“A part of me has gone with the death of Om Puri”, says Mahesh Bhatt
The moment I heard the news, I was thrown back into the early eighties, and this was during the making of the film Arth. Om would come over to my house and we would spend long nights drinking and talking passionately about cinema, art, life and politics.He had just made a stunning impact on the Indian cinema with the film Aakrosh, in which he portrays a tribal individual who is incarcerated by the police for the murder of his wife. It was written by Vijay Tendulkar, and directed by Govind Nihalani.
His eyes possessed gentleness, and his face was very unorthodox for an actor to make his foray into Bollywood. Then, he shocked the industry when he acquired the key role in Ardha Satya, in which he played an upright cop who takes on the establishment. It was this film that marked his arrival in the Bollywood industry in a grand manner.
Then he further consolidated his position with the films ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ and ‘Paar’, but what I remember him for, is not only the fact that he crossed over into the international arena and did some unique films, but also because he became the darling of the British cinema movement. He was huge in Britain and that I realized when we were invited for the Mango festival and the kind of reception he got from the Britishers of Asian origin when we stepped up on the stage. It was quite overwhelming, as I was not aware of the fact that he was such a huge star in Britain.
Om and I went to Kara film festival together. He was a man who did not mince or filter his words, and he spoke just as he felt. He spoke about maintaining art and cultural ties with Pakistan, and he was then targeted and ridiculed for the same. He was asked to apologize for making such statements. Also, towards the end, his personal problems caused his to become a tad-bit emotionally unhinged, and because of which alcoholism started to take a toll on him.
Although people used to chinwag about his innumerable alcoholic mishaps, the reasons behind his plight are unknown. People fall into the abyss of gloom and doom when they become victim to depression, which is triggered by a personal trauma, which remain a mystery. I can only say that a part of me has gone with the death of Om Puri. He was undoubtedly an actor who deconstructed Bollywood and made it a better place for newer actors with unusual personalities to join the film industry. He single handedly destroyed the theory that only good looking actors could stand the chance to make it big.