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Mogambo Amrish Puri lives on: A tribute

entertainment Updated: Jan 11, 2010 19:53 IST
Highlight Story

Amrish PuriIt is the 5th death anniversary of veteran actor Amrish Puri. Immortal for a variety of performances in over 400 films, the actor continues to enthrall and entertain with his body of work. Here's a look at his personal and professional journey...

Kith and kin
Amrish Lal Puri was born on June 22, 1932 in district Nawanshehar near Jalandhar in Punjab and died on this day in 2005. His parents were Lala Nihal Chand and Ved Kaur. He had four siblings, elder brothers Chaman Puri and Madan Puri elder sister Chandrakanta, and a younger brother, Harish Puri. He graduated from BM College in Shimla. He came to Mumbai with not even hundred rupees in his pocket and made it big with his sheer hard work, perseverance, and disciplined lifestyle. He married Urmila Divekar on January 5, 1957. The couple had two children, son Rajeev Puri, and daughter Namrata Puri.

Initial struggle
By the time Amrish arrived in Bombay, his brother Madan Puri was already an established actor, known for playing negative roles. Amrish failed his first screen test and had to find a job with the Ministry of Labour.

Meanwhile he started performing at the Prithvi Theatre, in plays written by Satyadev Dubey, and eventually became well-known as a stage actor. He won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1979. The recognistion as a theatre artist led to work in ads and eventually to films at the age of 40.

Amrish Puri went on to work in Hindi, English, Punjabi, Telugu and Tamil films. Though he was successful in language films, he is best known for his work in Bollywood cinema.

Career in Bollywood
In 1970 he appeared in his first film, Prem Pujari although the first film he had signed was Reshma Aur Shera which released in 1971. This was followed by many negative or supporting roles in numerous art films such as Shyam Benegal's Nishant, Manthan, and Bhumika and Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda. His finest and most memorable art film role was Govind Nihalani's Ardh Satya in which he was cast with Om Puri. He also appeared in Govind Nihalani's film, Party in 1984.

In 1987, however, one film changed his entire career graph. He attracted a great deal of attention for his work in the 1987 hit film Mr. India, directed by Shekhar Kapur. He played the evil Mogambo, who encouraged his underlings with the phrase, "Mogambo khush hua". The phrase became very popular and remains one of the most famous dialogues till date in the industry.

He also portrayed several positive characters, including his famous role as Baldev Singh in the Indian blockbuster Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), a kind-hearted American businessman in Pardes (1997) and a genial grandfather in the film Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (2001).

His last film was Kisna: The Warrior Poet. The film was released a few days after his death. He appeared in over four hundred movies.

Hollywood calling
He is known to international audiences for his role in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982) and as the main antagonist Mola Ram in the Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).

Regional films
After twenty years, he returned to Punjabi cinema in the acclaimed film Shaheed Uddham Singh (2000). He also appeared in Telugu movies such as Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, Major Chandrakanth, Aditya-369, Kondaveeti Donga, Aswamedham, Aakhari Poratam etc. Amrish Puri appeared in the Tamil film Dalapathi (1991), directed by Mani Ratnam, opposite South Indian superstars Rajnikanth and Mammootty.

After Dalapathi, Amrish Puri made his second and last appearance in the Rajinkanth's film Baba (2002) in which Amrish Puri played the role of an evil tantrik who helps politicians and other evil elements to succeed in their hideous schemes. Amrish Puri had also acted in few Kannada movies such as Simhada Mari Saniya, Subbi Subbaka Suvalali, Love and few other movies. His dominating screen presence and booming voice made him stand out amongst a sea of actors.

Awards galore
In his career, he was awarded with many prestigious awards, including Maharashtra State Drama Competition (1968), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Theatre (1979), Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award, for Meri Jung (1986), Maharashtra State Gaurav Puraskar (1991) Sydney Film Festival, Best Actor Award – Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda (1994), Singapore Film Festival, Best Actor Award – Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda (1994), Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award, Ghatak (1997), Star Screen Award Best Supporting Actor, Ghatak (1997), Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award, Virasat (1998), Star Screen Award Best Supporting Actor, Virasat (1998).

Amrish Puri was indispensable during the 80s and 90s and Bollywood producers and directors never thought of making any film without the versatile actor. His autobiography titled, 'The Act of Life' was published in 2006, and is seen as the document of the cinema of his times.

- With inputs from News Tomorrow