Om Puri: The global Indian actor

Published on Mar 22, 2006 04:12 PM IST

He is one of the few actors who grow better with age. Malamaal Weekly review

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None | ByArnab Banerjee, New Delhi

Is it only the thirty-something actors, who qualify to be 'stars' and have the right to be allotted a demi-God status? One look around, and one will find many who fall into this category.

But there is also a small, but formidable tribe of actors who enjoy a unique position in the industry. They are masters in their trade and enjoy a large fan following as well. One such master act is Om Puri—the internationally celebrated actor.

His past record of excellence is too wide-ranging and exhaustive to be clubbed in a column, what with major noteworthy Indian films and almost ten international projects to his credit.

What is most striking about him is his special ability to spring a surprise every time he chooses to act – in Hindi masala movies, art-house cinema or Hollywood. His commitment at all levels remains the same – simply exemplary.  

Om Puri is one of the few international actors we have, and with each passing year he seems to be growing better and better.

Comic caper

And this week the Priyadarshan comic caper,

Malamaal Weekly

, sees Om Puri at his best in the no-holds-barred narrative along with the inimitable Paresh Rawal.

While Rawal is at his unique act in a style reminiscent of his earlier Priyan movies – Herapheri, Hulchul and Hangama, it is the versatile Om Puri who takes the cake.

Puri’s poker-faced antics and boorish reprimands to his employee (played by a colorless Riteish Deshmukh) deliver the much-needed foil to Rawal's own brand of laughs. Puri is almost a glib smooth operator, who could outwit and field any volley of questions with the brash punch he delivers stroke for stroke.

Drawing comparisons"
By now Rawal is expected to know his role by heart in a Priyan film and he probably learns by rote all the sequences that follow in the script with the self-confidence of a professional theatre artist.
Puri in comparison uses technique to thwart action. As Balwant, the village milkman, who thrives by mixing more water in his milk cans, he simply lives his role.

His assistant Kanhaiya (Riteish Deshmukh) finds more time to flirt with his daughter (Reema Sen) than carry out his boss' orders and gets berated for his errant ways by his master. As Puri struggles to tick him off he displays his versatile acting range to tickle one's funny bone.

In the second half, Puri sides with the lottery seller Lilaram (Paresh) to dispose off the dead body of the first prizewinner of a one crore lottery ticket. The veteran actor’s clowning around to dump the body has sidesplitting adventures that the audience would roll in the aisle laughing at.

Class act
As a village bumpkin, Puri’s smart but rustic humour has just the right ingredients.

He is funny—notice his body language, his unrefined expressions and uncouth lingo delivered with perfection.

He is comical (his constant rebuking his assistant) and also amusing (facial expressions when Rawal makes him pose as Anthony and addresses his name ‘Ballu’as the ‘dead ‘ at the church). The actor’s double take on hearing his name receives a thunderous round of applause from the audience.

Puri is one of the few international actors we have, and with each passing year he seems to be growing better and better. 

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