One of South Asian cinema's most prolific, popular and respected actors, Om Puri worked with nearly every great Indian director since the mid-'70s in a diverse career which saw him champion the art house, embrace Bollywood and flirt with Hollywood, all with a quiet dignity. A graduate of New Delhi's National School of Drama, Puri made his on-screen debut in the acclaimed adaptation of Marathi play "Ghashiram Kotwal" (1976) and went onto become a permanent fixture on the Indian art film scene, appearing in such celebrated classics as judicial satire "Aakrosh" (1980), didactic fable "Bhavni Bhavai" (1980) and cop drama "Ardh Satya" (1983). But frustrated by the lack of money and lead roles, Puri decided to pursue the mainstream in the mid-'80s, going on to star in television serial "Kakaji Kahin" (Doordarshan, 1988), land roles in box-office hits "Ghayal" (1990) and "Gadar: Ek Prem Katha" (2001) and deliver compelling performances in Western films such as "My Son The Fanatic" (1997), "East Is East" (1999), "The Hundred-Foot Journey" (2014) and "Viceroy's House" (2017). His sudden death from a heart attack on January 6, 2017 at the age of 66 was mourned around the globe.
Born in Haryana, India in 1950, Puri's acting career began when he joined theatrical group Punjab Kala Manch. After graduating from the National School of Drama in 1973 and the Film and Television Institute of India three years later, he made his film debut playing the titular crooked cop in "Ghashiram Kotwal" (1976), the first of many authority figures he would portray during his lengthy career. Puri then starred alongside two of the era's finest Indian actors, Naseeruddin Shah and Smita Patil, in several films, most notably as a mute peasant accused of murdering his wife in "Aakrosh" (1980) and a diligent inspector struggling to cope with police force corruption in "Ardh Satya" (1982). A brief but memorable cameo in the Oscar-winning epic "Gandhi" (1982) also introduced his considerable talents to Western audiences for the first time.
Puri continued to establish himself as one of Indian cinema's most dependable actors with acclaimed performances as unscrupulous builder Ahuja in black comedy "Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro" (1983), courageous factory gatekeeper Abu Miya in morality tale "Mirch Masala" (1987), and low-caste labourer Nathu in the ground-breaking Partition epic "Tamas" (1987). But tired of being 'paid peanuts' for his best work, Puri then reneged on his previous refusal to only star in arthouse fare and began searching for more mainstream roles, subsequently landing parts as a paan-chewing politician in Hindi television serial "Kakaji Kahin" (Doordarshan, 1988) a sympathetic police commissioner in Bollywood action thriller "Ghayal" (1990) and womaniser Banwarilal in the remake of "Mrs. Doubtfire" (1993), "Chachi 420" (1997).
However, Puri still remained a devoted supporter of independent cinema, winning rave reviews for his portrayals of dedicated cop Abhay in Govind Nihalani's exploration of terrorism, "Drohkaal" (1994), and Sikh militant group leader Sanatan in the similarly hard-hitting "Maachis" (1996), while adding the likes of erotic thriller "Maya Memsaab" (1993), family drama "Ankuram" (1993) and realist tragedy "Woh Chokri" (1994) to his extensive filmography. Puri also started focusing some of his attention towards international audiences in the 90s, starring as Hindi professor Deven in Merchant Ivory production "In Custody" (1993), paranormal scholar Vijay Alezais in Jack Nicholson horror "Wolf" (1994) and self-appointed leader Abdullah in the much-maligned historical adventure "The Ghost and the Darkness" (1996). But it was two low-budget British films where he best showcased his abilities, firstly as a liberal taxi driver in character study "My Son The Fanatic" (1997) and secondly as a tyrannical fish and chip shop owner in culture clash comedy "East Is East" (1999).
Maintaining his prolific and eclectic work rate into the 21st Century, Puri appeared in everything from Bollywood smashes "Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge" (2001) and "Gadar: Ek Prem Katha" (2001) to British TV serials "White Teeth" (Channel 4, 2002) and "Second Generation" (Channel 4, 2003) to acclaimed indie films "Dhoop" (2003), "Maqbool" (2003) and "Yuva" (2004) as well as displaying his impressive comic timing in cult classic "Hera Pheri" (2000), Steve Coogan farce "The Parole Officer" (2001) and "The Whole Nine Yards" (2000) remake "Awara Paagal Deewana" (2002). Puri then returned to Indian television in 2004 when he appeared in the second season of horror "Aahat" (Sony Entertainment Television India, 1995-2010) before taking on fatherly parts in ensemble drama "Rang De Basanti" (2006) and comedy caper "Fool N Final" (2007) and policeman roles in lottery-inspired surprise hit "Malamaal Weekly" (2006) and action thriller "Don" (2008).
Following another brush with Hollywood playing the President of Pakistan in biographical drama "Charlie Wilson's War" (2007), Puri appeared as divorced prankster Madhav in "Mere Baap Pehle Aap," stole the show as Punjabi villager Rangeela in "Singh Is Kinng" (2008) and revisited his most famous Western character, George Khan, in the belated sequel "West Is West" (2010). After starring in the Hindi adaptation of Wes Anderson's "The Darjeeling Limited" (2007), "Teen Thay Bhai" (2011), Puri was cast as a kidnapping kingpin in comedy "Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya" (2012), Marxist-in-chief Govind in war movie "Chakravyuh" (2012) and disabled lawyer Hanif in satirical drama "OMG - Oh My God!" (2012) before receiving praise for his turn as Changez's respected poet father Abu in political thriller "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (2013). While keeping a prolific schedule in Indian films, Puri also appeared in the romantic drama "The Hundred-Foot Journey" (2014), "A Million Rivers" (2015) and historical drama "Viceroy's House" (2017). He also starred in his first Pakistani-made film, the comedy "Actor-In-Law" (2016). Om Puri died of a heart attack at his home in Mumbai on January 6, 2017. He was 66 years old.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Ventured into Hollywood for first time in "Wolf"
Appeared in "Rang De Basanti"
Reprised role of Malik in "Don 2"