If a sunny Friday morning in Jaipur was the right time for truth-telling, the audience was certainly not disappointed. The crowds were all there, thronging and jostling as part-readers and part-fans, waiting for biographer Nandita C. Puri and her actor-husband and subject of her book, Unlikely Hero: Om Puri, to chat away with author and Jaipur Literature Festival co-director Namita Bhandare.
The buzz around Nandita’s biography of her husband, Om, generated during its launch last month was the obvious opener for the session. And if that buzz included Om Puri’s past relationships with other women, recorded in a book written by his wife, well…
Like any married couple worth their couplehood, Nandita and Om argued about whose idea it was to bring out the ‘no-holds barred’ parts of Om’s life for public consumption. The actor ‘blamed’ publisher Roli Books for releasing selected, “lurid” excerpts to the media, which in turn later “acted irresponsibly”. But the author, who is also a journalist, reasoned in a composedmanner that she had not resorted to ‘dirty’ public relations.
“A controversy around a person like Om is not required…The story is just too strong for any controversy,” she said. So why did she include the “lurid” bits in the book in the very first place? “Objectivity” is necessary especially for a wife-biographer, Nandita argued. “The biography is about all the people who influenced Om’s life and helped him become what he is today. Including those women.”
But keeping things on the light side were Om Puri’s chirpy one-liners and anecdotes. Be it his candid confessions about his underprivileged childhood, his mock apology to Namita for appearing in the not-exactly-Academy Awards-worthy Singh is Kinng (he did it ‘for the money’), or his sudden bout of coughing in response to Nandita’s accusation that all actors are “narcissists”, there was not a dull moment in the show.
But apart from being there for his wife’s book (his biography), Om said he was glad to be at the Jaipur Literature Festival. His reading of Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq on Thursday, he said, has made him want to return to the stage. It can’t be a bad thing — as the book noted, that’s where his journey started.