One of India’s finest talent, Om Puri passed away in the wee hours of January 6. He was 66 and is survived by his son Ishaan and wife, Nandita Puri.

An acclaimed actor worldwide, Puri, a product of National School of Drama (NSD), went to become one half of the duo with Naseeruddin Shah to rule parallel cinema. He did not let his unconventional looks to hinder his progress as an actor and went on to become a powerhouse performer who not only crossed genres but also borders. He was at home with realistic cinema as well as commercial comic capers and effortlessly flitted between Bollywood Hollywood.

His batchmate, friend and rival, Naseeruddin once said of Puri in a book: “The story of Om Puri is in fact every struggling actor’s fantasy.” Puri, who once wanted to become a soldier found himself attracted to the subject of arts in college. This took him to NSD, where he came into his own as an actor under mentor Ebrahim Alkazi. Director, actor and playwright, Girish Karnad further facilitated his entry into Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) during which he made his first screen appearance in a children’s film Chor Chor Chhup Jaaye.

The children’s film would unfurl a career of accomplished performances that ranged from realism (Ardh Satya, Aakrosh, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai, Mirch Masala, City of Joy), a knack for the absurd in spoof (Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron), gravitating to commercial films (Ghayal, Narsimha, Gupt, Hera Pheri, OMG: Oh My God) and scorching the international screen with his performances in My Son The Fanatic and East is East. He even left a mark on television with his intensity in Tamas and guffaws in the spoof called Kakaji Kahin. The actor continued to move from one project to another, irrespective of the genre, language or border, till the end when he lend his voice for the character of Bagheera in The Jungle Book. At the time of his passing away, he was working with Salman Khan in Tubelight.

Kundan Shah, who directed him Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, has reportedly called Puri, the Premchand of acting. “You could put him in any role and he would deliver. He was a natural, and I could never grasp what his brilliant knack was, and how he did it each time,” he’s quoted to have added.

He even used another by comparing him to Balraj Sahani. He added, He was a fantastic actor very much like Balraj Sahani. They gave grace to the role they did. They imparted depth to the character they played in their films. Om puri brought unity betwen the actor and character his character of a film producer in bollywood calling was superlative.

 Though the National award winning actor was reportedly in tumult due to how his personal life and second marriage panned out in the recent years following the autobiography: Om Puri: The Unlikely Hero written by his former wife, Nandita, he was widely-loved by the film industry. Many film personalities, it’s been reported, broke down while talking to the media about Puri’s sudden death. From the Khans – Salman, Shah Rukh to Rahul Bose, from contemporaries, – Amitabh Bachchan,Naseer, Shabana to new gen actor, Karik Aaryan took to Twitter to express their  grief and dismay. 

They were all there to attend the Padma Shri awardee’s funeral which took place at the Oshiwara cemetry at 6 pm. The void left by Om Puri will be hard to film.

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