Born in India's northern province of Haryana in 1950, Om Puri debuted in a regional Marathi-language movie in the mid 1970s before going on to star in a number of major Hindi hits as well as in some Pakistani movies.
Puri made a name for himself in the 1980s with the alternative art cinema that found a niche audience in India, playing several memorable characters that depicted the angst of the times. His most acclaimed films include Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Maachis, Ardh Satya, Sadgati, Paar and Tamas.
Role in Hollywood, British films
Puri is known for his cameo in hit movie Gandhi directed by British filmmaker Richard Attenborough. He also worked in a number of Hollywood and British films, including The Reluctant Fundamentalist, East is East, and most recently in The Hundred-Foot Journey in which Puri starred opposite legendary British actress Helen Mirren. He also appeared in Hollywood films City of Joy, Wolf and Charlie Wilson's War.
Om Puri recently courted controversy for supporting Pakistani artists in the Indian film industry. He was among a few Indian actors who criticised calls to cull Pakistani actors from Bollywood amid tensions in disputed Kashmir and border skirmishes between the soldiers of India and Pakistan in 2016. Puri also made headlines for criticising the beef ban in India.
“(Those) who wanted to put a ban on slaughtering cows in the country were hypocrites. We export beef and earn dollars from it,” he said.
In 1990, Om Puri received Padma Shri - the fourth highest civilian award in India. He also received the Brussels International Film Festival [Best Actor] for My Son the Fanatic and Montreal World Film Festival award for exceptional contribution to the cinematographic art in 1998.
He was made an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2004.
Known for his sharp and witty remarks, Puri often took to social media to express his thoughts.
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.
Fat noses have no place in the Hindi film industry. But it is not so in the West - otherwise, Anthony Quinn would have never been an actor.
There are about ten young filmmakers in Bombay [or Mumbai] who are making good films… not necessarily song-and-dance films. But they are few and far between, and there are very few that talk about rural India, which earlier, in the 80s, was more common.
Did we force them to join the army? My father was also in the army... We are proud of them [soldiers]... I am asking you: Do you want India and Pakistan to become Israel and Palestine?
Tributes to Om Puri continued to pour in from across the world.
The Prime Minister condoles the passing away of actor Om Puri & recalls his long career in theatre & films.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) January 6, 2017
— Mahira Khan (@TheMahiraKhan) January 6, 2017
— NFAI (@NFAIOfficial) January 6, 2017
Devastated by news of Omji's death. One of India's finest actors, he spearheaded realism in India cinema n brought dignity to it #OmPuri
— Shekhar Kapur (@shekharkapur) January 6, 2017
RIP Om Puri - Pakistan will always remember you as a supporter of peace and friendship. #Legend
— Mansoor Ali Khan (@_Mansoor_Ali) January 6, 2017
You will live in our hearts forever through the impressions you have left with your versatility. We will miss you. RIP #OmPuri
— sachin tendulkar (@sachin_rt) January 6, 2017