Ishsan, died at his residence.
“I am in shock right now. It’s unbelievable. He passed away around 6-6.30 AM. He was lying on the kitchen floor,” Nandita said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled Puri’s demise and recalled his long career in theatre and films.
Hailing from Ambala in Haryana, Puri, a critically acclaimed actor known for his ability to seemlessly transform into genre-bending roles, made his film debut in 1976 with the Marathi film “Ghashiram Kotwal” and went on to act in several Indian, British and Hollywood mainstream commercial films.
Besides the Govind Nihalani film “Ardh Satya” in which Puri played a police officer full of angst, he also won accolades for his diverse roles in “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”, “Mirch Masala”, “Aakrosh”, “Paar” and “Maachis”. His other notable films included “Bhavni Bhavai”, “Sandgati, “Dharavi”, “Gupt”, “Dhoop”, “Don” and “Agneepath”.
“His greatest contribution has been that when a face like Om Puri was accepted, he actually set a trend. If actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui are big stars today it is thanks to Om Puri, who convinced audiences to look beyond an actor’s face,” veteran actor-director Satish Kaushik said. The pockmarks on Puri’s face became a defining feature of his intense personality.
More recently, Puri was seen in movies like the Salman Khan-starrer “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, and “Ghayal Once Again”.
Puri earned international fame with films like “The Hundred Foot Journey”, “City of Joy”, “Gandhi”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, “Charlie Wilson’s War” and “East Is East”.
The veteran actor also had an impressive body of work on television, starring in projects like “Bharat: Ek Khoj”, “Tamas”, “Yatra”, “Mr Yogi”, “Kakaji Kahin”, “Rishte”, “Aahat”, “Safar”, “Sea Hawks”, “White Teeth” and “Canterbury Tales”.
Puri studied at the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune. He was also an alumnus of the 1973 class of the National School of Drama, where Naseeruddin Shah was a fellow student.
Apart from winning several accolades, including two National Awards for “Arohan” and “Ardh Satya”, he was honoured with Padma Shri, the country’s fourth highest civilian award in 1990.
His death was also mourned by peers like Amitabh Bachchan, Shabana Azmi and his young co-stars Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar.
Puri is also remembered for his cameo in Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning film “Gandhi”, which brought him into limelight on international cinema platform.
He appeared in Hollywood films, like “City of Joy” opposite Patrick Swayze, “Wolf” with Jack Nicholson, “The Ghost and the Darkness” opposite Val Kilmer, and was also seen in “Charlie Wilson’s War” which had Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. He last worked with British acting icon Helen Mirren on “The Hundred-Foot Journey”.
Born in Ambala, Haryana, to a Railway officer, Puri, who is credited with being India’s first crossover actor, graduated from Pune’s prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). He also studied in National School of Drama (NSD) along with Naseeruddin Shah.
Hailing Puri as an “exceptional talent”, Bachchan said he is in grief after hearing the news.
“Shocked to learn of Om Puri Ji’s passing just now.. A dear friend a lovable colleague and an exceptional talent .. in grief!” Bachchan, who collaborated with Puri in “Ghatak”, “Dev”, “Baabul”, “Kyun ! Ho Gaya Na” and “Lakshya”, wrote.
Azmi, Puri’s co-star in films like “Muhafiz”, “Dharavi”, “Antarnaad”, “Disha”, “Sparsh” and “Mandi, tweeted, “Om Puri! You have left us all too early.. I am so so sorry.. The fun the laughter the arguments so vividly etched in my mind.. Will miss you.”
When contacted, an emotional Shyam Benegal, who directed Puri in several films and TV shows like “Antarnaad”, “Mandi”, “Kalyug”, “Bhumika”, “Bharat: Ek Khoj” and “Yatra” said it is difficult for him to talk as he was still processing the news.
Fondly remembering the times he spent with Puri during the shoot of “Don 2” in Berlin, Shah Rukh tweeted, “Gods garden must be beautiful, he always takes the best. Will miss your laughter over the shared brandy in Berlin. Will miss you lots Omji. RIP.”
Besides Prime Minister Modi, several political leaders mourned the death of Puri.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi hailed Puri as a versatile actor.
“Om Puri was a gifted actor and socially-conscious human being. Indian film industry has lost a pillar,” she said.
Veteran scriptwriter-lyricist Javed Akhtar said Puri was not only a great actor but also a brilliant human being.
“It’s really a great loss. Wonderful person, great actor and with such impressive body of work right from Satyajit Ray to any commercial Hindi film to films in US and Pakistan. He played all kind of roles.
Puri was awarded an honorary OBE for his contribution to the British film industry in 2004.
His biography – “Om Puri: Unlikely Hero” (2009), was authored by his estranged wife Nandita Puri.
The book stirred a major controversy with Puri expressing displeasure over some of the references made in it from his personal life. The book to also led to his split with Nandita.
Meanwhile, celebrities bid a tearful adieu to Om Puri as his last rites were performed here this evening.
The last rites started around 6.45 pm and were conducted by Puri’s son Ishaan at the Oshiwara crematorium.
His admirers lined up on the streets to catch a glimpse of the noted star. At around 6pm the actor’s body was taken in an ambulance from his residence in suburban Andheri to the crematorium. Before leaving from his residence, a small puja was also performed.
Puri’s estranged wife Nandita, son Ishsan accompanied the body along with filmmaker friend Ashok Pandit.
Celebrities like Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Irrfan, Gulzar, Shakti Kapoor, Prakash Jha, Satish Kaushik, Ranvir Shorey, Abhishek Chaubey, Rahul Dholakia, Manoj Bajpayee, Ketan Mehta, Nawazuddin Siddique, Pankaj Kapoor, Ramesh Sippy, Shyam Benegal, Sudhir Mishra and Piyush Mishra others paid their last respects to the actor.
Anil Kapoor, Kabir Khan, Supriya Pathak, Johnny Lever, Alok Nath, Ratna Pathak Shah, Vivan Shah, Ila Arun, Kanwaljit Singh, Farhan Akhtar and Sonu Sood were among others who paid their respects.
Puri is survived by his estranged wife Nandita and son Ishaan. (PTI)