Veteran actor Om Puri, the icon of Indian parallel cinema, who gave us unforgettable films like Ardh Satya, Sadgati, Mirch Masala, passed away on Friday morning of a heart attack at his Mumbai residence, a family friend said. He was 66.
Puri inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and actors in Kolkata and Mumbai who grew up watching Puri first stride the world of Bollywood’s parallel cinema and then cross over to Hollywood and British films with rare expertise and grace.
In a career spanning more than three decades, Puri won a slew of national awards and international fame for his work in several critically acclaimed films in Bollywood and Hollywood. His breakthrough film in India was the 1983 film, Ardh Satya, about a young policeman’s crisis of conscience as he deals with the nexus of crime and politics in India.
Bengali film director Srijit Mukherji of Autograph fame said: “Puri’s going away is a huge loss to Indian cinema. I grew up watching his performances in films like Ardh Satya, Sadgati and Jaane bhi do Yaro. In later years, he excelled in Maqbool.
“He was truly a cross-over artist. He acted in several important British and American films and delivered sterling performances in them”.
National Award winner and Bengali cine star Prosenjit commented on life’s unpredictability.
“Can’t believe that Om Puriji is no more amongst us. life is so unpredictable. Rest in peace sir,” Prosenjit tweeted.
Legendary director Mrinal Sen said: “He was an actor of a great stature. I enjoyed a wonderful rapport with him.” Sen has remained one of the greatest icons of Indian parallel cinema, with films like Bhuvan Shome, Ekdin Pratidin, Akaler Shandhane and Khandhar to his credit.
Puri essayed a small role in 1983 Oscar winning film, Gandhi, and enhanced his international profile through the years in Hollywood and European films such as East is East and its sequel, West is West.
He also acted in other Western films like City of Joy, Wolf, The Ghost and the Darkness and Charlie
Tollywood heroine Paoli Dam tweeted: “Saddened to hear about the demise of Om Puri, an actor par excellence and an inspiration to all”.
In 2014, Puri starred in The Hundred-Foot Journey with legendary British actress Helen Mirren and played the role of a patriarch of a family of Indian immigrants who open a restaurant but end up clashing with a neighbourhood Michelin-starred establishment.
He also appeared in Canadian-made productions, including director Deepa Mehta’s 1991 film Sam & Me.
Actor Rudranil Ghosh, who met Puri in New Delhi at a seminar, said: “Om Puri will live forever in the minds of students of cinema like us. To me, his role in Hera Pheri was small but good. I asked him how to get a
natural expression while acting at a seminar in New Delhi. He replied you have to love ordinary people in order to be accepted by them”.