This veteran NSD pass-out has touched upon every genre and slipped into his characetrs with effortless ease. Be it Kakkaji Kaheen, Ardh Satya, Sadgati, Mirch Masala or more recently Chachi 420, Hera Pheri and Malamaal Weekly, Om Puri's acting calibre knows no bounds.
He has turned 59 today. Om Puri began his career in 1976, an age when the “New Age Cinema” was trying to find its feet and has about 150 films to his credit.
Om Puri, a FTI alumnus, along with actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapoor and few others became the face of the art film movement or the meaningful cinema genre. He received accolades for his role as a victimised tribal in ‘Aakrosh’ (a film in which he did not say a singe dialogue), leader of a cell of Sikh freedom fighters in ‘Maachis’ or the police inspector who revolts against social, cultural and political persecution in ‘Ardh Satya’.
His outstanding performance won him the Filmfare award in 1981 for ‘Aakrosh’ besides two Silver Lotus Awards for ‘Arohan’ in 1982 and ‘Ardh Satya’ in 1984.
He has rubbed shoulders with some of India’s finest directors like Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Govind Nihalani among others.
Comedy is another genre that he has conquered with elan in films like ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ (arguably India’s darkest but still funniest comedy), ‘Hera Pheri’ and ‘Chachi 420’.
In 1987, he moved to mainstream cinema and was one of the few to cross over to European cinema. His role as the intolerant father in the acclaimed comedy ‘East is East’ and the radically more enlightened Pakistani taxi driver in ‘My Son the Fanatic’ won him distinction.
While making waves in the world cinema, his films Dev, Kisna, Rang De Basanti, Don and Delhi-6 among others continue to show him as an actor par excellence. He has also worked in Hindi TV serials like Kakkaji Kaheen (1988) as a pan-chewing 'Kakkaji', which was a parody on politicians and Mr Yogi (1989) as a suave 'Sutradhaar' who enjoys pulling the protagonist's leg.
These two serials underlined Om Puri's versatility as a comedian. He was also honoured Padma Shri by the Indian government for his various contributions to parallel and commercial films in 1990. In July 2004, he was awarded an honorary Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his contribution to British cinema, making the entire film fraternity and the country proud. He also received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award this year.
He would be seen in London Dreams and Kurbaan next.