Veteran Indian actor Om Puri, that is popularly known for his role in the British Asian hit comedy East is East, has died aged 66.
Om Puri, whose haunting eyes and deafening silence captured the history of violence endured by an ordinary tribal in Aakrosh (1980) and whose portrayal of an upright cop simmering with coiled rage in Ardh Satya (1983) vaulted him to the pantheon of Hindi cinema’s finest performers. The Ambala-born actor died following a heart attack “around 6-6.30am” at his residence in Lokhandwala’s Oakland Park. “He was lying on the kitchen floor,” his estranged wife Nandita told news agency PTI. He also leaves behind a 19-year-old son, Ishaan.
Many from the film fraternity reached his Andheri residence to pay their last respects to the actor. Also present were his son and second ex-wife Nandita Puri, who could not control her emotions. Om Puri’s very close friend Shabana Azmi also broke down.
With Naseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi, Om Puri was part of the Fab Four considered the pin-ups of parallel cinema in the 1970s and ’80s. His pockmarked face and lean frame challenged and redefined the idea of a male lead. His early award-winning performances in Shyam Benegal’s Arohan and Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh were marked by a hitherto-unseen intensity that had the critics in swoon and the audience in awe.
Over the years, Om Puri not only made a seamless transition to mainstream Bollywood (Ghayal, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, China Gate, Mrityudand, Chachi 420) but also became one of the most recognizable Asian actors in British cinema (My Son the Fanatic, East is East) and Hollywood (City of Joy with Patrick Swayze, Wolf with Jack Nicholson, to name just two).
That he had a 2014 box-office smash, The Hundred-Foot Journey, with Oscar-winner Helen Mirren, is a tribute to his durability and the space he had carved out for himself.
In recent years, Om Puri dabbled in politics, occasionally putting his foot in the mouth. In 2011, he described MPs as “anpadh (illiterate)” and “ganwar (rustic)” during Anna Hazare’s hunger strike at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan drawing howls of protest. He apologized later. The actor also engaged in a slanging match with a television news anchor over soldiers killed in terror attacks.
He will, however, be remembered as a consummate actor. As his friend Naseeruddin Shah wrote “in appreciation” in the biography, “The story of Om Puri is in fact every struggling actor’s fantasy: That a thoroughly ordinary guy can get ahead with nothing but good talent as a godfather, hard work as insurance and the best of intentions as guide.”
President of India condoles the passing away of Shri Om Puri
In a message to his son, Shri Ishaan Puri, the President has said, “I am sad to learn about the passing away of your father, Shri Om Puri.
A veteran and iconic actor, Shri Om Puri delighted fans all over the world with his masterful screen presence and performance. For his contribution to Indian Cinema, he was honoured with numerous awards including the prestigious ‘Padma Shri’ in the year 1990. In the passing away of Shri Om Puri, the Indian film industry has lost a highly talented and acclaimed actor who played memorable roles in numerous movies. He shall always be remembered for his powerful and versatile acting, which brought life into the celluloid characters he played in films. His sad demise has left a huge void in the field of Indian film industry, which will be difficult to fill.
Please accept my heartfelt condolences and convey them to all members of your family. I pray to the Almighty to give your family and you the strength and courage to bear this irreparable loss”.