NEW DELHI: Om Puri, acting powerhouse, has died at 66 in Mumbai after a heart attack. He was known for his under-played performances and searing intensity.
Mr Puri, who was born in 1950 to a Punjabi family living in Haryana, studied acting at the famous Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. After that he was a student at Delhi’s National School of Drama. His classmates included Naseeruddin Shah, who, like Mr Puri, took lead roles in non-commercial films to start with and helped create a golden era of powerful films that depicted class warfare and the common man’s fight for survival amid unrelenting corruption.
Mr Puri began his acting career with a Marathi film in the mid-70s. Through the 80s, he was an integral part of the talent in ground-breaking art cinema along with actors like Smita Patil, Shaban Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah.
Om Puri studied acting at Film and Television Institute of India, Pune and National School of Drama.
Mr Puri won the National Film Award in 1983 for Ardh Satya in which he played a police inspector who fought systemic corruption and the nexus between politicians and the police. His other trademark performance was for Aakrosh in which he played a peasant fighting the oppression in a feudal system that strips him and his family of their dignity and rights. Both films were directed by Govind Nihalani and scripted by Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar.
Om Puriwas awarded the Padma Shri in 1990.
In 1999, Puri starred in the indie UK hit East Is East, directed by Damien O’Donnell. He was also known internationally through his roles in Gandhi, My Son the Fanatic, Jewel In the Crown, City of Joy and, most recently, The Hundred Foot Journey in which he co-starred with legendary British actress Helen Mirren.
He was married to Nandita Puri in the year 1993 and separated in 2013. They are parents to a son named Ishaan.
Last year, Mr Puri, whose father served in the army, incited a controversy when he appeared to suggest that banning Pakistani artistes from working in India amid bilateral tension was inappropriate. He later apologized for stating that while soldiers may die in the line of duty, they choose to sign up to serve the country.