The man with coffee grinder voice and sharp, piercing looks has left the acting fraternity poorer with his demise. Padma Shri Om Puri was a man who took Bollywood by storm and challenged the norms of traditional films with his powerful acting and unusual looks. The gravity of his work could be gauged by the fact that starting from 80s, he uplifted the intellectual standard of audience with his movies.
He was one of the very few actors who fueled the parallel Indian cinema with the nuances of life and painted many a wonderful scenes. While his success of screen is huge not many know about his early life that was riddled with poverty and extreme struggles.
Mazhab insaanon ke liye banta hai … mazhab ke liye insaan nahi bante – Om Puri, OMG – Oh My God!
Born in a small town of Ambala, Om Puri endured a rough childhood. His father, who worked in the railways and in Indian army, was a man of high temper. Because of his anger, his father lost his job every few months and the family had to struggle even for the basic survival needs. There were days they hardly had anything on the table. It would take his father two months to find a job and he would blew it off within six months leaving the family on the edge.
The frustration spilled very often on Puri’s mother who was regularly beaten by her husband. His home had become a hell hole where happiness could not find a way.
It did not take long when the little Om had to take the responsibility to ensure the family survived to see the next day. His father was arrested on charges of stealing from the railway store and that is when Puri started to work as a helper in a tea stall. He was only seven-years-old then and whatever little he earned was not enough to support his family so the neighbors chipped in.
Jis din police ki vardi ka saath pakda, us din darr ka saath chhod diya – Agnipath
Oblivious to his future success, Om washed dirty glasses all day alongside continuing his education. Those were the days of extreme labor and least gains. In those days, he wanted to become a railway driver and often slept on stationed trains escaping from his home in the nights.
Away From Home
The situation did not seem to improve and his parents realized that it would be better to send Om to his maternal uncle’s home in Patiala. He lived an independent life from the age of 14 and started giving tuition to students of Std 6 and 7. He cooked his own food, washed his own clothes and did everything by himself.
It was in Patiala, away from his parents, that he developed an interest towards acting. He saw an advertisement in a vernacular daily asking for youngsters to audition for a film role and applied. Within a few days he received a colorful post card asking him to come for the audition in Lucknow and submit a participating fee of Rs 50. It was a huge sum for him and there was no chance he could submit such a huge amount. Sadly, he had to let go the opportunity.
Om Puri was a smart kid and earned himself a scholarship for college. He took part in a play during his college days and met the founding father of Punjabi theater Harpal Tiwana. This was the turn destined for his journey ahead into films and becoming one of the most iconic figures on Indian cinema.
After three years of working in Punjabi theater, he took admission in the National School of Drama, New Delhi. He did not have anyone backing him up financially so he paid his fee by working as a part time lab assistant. He got his family to support his choice into films and they did because Om was a bright, hardworking young chap. After this he joined Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India.
To The Silver Screen
Despite his outstanding acting, Om Puri could not make his way into films. To eke out a living he began teaching acting in a studio and continued doing this for one-and-a-half years before establishing his theater group Majma.
He began his acting career with a Marathi film named Ghasiram Kotwal but unfortunately Om Puri was paid peanuts of his extraordinary performance. A breakthrough came his way on 1980 with Aakrosh which was set to be the first hit of his career which got him a Filmfare award, too.
The actor refined the craft with more than 200 movies spanned across more than three decades. Om Puri has delivered performances that continue to rule the heart of his fans from every genre of acting. Not only this, he had made quite a big name for himself in British and American cinema.
His tweet dated 21 December 2016
May the legend rest in peace.