Period: 1980s – Place: Vidarbha Sahitya Sangh’s ‘Dhanvate Rang Mandir’ Nagpur – Play: Mohan Rakesh’s ‘Aadhe Adhure’ – Amrish Puri playing five different characters in the lead role and power suddenly goes off in the auditorium!
I vividly remember this incident. Just as the audience started worrying about the continuation of this engrossing play in an uneasy silence, a deep baritone and powerful voice emanating from the stage fell on our ears. The man announced that the play will continue in whatever light available and without the sound system. It was raw voice of Amrish Puri! So powerful was the throw of his voice that it effortlessly reached up-to the people sitting in the last row of the auditorium. After a brief pause, he resumed his monologues from the play undeterred by the situation. Indeed a moment to be remembered for long!! Small wonder, this unique & resonant voice, topped with his great acting skills, made him one of the greatest villains ever in world of Cinema. Even the great Hollywood director Steven Spielberg once said, “Amrish is my favourite villain. The best the world has ever produced and ever will!”
Born in Nawanshahr – Punjab in a Khatri family, he tried to follow his elder brother Madan Puri in films but failed in the screen test and started working with Ministry Of Labour & Employment. In due time, theatre beckoned and he began to take up roles in playwright Satyadev Dubey’s plays and soon became a familiar face at Mumbai’s Prithvi Theatre.
The offer for a role in films came very late when he was almost 40. The film was 1971 film ‘Reshma Aur Shera’. However, industry took real notice of his unique voice & great acting skills with his film ‘Hum Panch (1980) and roles started pouring in. He never looked back thereafter and went on to become the most sought after villain in the industry with his Mr. India’s ‘”मोगैंबो खुश हुआ”‘ becoming timeless catchphrase.
His contribution to parallel cinema of 70s is also unforgettable when he played major roles in Shyam Benegal’s Art films like Nishant, Manthan, Bhumika, Kalyug, Mandi sharing screen time with ‘Art-house’ legends like Smita Patil, Nareeruddin Shah, Girish Karnad and Shabana Azmi. His role as a Govt. Pleader, Dusane’ in Govind Nihalani’s film ‘Aakrosh’ (1980) will also be remembered for long.
Significantly Steven Spielberg chose him for his Hollywood production ‘Indiana Jones & Temple of Doom’ (1984) while Richard Attenborough chose him for a role in his film ‘Gandhi'(1982).
Some of his other popular Hindi films include ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’, ‘Mr. India’, ‘Gadar: Ek Prem Katha’ ‘Chachi 420’, ‘Nayak’, ‘Karan Arjun’ etc.
Interestingly, he was the first cousin of legendary singer/ actor K. L. Saigal.
Remembering this legendary actor on his birth anniversary, a scene from the film ‘Akrosh’, featuring him in a role of Govt. Pleader, is presented…