June 23, 2021

#AmrishPuri: Bollywood remembers

I was talking to a friend the other day about how kids nowadays are more acquainted with the greys of life, right from an early age. 

“Even in Bollywood cinema, there is no clear cut demarcation between the good guy and the bad guy,” she said. 

And that got me thinking on how naive we were as children. Having personalities spelt out to us. The villain was the one who didn’t possess a modicum of goodness in him, and the hero was always the handsome, righteous, victim who had the bravado and courage to undo any evil the villain vested on the world (and of course the hapless heroine). But now the lines have blurred. Most films nowadays don’t even have a villain. Even the bad guys gracefully back out and let the hero get his way, often being the martyr and happy playing a special appearance in the film. 

But back in the day, things were very different.

I remember watching Mr India, and rooting for Anil Kapoor all the way. I shuddered every time Amrish Puri mouthed the words ‘Mogambo khush hua’. I cringed at his cow lick, his dictatorial clothes, his expressions, all of which rendered him the look of pure evil. 

An actor who played his characters to perfection, immortalising his every role in our memory forever. 

Be it the the dastardly Durjan Singh aka Ranaji in Karan Arjun or the deplorable Raja Saab in Kayla, the audience loved to hate him...and that just proved his finesse on the big screen. 

Amrish Puri’s career, although started a little late, took off very soon. And within 30 years of his acting career, he proved to be one of the very best in his field. 

He made his debut in 1971 in a film titled, ‘Reshma aur shera’. Since then he acted in several Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Malaylam , punjabi, Kannada, and English films. He also worked with notable playwrights like Girish Karnad, and Satyajit Dubey. 

In 1981, he played a supporting role in the Oscar winning movie, ‘Gandhi’.

Steven Spielberg was once quoted saying Amrish Puri was his fav villain and that he was the best the world had ever produced and will ever produce.

Such was the magic of this Amrish Puri, an actor par excellence, who managed to mesmerise the audience with his versatility, dedication, and passion for acting. 

Here are ten of his unforgettable roles (in no particular order): 

1) Master in Salakhein - with his classic retro giggles and wig, Amrish Puri played this iconic character. 

2) Chaudhary Baldev in DDLJ

3) The treacherous Indrajit Chaddha, in ‘Damini’ 

4) Thakral in Meri Jung - as a massively corrupt lawyer who pretends to be a law abiding person.  

5) General Dong in Dong- His famous dialogue ‘Dong kabhie wrong nani hota’ is still spouted by his fans even today. 

6) Snake charming occultist in Nagina - Bhairon Nath 

7) Kishorilal in Pardes

8) Mola Ram in Spielberg’s Indiana jones and the temple of doom. 

9) SK Vardhan in ‘Mashaal’ - starring against the great Dilip Kumar and talented young Anil Kapoor, Amrish Puri made an indelible mark with his powerful performance in this film.

10) And last but the most iconic and my very favourite role, Mogambo, in Mr India. 

In commemoration of his 89th birth anniversary, let us celebrate the legend that he was by recalling his extraordinary performances on the big screen. 

So tell me, which ‘Amrish Puri’ character is your absolute favourite?