Om Puri: The unlikely hero

 

LATEST NEWS – Om Puri was that rare actor who could carry a film on his shoulders on the sheer power and versatility of his performance.

It was on a balmy evening in 1988 that I first came across this tall, lanky man with wide, red-rimmed eyes staring back at me from the television screen. He wasn’t saying a word and yet the fury emanating from his being, almost animalistic in nature, was palpable. I was five at that time, a tad young to understand the conflict that underlay his character, but that haunting image of Om Puri from Tamas seared itself in my conscience. In the ensuing years, powerful images from other films such as Ardh Satya, Aakrosh, City of Joy and, of course, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro kept piling up as layers on top of one another, forming a powerful bank of impressions and memories.

The quiet anguish that forms the core of Lahanya Bhiku’s character, a victimised peasant in Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh, who finally gives vent to the repressed rage in a bloodcurdling scream at the end, is probably one of the most memorable moments of Indian cinema, as is his depiction of a cop helpless in the face of a corrupt, unjust system in Ardh Satya. For some, this role remains one of the most realistic portrayals of a cop in Indian cinema. “I have seen Puri’s films, such as Ardh Satya at least 10 times in the theatre at Pragati Maidan, when I started studying at the National School of Drama in 1979,” says Waman Kendre, who is now director of NSD. READ MORE

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