By Dilawaiz Ahmad
The Star of the stars Om Puri is no more but living in the hearts of the millions.His career spanning four decades – appearing in Hollywood blockbusters, British television dramas and Bollywood favorites – has a last impression on many. As the film world mourns his death, the life and career of Om Puri was struggling and how he attempted to fame in the east and the west. Puri was best known in Britain for his critically-acclaimed turn as a tough but loving Pakistani patriarch in the 1999 comedy drama East Is East, which landed him a Bafta nomination for best actor. He became visible in number of comedy roles, starring alongside Steve Coogan in The Parole Officer in 2001 and in sequel West is West in 2010. Over a four-decade career, Puri won numerous prestigious cinema awards in India and the UK. His second wife, Nandita, upset Puri by writing about his personal life in a biography.On Twitter, he pinned a tweet to the top of his page that read, “I don’t expect anything from anybody, When You Grow Old.
Your Days Are Gone; It Is Part Of Life.” In December, he tweeted, “I have no regrets at all. I have done quite well for myself. I didn’t have a conventional face, but I have done well, and I am proud of it.”
His work was lauded by many in Bollywood, especially, as well as the Indian prime minister. People called him an essential piece of Indian cinema. The Pakistani artists community were having view that government is solely responsible for his death. They said Om Puri was a pro-Pakistan artist, who openly supported Pakistanis in India. Extremist Hindu organizations strongly opposed Om Puri’s views and even hurled life threats to him. He however, stood by his words and never turned his words against Pakistan. They pronounced that Om Puri was a very popular artist all over the world and performed in various films besides those produced in India.
They said the if Indian government had no role in the death of such an ace actor then it should conduct investigation through international agencies. Hitherto, the family of Om Puri has not demanded a postmortem as well, thus, the cause of death can only be assumed and not known on facts. Some Indian websites claim that there was a head injury on Puri’s dead body as well. All the different allegations end on the same result, which is that the death was not natural but a murder.
There are different thoughts in this regard which can be on looked as follows: 1) Om Puri had a massive heart attack and he died on the spot. 2) Om Puri was hit on the head while he was drunk, which lead to his death. 3) Om Puri was strangled to death by RAW agents who wanted to avenge his comments about Pakistan.
Om Puri, during his visit to Pakistan claimed that majority of the people in both India and Pakistan want peace between the neighboring countries. He had said that about 95% of them want peace. Only 5% want trouble. He hope, someday, we can get over our differences and release Pakistani films in India too. He opposed terrorism activities in Pakistan and also condemn last year’s attack on Army Public School in Peshawar,” The man always encouraged the Pakistani actors and film industry. There is no doubt he supported the art and culture in the country on many occasions, but this never meant that man was least patriotic or he didn’t like his home country. Unfortunately, as happens in other such cases Om Puri also had to tolerate the tag of traitor for him. Even in Pakistan, if someone favors the Indian actors or praises anything from the neighboring country too much he is immediately declared as an enemy of the homeland.
The people like Om Puri are indeed much brave and courageous as they don’t fear to speak against the stereotypes that are prevalent in our society and cause enormous damage to it affecting its members. As a result of his bold stance on the issue of ban on Pakistani actors, Om Puri spoke fiercely and came out in a robust defense of the Pakistan. The man had to face the sedition charges, a likely outcome of such cases.
These are different perspectives which cannot be ignored completely. Puri was a man of his words. He stood strong on his words. He was believer of humanity and always talked about lesson of humanity on all platforms. He never was afraid of any threat. He always had soft corner for Muslims and there are talks and school of thought that he wanted to become a Muslim.
It seems that the 21st century will forever remain marred with controversies. However, Puri’s death is a great loss to the acting industry of the world, not only India. He was a good man who looked out for others, especially new-coming actors and kept a very soft spot for Pakistan.
(The writer is student of Mass communication in local university of Lahore)