West is West, the sequel to East Is East, Om Puri’s cult English language film that is a part of the curriculum in some European schools, opened in UK on February 25 to an overwhelming response with a weekend boxoffice of over $ 1.2 million (Rs 5.5 cr) on 184 screens. The patriarch who takes the Khan family from Salford to rural Pakistan in this coming-of-age story of 13-year-old Sajid, is delighted.
Puri admits that after East Is East picked up 36 international awards, including the BAFTA, IFFI and Special Prize at Cannes, the pressure of expectations kept them on their toes.
“I’m glad Part 2 worked so well,” he beams, not denying the possibility of a trilogy. He recalls how during a one-week workshop to acquint the actors of East Is East, he had proposed a day’s outing at his London pad. “We went shopping, cooked, and ate a meal togher. By the end of the day, we bonded like a real family and that came across on screen,” he points out. West Is West is gearing up for an April release in India and Puri is gaga over Noor, a cult singer in Pakistan, who appears in the film to mesmerise with his voice.
Meanwhile, this Friday, another crossover English film, Life Goes on, comes to India. A contemporary adapation of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan drama, King Lear, it stars the mother-daughter duo of Sharmila Tagore and Soha Ali Khan, and veterans, Om Puri and Girish Karnad. “In another adapation of Lear, I’d played the king, this time I’m the Fool, wise and philosophical,” says Puri.
Scripted, directed and produced by UK-based Sangeeta Datta, the film opened in UK on March 11. “I watched it at a screening in London. Soha’s wonderful and so is Sharmilaji. When I was young I’d watch her commercial Bollywood films and those classic Bengali movies with Satyajit Ray, Apur Sansar, Devi and Nayak, I’d never imagined then that one day I’d get to work with her. It was such a thrill,” Puri admits.
Next month, Rakyesh Om Prakash Mehra’s Teen They Bhai is coming up. A comic caper, it has Puri playing the bullying elder brother. Later in the year there’s Don 2.
“I’m an Interpol officer, it’s not a big part in terms of footage, but I enjoyed working with Farhan Akhtar’s organised unit. The three months in Berlin were fun,” he reminisces. “Shah Rukh (Khan) doesn’t consider himself a great actor but he was super in Swades, and more recently in My Name Is Khan too.” Puri is also all praise for Karan Johar’s Agneepath unit. “The production is of international standards, I realised that during Qurbaan itself,” he says. “No, don’t ask me about the earlier Agneepath, I have yet to see the film.”