Amrish Puri, an actor of formidable resources | Hindi Movie News

With Amrish Puri’s death on January 12, 2005 an entire era of screen villainy came to an end. Not since Pran did we have a villain so menacing and intimidating. Like Pran, Puri moved on effortlessly from grey to positive roles and was equally successful in both.

His last wish before ending an conversation with this writer was, “Are you recording our conversation? May I request you to erase my voice after you finish transcribing my interview? I don’t want my voice to fall into the wrong hands.” Not sure of what Puri saab meant, but one complied. Who wanted Mogambo to be na-khush after all?

One of three brothers, Amrish’s elder siblings Chaman and Madan Puri were actors long before Amrish. At age 40 a career as an actor came belatedly to Amrish. His first notable screen appearance was in Sunil Dutt’s Reshma Aur Shera in 1971 where he made his first impression alongside Amitabh Bachchan. Coincidentally they are regarded as two of the best voices ever heard in Hindi cinema.

Puri made audiences and critics sit up and take notice in Shyam Benegal’s Nishant in 1975 where he played an immoral zamindar. Success in avant-garde cinema was instant, though the same cannot be said about mainstream cinema.

“Those weren’t easy years for me,” the actor with the booming baritone said once in the past. “Recognition was hard to come by, and I had a family to support. I took on any and every villain’s role that came my way.” After struggling through years of small and not-so-small diabolic roles the actor became a household name with Mr India where he played the infamous cartoon-like villain Mogambo in 1987.

Not since Gabbar Singh in Sholay had villainy in Hindi screen acquired such a swanky swaggering contemporary and quirky aura. After playing the villain in innumerable films Puri’s career was injected with new life when he did Kuku Kohli’s Phool Aur Kaante and Priyadarshan’s Muskurahat in 1992. The two films cast Puri in non-villainous pivotal roles that gravitated him to the top as Bollywood’s most in-demand character-actor. Seldom, if ever did an actor other than the leading man acquire the respect and command the fee of Amrish Puri. Right till the very end when he played Priyanka Chopra’s suspicious and fastidious father in David Dhawan’s Mujhse Shaadi Karogi and Akshaye Khanna’s fretting and fuming father in Priyadarshan’s Hulchul (both hits!) Puri was perpetually cast in author-backed roles that demanded great power and strength and an indomitable screen presence.

As the homesick NRI in Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, the benevolent feudal landlord in Priyadarshan’s Viraasat, Sunny Deol’s terminally ill and vocally idealistic father in Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Ghaatak or Amisha Patel’s anti-India father in Anil Sharma’s Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, Puri created a gallery of characters that count among the highest points in the history of mainstream Hindi cinema.

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