Was the brilliant Om Puri underutilized in Bollywood?

Om Puri studied acting along with Naseeruddin Shah, has done some really powerful roles (back in those days when the more serious movies would be classified as art films), and is a well respected name internationally. Here we talk to the brilliant actor Om Puri who feels that he has done substandard work in Bollywood as compared to overseas (he’s done about two dozen foreign films).

Veteran actor Om Puri feels that he’s done better work abroad, but doesn’t feel that Bollywood is biased. He attributes the fact, that he’s not done a lot of substantial work in India, to bad luck and also to the style of filmmaking in existence in India.

For example, in Hollywood a senior actor (in his seventies) could still get a lead role in a movie but in India the focus is more on the young and the urban audience so actors get fewer opportunities as they grow older. ‘These days we don’t even talk about villages and rural areas’, says Om.

“There are not many roles written for older actors and it gets difficult to get exciting roles today unlike the west. In western countries, there are roles written for older actors. Films are made on them, including love stories. But that is not the case here,” Puri told PTI in an interview.

“I don’t have work… Tell someone to give me work. I am serious, I am not having any work to do right now. Priyadarshan was there (who used to take him in his films), but he is also not doing anything right now,” he said.

Om also said that in India, we treat films only as source of entertainment; it’s not seen as social responsibility, which further limits the scope for some actors.

However, Om Puri is still thankful to art cinema and to filmmakers like Govind Nihlani and Shyam Benegal, who were his mentors and gave him really meaty roles. Om is also grateful to commercial cinema (because of the money and security it provided), Om rues the fact that commercial didn’t capitalize on his brilliant acting skills.

Om Puri has worked on several commercial, independent and art films, both in India as well as abroad. Om has done about two dozen foreign films. He’s worked with big American stars. He’s done several British films in principal roles. He has been awarded with OBE by the Queen of England for his contribution to their films. He was nominated for BAFTA and also got the Best European actor award for the film MY SON THE FANATIC, a British film which was selected at the Brussels International film fest (only for European films).

He will next be seen in American comedy-drama THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY (also features Juhi Chawla). Besides having a significant role, Om more than willingly took up THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY as it had names like Helen Mirren (Oscar Award winning actress), Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey (producer), DreamWorks (banner), and Walt Disney (distributor) attached to it. While Om has a significant role, Juhi Chawla plays a minuscule role in the film.

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