‘Mogambo khush hua!’ The iconic dialogue delivered in the unmistakable baritone of Amrish Puri, the actor who redefined villainy in Hindi commercial cinema, remains the most popular memory of one of the unforgettable roles the actor tried out during his career. long and illustrious career.
From theater to film, arthouse to commercial films, from archetypal and over-the-top villains to a stern but soft-hearted Punjabi father, Puri has performed all of his roles with aplomb.
With his acting debut under the legendary Ebrahim Alkazi, Puri cut corners on his craft, earning admiration for his dedication. Alkazi wrote of the actor when he received a scholarship to Natya Academy in Bombay in 1961, “He [Puri] has, by his presence, raised the general tone of the class and set an example to the other pupils of the attitude required of a theater worker. It is with great pleasure that I award him a scholarship.
Although Amrish Puri’s elder brother Madan was a well-established actor in Hindi cinema at the time, it was made clear to him that he should chart his own path, which he did.
Making his foray into cinema in the 1970s, when he was already in his 50s, Amrish Puri was noted for his commanding presence and breathtaking performances. He appeared in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) and made his Hollywood debut with Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), making him one of the first Indian stars to star in a Hollywood film.
Impressed by his artistry, Spielberg penned a note for Puri at the end of filming, writing, “To my best villain… You are unique in the world as a ‘villain'”. And in the real world we live in, you are a wonderful human being. I loved every minute of our work together – I look forward to working with you again.
Seeking to capture his impressive film repertoire as well as the person behind the big-screen performances, veteran journalist and writer Jyoti Sabharwal worked on his autobiography, The Act of Life: Amrish Puri, published by Stellar Publishers. She met the actor in 1990 to profile him for Newstrack, the video news magazine of the India today magazine.
Although Amrish Puri was not receptive to doing video interviews, he made an exception for Sabharwal. In 2002, she approached him to document his life in a memoir. Instead of chronicling his personal and professional life, the book was conceptualized as a treatise on acting.
Sabharwal wrote in the foreword, ‘We have mutually agreed on this title, The Act of Life, for the major direction of his [Puri’s] The refrain was that only accurate observations in life make an outstanding actor and this is where the reel and the real converge.
In an exclusive chat with Cinestaan.com, Sabharwal recalled his time with the man whose dialogue, body language and demeanor breathed life into his characters: “He was an extremely warm human being, extremely decent and extremely intelligent. There are very few actors today who understand the craft as he did. He was so skilled…the best part was the kind of goodwill he left behind.
The book is divided into three parts, each capturing a particular stage in the actor’s career – Stage of Struggle, Act of Showbiz and Art of Survival. “The Stage of Struggle is that even though he was successful in theater, he had to deal with so many rejections when he came to the movies,” she explained. “When that wrestling phase ended, he proved that how he could step into character was all a gift of his theatrical training.
“There’s an interesting thing about Steven Spielberg who called him ‘my best villain ever’. I asked him [Puri] about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom being pushed home and he said that was a very silly reaction. [The film was banned in India at the time.] This [the film] was pure fantasy. He said we shouldn’t be so thin-skinned that we take everything at face value. In a fantasy world, we can take all kinds of liberties.
The second chapter examines Puri’s work in film while the final chapter focuses on his reinvention of sorts, “The Art of Survival was when he thought he had to reinvent himself so that some kind of boredom doesn’t settle,” the writer explained. “His two roles, one in Pardes (1997) and another in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), where he comes across as a warm, lovable and caring father who calls a spade a spade, both roles were so memorable and he has shown that there was a softer side to him that went beyond meanness and harshness.
“It brought into play another dimension of human emotions. It must have been very demanding for him because it was a new genre. That’s why it’s called Art of Survival because all of us, in order to survive, have to keep going. to reinvent ourselves.”
Puri died suddenly on January 12, 2005. Sabharwal said she never thought the book would be published posthumously: “It was full of beans, full of humor and full of life,” she said. she stated. 80 year old man. He was in such good shape. It was so shocking. If he hadn’t met the near-fatal accident [on the sets of a film], he would have lived much longer. He was a foodie and [both of us] being Punjabis, there was a natural affinity. His hospitality and warmth were remarkable, as was his humility.
Although in the movie Mr, India, Mogambo is defeated because of, well, his evil plans for world domination, actor Amrish Puri lives on in the hearts of Hindi moviegoers.