Monthly Archives: January 2017

Om Puri: His life, dreams, struggles and accomplishments in his own words

I used to work as a clerk at a government office in Punjab. I was paid a salary of Rs 600 per month. I decided to leave the job, and pursue a career in acting. I knew that irrespective of how I fared, I would do better than making six hundred rupees. So I quit the job. At the time, it was unheard of. Everybody wanted government jobs. I studied acting for five years, including a course at the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi, and only after I was certain that I had the requisite skill, I moved to Mumbai. But it took not less than thirteen years after I decided on pursuing a career in the film industry that stability finally found me.”

These are Om Puri’s words in an interview to me.

Om Puri had earlier sought bail after being accused of domestic violence. PTI

An internationally acclaimed actor, a Padma Shri recipient, one of the pioneers of the world of parallel cinema, a stellar performer whose versatility transcended borders – Om Puri, who breathed his last in his Mumbai home on Friday, bagged several credits during his celebrated career spanning over four decades. But behind the tales of glory was a man who, as per his own admission, had trained hard to acquire the skill he was distinguished for.

He had struggled hard to survive in Mumbai before the film industry let him carve his space.

My interaction with Mr Om Puri was on a morning in August, 2015. I was busy with research for my recently published book, ‘The Front Page Murders: Inside the Serial Killings that Shocked India.’ The book, which is the true story of a serial killer who would murder and hack Bollywood strugglers for wealth in Mumbai, 2012, required me to speak to film industry insiders about the Bollywood struggler life in Mumbai, their passion and its pitfalls.

My study took me to actor Om Puri, recipient of two national awards then, but a man of long-standing perseverance, his story barely told. Since I had been a senior crime correspondent with a leading national daily, availing Mr Puri’s mobile number through an entertainment journalist in the city was not a difficult task. But I knew that getting him to talk would be tricky. He was a Bollywoodwallah after all, and to journalists, no one has more dolled up egos than this breed of artists. I, however, was in for a surprise.

‘Haan ji,’ Mr Puri answered his phone.

After I introduced myself, inquiring if it was a good time to talk, Mr Puri informed that he was on his way somewhere, and would be happy to spare a few minutes. Pleasantly surprised, I rolled out my questions, and he gladly detailed.

Recollecting the time when he first moved to the city of slums and skyscrapers to chase his Bollywood dream, Puri said:

“I was 26 years old when I first came to Mumbai. I did not know anyone here except for actor Naseeruddin Shah. He was my senior at NSD. So upon reaching here, I went straight to him. He was living in a rented room then, and allowed me to stay with him for two weeks. We were sharing the room, but the landlady did not approve of it. I was staying as a guest, and wasn’t paying rent. So she took me out. Through a friend, Naseer then found a paying guest accommodation for me off Hill Road in Bandra. It was a bungalow, and I was given one room with only a cot, one almirah, a table, and a chair. That was 1976. I paid a rent of Rs 175 per month. One and a half years later, the landlady’s son got married. They wanted the room, and I had to move out.”

The veteran artist recollected that after leaving the bungalow, he approached a hostel in Bandra. However, the authorities were skeptical about letting him stay because they had a bad experience with an actor before, and didn’t allow accommodation to Bollywood aspirants anymore. Puri tried to convince them, saying that he wasn’t any other run-away in the city, whiling his time away, that he was extremely serious about his Bollywood dream, and was working hard towards it. But the hostel authorities wouldn’t budge.

I did not give up hope, and landed at the hostel every other week. I had to have a roof. Eventually, they agreed, and I stayed there for two years, sharing my room with another boy. Aakrosh released in 1981. The film was very well received by art producers, but it didn’t impress the film industry. I moved to several other places before Manmohan Shetty’s Ardh Satya was released in 1983. (Om Puri’s career took off with this film; he also won the National Film Award for Best Actor for this role.) Mr Shetty told me that he had a one-BHK flat lying vacant in Chembur, and that I should move there until I get my own place. Things were good thereafter – eight years after I moved to Mumbai, and thirteen years after I chose to pursue a career in acting.

During our conversation, Puri spoke extensively about how difficult the life of a Bollywood struggler is in Mumbai, how these men and women flock to the city with dreams of the silver screen, hopes of that one celluloid break, and how they end up getting exploited by men who have set up businesses only to cash on their innocent dreams.

Bollywood aspirants need to be careful about falling prey to criminal elements in Mumbai. They should only visit established offices, and not believe any random person who boasts of connections in the film industry. The struggler’s life is very difficult here.  When you come to the city with dreams of the film industry, the biggest problem is survival. Mumbai is an expensive city. When youngsters approach me for roles, the first thing I ask them is if they can afford staying in the city for at least a year without a stable income, if their families can afford it. If yes, they can go ahead and try their luck.

Talking about his own luck, Puri said that he had worked hard to turn fate in his favour.

“Bollywood aspirants usually come to this city, looking at people like us. And when they see someone like me, particularly, it gives them hope. They think ke yaar, Om Puri jaisa aadmi, jiske face pe daag hai, naak bada mota sa hai, Irfan Khan bhi koi aisa good-looking nahi lagta, agar yeh log kar sakte hai, toh hum toh inse better dikhte hai. (They think that if a man like Om Puri, who has spots all over his face, a fat nose, Irfan Khan is also not very good-looking, if they can make it, we are better looking than them.) But they don’t realise that we have worked hard to study acting before coming to Mumbai. I came here after training for five years.”

Although I haven’t spoken to the actor since this conversation, I know that he was proud of his eccentric looks, and his achievements in the face-obsessed film industry despite them.

“I have no regrets at all. I have done quite well for myself. I didn’t have a conventional face, but I have done well, and I am proud of it,” Puri wrote on Twitter a fortnight ago.

Om Puri brought the rural aam aadmi character into mainstream cinema: Amol Palekar

Om Puri had mentioned that he gave all the credit of his entry into film life to me. He had said that it was because of my success that people like him and Naseeruddin Shah could even dream of entering into films, doing good roles and being established. I don’t know how much of it was true but if at all it is to be considered, I would say that if I represented the aam aadmi, it was the urban aam aadmi. Om brought in the rural aam aadmi into mainstream cinema and Bollywood. He further took it to international cinema. His long journey reflects his acting powers and brilliant career.

Om Puri. News18

I want to correct the impression that he started his career from FTII. Before that, he graduated from the National School of Drama. In fact, my first meeting which I remember with Om was when we were both participating in a theatre festival in Kolkata. I had seen his performance in Udhavas dharamashala. This was a Marathi play which was being performed in Hindi and I knew that play very well. So, when I saw his interpretation and his performance in that play, I was completely bowled over and our friendship and association began from that day. So, his career had started from theatre. And his roots were always in theatre. He eventually went into films, then grew on an international level. But I think more than Ghashiram Kothwal, I would point out Udhavas dharmashala. In his acting career, Aakrosh was brilliant and in Mrinal Sen films, he was absolutely outstanding.

But I admire Om for his completely different portrayal in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and his role in Chachi 420 is very unlike his personality. He came up with such beautiful performances in comedy that one could see what tremendous range this actor had. Irrespective of the kind of role or the frame of the role he was given, he would still come across with flying colours. I think of the hard work which he had shown in the National School of Drama, in FTII and in his entire career. He could hardly speak English when he started his career but went on to act in Hollywood films, speaking in perfectly good English without getting brought down by this kind of handicap. This just shows his strength, his capacity, his hard work and his growth.

We did a film four or five years back and I made a film called Dhamkatha. It was a movie for children in which Om had played the lead role of a lovable grandfather. Again, we had some memorable moments during that period. We worked very hard during the day. And then, after a hard day’s work was over, we would sit down, chat, have a drink and discuss a lot of things over that drink. During that discussion, Om did not just talk about films. He was capable of talking about his point of view, his opinion on politics and his comment on social issues. This side of his personality was very fascinating. Therefore, we could connect a lot more and it was a very beautiful association, although we did not meet regularly.

I don’t remember meeting Om on a regular basis. But whenever we bumped into each other, we would mostly be shooting in a studio for different films. He would be shooting his film, I’d be shooting mine. We would be there, then we’d sit down and have lunch together, or we would bump into each other at a film function or a party. Even though there was a long gap between each time we met, there was never a feeling that it was after any gap. It was always with a kind of warmth and the feeling that we just met yesterday. And he always had respect, so our friendship was a very beautiful relationship.

Today is not the day to talk about controversy. But I don’t think people have an appropriate view about actors. I just saw yesterday that Akshay Kumar came out and commented on the Bengaluru incident. Why do people think that actors can’t do it? Anchors have always done it, actors have done it in the past when they felt that there was something wrong happening in our country. I think it is just the media’s perception that actors are only entertainers and they need not talk about any other issue, neither political nor social. But Nana Patekar has been doing such a brilliant work for farmers.

I have said that some actors don’t hesitate to come out and make a statement. Om was one of them. And therefore, we belong to the same gharana.

Masaan actress Shweta Tripathi is back in Haraamkhor: Why she stays away from ‘mindless’ films

Mumbai: Her maiden feature film Masaan made critics take note of her performance and actress Shweta Tripathi says she wants to stay away from “mindless” cinema where she is reduced to being looked upon as an object.

Shweta garnered rave reviews for the 2015 Neeraj Ghaywan film where she played the upper-caste lover of Vicky Kaushal’s Dalit character.

Shweta Tripathi. Image from News 18

The actress finds the cinema of Zoya Akhtar “commercial, yet not insulting your intelligence”, but does not understand mindless films.

“I dont watch the kind of cinema where people say leave your brain at home and watch. What is even that? I would never want to be treated as a prop, to be looked on as an object just because of my gender. That I am very sure about,” Shweta told PTI.

“If I am doing something which is making a difference in the story then Ill do it. But not because I am wearing certain clothes and doing nothing,” she added.

Though the National Award-winning Masaan became her first big release, Shweta had previously worked in the short film Sujata, part of Shorts — an anthology of five short films.

It was directed by Shlok Sharma, with whom she is now back with the latest Haraamkhor.

The film chronicles a relationship between a 14-year-old girl, played by Shweta and her tuition teacher, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, in a small town.

For the actress, the subject was never an issue and she insists she found out many cases like these once she started talking to people about this.

“It never worried me at all. But this happens everywhere. When I got out of my cocoon, I realised these are the stories which need to be told. I didn’t think it will run into any controversy, or it’ll have any problem with the Censor Board.”

The film, however, did run into trouble with the Examining Committee of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which declined to pass the movie as the theme was “unacceptable.”

“When that happened, I used to call Shlok every now and then. More than frustrating, it was heartbreaking. When there was a meeting with the board, I went there even though I wasn’t needed.”

“When you are trying to do something right, tell an important story to the society without the intention of titillating, then you do ask ‘why us’? That moment came when the film was stuck.

Nervous, but also very excited: Deepika Padukone on her Hollywood debut with Vin Diesel

Mumbai: Actress Deepika Padukone says she is nervous and excited about her Hollywood debut xXx: Return of Xander Cage that stars Vin Diesel.

“I am really excited. This is my Hollywood debut. I am very nervous, but I am also very excited. And today is the beginning to that journey. Hopefully, we will be coming to India soon,” Deepika said on 1 January before leaving for abroad to kick-start the film’s promotion.

deepika-vin-380-getty

“In terms of promotion, first we will head to Mexico. As far as the release is concerned, we will first release the movie in India. While shooting the film, I discussed this with my unit… that it would be great to first release it in India and I am happy that it is finally happening,” she added.

After her Hollywood debut later this month, Deepika will be known for being more than a Bollywood actress.

Talking about it, she said: “I think I’d like to be known as a good person and a good actor. But I also feel very proud that I get to represent my country, especially in this kind of action franchise of the film.”

“I am really excited. I am also very sure we will enjoy this film because of its content. There is a lot of action, adventure in the film, which we have not seen in Indian films before. So, I can’t wait to bring this movie to India and show it to everyone.”

Deepika Padukone starts promotional tour for Hollywood debut film xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Mumbai: Actress Deepika Padukone says she is nervous and excited about her Hollywood debut xXx: Return of Xander Cage that stars Vin Diesel.

Deepika with Vin Diesel

“I am really excited. This is my Hollywood debut. I am very nervous, but I am also very excited. And today is the beginning to that journey. Hopefully, we will be coming to India soon,” Deepika said on 1 January before leaving for the US to kick-start the film’s promotion.

“In terms of promotion, first we will head to Mexico. As far as the release is concerned, we will first release the movie in India. While shooting the film, I discussed this with my unit… that it would be great to first release it in India and I am happy that it is finally happening,” she added.

After her Hollywood debut later this month, Deepika will be known for being more than a Hindi film actress.

Talking about it, she said: “I think I’d like to be known as a good person and a good actor. But I also feel very proud that I get to represent my country, especially in this kind of action franchise of the film.”

“I am really excited. I am also very sure we will enjoy this film because of its content. There is a lot of action, adventure in the film, which we have not seen in Indian films before. So, I can’t wait to bring this movie to India and show it to everyone.”

xXx: Return of Xander Cage, helmed by DJ Caruso, also stars Donnie Yen and Samuel L Jackson.

Koffee with Karan season 5: Shahid and Mira Kapoor, get a room

In the latest episode of Koffee with Karan, Shahid Kapoor and his wife Mira were so mushy, in-love, and all about each other that we felt like asking them to get a room (or go home).

For their first public appearance together, this was quite a memorable one. Quick flashback: the duo announced their marriage in 2015 amid many rumours. It was an arranged one and had the whole country talking. They were wedding in a lavish ceremony. Whatever questions you had about the couple, this episode of Koffee with Karan definitely answered most of them.

Karan Johar being himself, started the show by addressing the elephant in the room: in his last few appearances on the show, Shahid appeared with all his rumoured love interests, Kareena, Priyanka, and Sonakshi. While Karan took Shahid’s case on this, Mira seemed unfazed and quite sporting.

shahid-mira2-759

This was followed by multiple stories of how Shahid and Mira met for the first time. Sample these: When both families gathered together to discuss Shahid and Mira’s wedding, the duo were unaware. They were assuming that the match being spoken about was Shahid’s younger brother Ruhaan, and Mira (because their ages are similar). Upon meeting for the first time, Shahid and Mira spoke for 7 hours, non-stop. It was after meeting a couple of times did they decide to get married, but when Shahid met Mira’s father for the first time, he was prepping for Udta Punjab. Which means that his father-in-law saw him in his Tommy Singh avatar (ouch).

However, this story takes the cake. During their first meeting, Shahid asked Mira why she wants to marry someone much older to her. Mira’s response was, “why do you want to marry someone much younger? That’s much worse.”

One of the first judgments you make about Mira (let’s face it, we were all judging her, this is the woman’s first TV appearance), is that she’s unlike a “star wife”. She seems quite real, and it shone in one particular anecdote. When Karan asked her how she manages at film parties, she revealed that she actually likes meeting new people and hearing stories about a world she is not a part of. But more importantly she had no reason to feel weird or out of place.

Mira left no opportunity to make fun of Karan Johar (woot woot). When they played a game called “pillow talk”, Johar asked Mira what she says to Shahid every night before sleeping. When she revealed it was, “I love you,” Karan in his trademark style said, “I feel like I’m watching some Valentine’s Day special”, to which Mira said, “it’s like you’re watching one of your own movies.”

The flavour of being real must have transferred to potentially one of the most histrionic host on Indian TV, because when Karan Johar asked Mira things about Bollywood she doesn’t like, she said, “Airport looks and nepotism,” to which he responded, “the latter might be directed at me”.

Suffice it to say, this was one of the most candid episodes, where love was not just in the air but pretty much everywhere (this rhyme was as cliched as the couple, Shahid and Mira).

Jolly LLB 2, Toilet, 2.0 and Pad Man: What Akshay Kumar’s slate of films looks like in 2017

Mumbai: On New Year’s Day on Sunday, Bollywood star Akshay Kumar shared with his fans his line-up of films for the calendar year, asking them for love and luck.

Akshay Kumar. File photo

He tweeted: “Busy summing up the year gone by? It’s time to not look back, but look ahead. Here’s what my 2017 looks like. Your thoughts, love and luck needed.”

The actor then went on to share the names of the films along with their photographs.

The first one is his upcoming courtroom comedy drama film Jolly LLB 2. Directed by Subhash Kapoor, the film also features Huma Qureshi and Annu Kapoor.

In the trailer, Akshay looks promising as a lawyer while he tackles the corrupt with some comical elements.

Toilet — Ek Prem Katha is the second. Directed by Shree Narayan Singh, it also stars Bhumi Pednekar and Anupam Kher, and is slated to release on June 2.

Then Akshay will be seen in Tamil science-fiction action thriller 2.o along with superstar Rajinikanth.

In the film, which is being directed by Shankar, Rajinikanth plays a scientist, and he will also be seen as Chitti robot. Akshay plays the prime antagonist in the film, which will hit the screens worldwide during Diwali 2017.

The fourth project that Akshay has in his kitty for 2017 is Pad Man. It is said to be a biopic on Arunachalam Muruganantham, and will chronicle his journey of finding a way to make cheap, affordable sanitary napkins for women in his village.