OdishaLIVE recaptures the exclusive interview of Indian veteran actor Om Puri, which was posted to the web channel in 2013. In the 33 minutes video interview, the actor had shared the dramatic story of his life especially on how he got into acting as a career. A must watch for everyone. RIP. – Editor
Bhubaneswar, 7th January 2017 (OdishaLIVE Bureau): Like many great men and women of our time he had seen a lot of hardship in his life. But the inner stuff in himself, conviction and hard work took him to a different level. Yes, we are talking about one of the finest actors of Bollywood, Om Puri.
Om Puri was born in a small village near Ambala in Haryana. He grew up there in his maternal uncle’s place and studied up to matriculation. Later he moved to Patiala, a leading city of the state for his college education.
“I wanted to join in Army, when I was in the school. I was preparing NDA”, Om Puri had shared at a literature festival during his last visit to Bhubaneswar. He was a very active boy. During his school life he was the monitor till 10th standard. He used to come first in the studies. He was also into sports and games and joined Boys’ Scout.
There is an interesting story about his entry to acting which is shared during the interview at Bhubaneswar. “In college I was participating in plays. During the Youth Festival, the play which I had acted stood first and I got the Best Actor award. After the event, one gentleman who was the judge of the competition called me and invited me to join his theater group”, Om Puri recalls candidly.
This gentleman was a faculty was a faculty at National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi. He was also running his own theater group, ‘Punjab Kala Mancha’. Upon his invitation and remuneration of 150 rupees per month, Om opted for acting as a soft career.
“I was working as a Lab Assistant in the college I was studying. In the day time, I was performing my duties. I was taking evening classes. I was getting remuneration of 125 rupees at that time. Thus in the offer, I got 25 rupees more plus my entry to acting”, says Mr. Puri. “I came to know about NSD through that gentleman”, he adds.
After the active involvement in theater, Om Puri applied for NSD and got selected for admission with the scholarship. But after 3 years, when he came out of the institution with a formal degree in acting, he realized that it would be difficult to make bread and butter from Hindi theater.
“My friend Naseeruddin Shah was a faculty at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. He advised me to join the institution and find a career in acting in the film industry. But I had no idea about how to manage since I had absolutely no money at that time. There is another interesting story behind my joining FTII, which might sound interesting to you”, Om Puri laughs while sharing his story with the audience.
Om Puri was acting in the play called Hamlet. After the show, one of his friends introduced a gentleman who happened to be an industrialist. He appreciated Puri as a brilliant actor and came forward to offer a monthly scholarship of 300 rupees for his study at FTII. He also promptly offered the 1st installment of the scholarship there. A hesitant Om Puri thought 10 times before receiving the money from the ‘stranger’.
“Many strangers have played outstanding roles in my life. The man who offered 300 rupees scholarship is one of them. But after a month of my joining at FTII, the scholarship didn’t reach me. I wrote a letter to the gentleman reminding his commitment, but there was no reply. I wrote another letter to him with a hope that he would have missed my earlier letter. I got a prompt reply. In the letter he had praised my talent and wished me the bright career”, Om Puri continues sharing his story.
Young Om Puri could not make out anything from letter as there is no mentioned about money. When he showed the letter to his good friend Naseeruddin, his friend said that he should forget the story and expect no money from the person.
Om Puri was stuck. He had no money to survive. No idea what to do at that point of life. But another stranger came to the picture who played an important role and actor Om Puri reached his destiny.
“The mess manager of FTII came into my rescue. He said I am managing lunch and dinner for 600 students. It would not be difficult for me if I add one. But you have to manage your breakfast”, Om Puri continues sharing his dramatic life lessons.
Om Puri was not only a brilliant actor of our time, was also a great human being. Joining theater and getting into Art or parallel cinema, where his conscious choices. He has shown large bandwidth in his acting covering roles of angry man fighting against establishment to comedy character presenting hilarious moments.
(The interview was captured LIVE at Bhubaneswar Literature Festival organized by Teflas. OdishaLIVE was the digital media partner and official video producer of the event.)