LAHORE: Indian thespian Om Puri has said he has got so much love and respect in Pakistan that he would like to come here every year.
“There are two locks on Pakistan and India sides and the keys to these locks are in the hands of Nawaz Sharif and Modi. Unlocking these will afford people on both sides an opportunity to interact with each other,” he said in a lighter vein. He was recollecting his film journey memories at the International Film Festival at the Alhamra Art Center, The Mall on Friday.
Narrating his childhood memories and struggle in early life, he said when he was six his father, who was a railway employee, was put behind bars on allegation of cement theft at the railways store. “We had to vacate the railway quarter and my mother rented out a room. She sent my elder brother to railway station to work as coolie and I was sent to a kiosk to serve tea to customers,” he said and jocularly remarked: “If I had a tea shop, I would have been the prime minister of India.”
Says he would love to visit Pakistan every year
Mentioning his early days at the National School of Drama, he said the school not only taught how to act but also built our character. He made mention of a teacher who played a pivotal role in “building up my personality”. Consulting music and reading material in libraries was mandatory at the NSD, he added.
He told the audience that his first film was Chor Chor Chhup Ja. He also talked about his friendship with Naseeruddin Shah who he met at the institute. He also shared with the audience how Neelam Man Singh, a known theatre actress and director, helped him get admission to the film institute at a time when he was facing penury. Meanwhile, he got a job at Actors Studio, where he used to teach speech and among his pupils were Anil Kapoor, Gulshan Grover and many other famous Indian artistes.
Since he was struggling to become part of the mainstream cinema, he said, Naseeruddin Shah took him to Shayam Benigal and he also did stage plays and Punjabi cinema. “People still remember my Punjabi movies Chan Perdesi and Long Da Lashkara.”
“I was recognised with the film Aakrosh in 1981 for which I got Rs10,000,” Mr Puri said.
Speaking about his experience of the Western cinema after commercial and art movies, he said his character in City of Joy was a good experience and he learnt how to drive a rickshaw for the particular role in the film.
Speaking about his role in film “Machis”, his eyes turned teary while recalling that some of the dialogues of the film were immensely moving.
Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2015