I always pulled up Omji(or Om, depending on the mood of our conversations) for doing too much work.
But for the first time this year I am happy he slogged lavishly to accumulate “dhan”(as he referred to his earnings) for his son and for Seema Kapoor, with whom he looked forward to sharing his last years.
He also looked forward to a decent role in a Salman starrer. He worked with Salman Khan for the first time in Dabangg, and his role was chopped off.
Frustrated and angry Om had said to me, “Yes my role has been mercilessly cut and this includes a critical scene in the film that has been edited unnecessarily. Now my role is a three-scene cameo. Anyway, let it be. I have received my full remuneration. And I better be happy with that.Main kya karoon? Can I fight with them? Meri kyaauqat hai? Hamari nahin chalti hai.”
Om always felt he missed out on star treatment in the film industry.
Of course Om being Om he soon forgot his grouse and was happy to be part of a blockbuster where he was seen by a large audience rather than going unseen in films that only critics saw.
He happily accepted the cameo in Bajrangi Bhaijaan when it was offered to him .
“It’s a small but memorable role .I play a goodhearted Pakistani. I wanted to work with Kabir Khan,”Om had said to me.
Pakistani ? My antennae were up and I was soon asking him about the plot of Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Om happily spilt the beans
That was another thing about him: he never held back. Whenever I needed information on any film he was associated with I just had dial ‘O’ for Om.
He was very excited about signing Tubelight. After Bajrangi Bhaijaan Om made Kabir Khan promise there would be more for this actor to do.Not that he needed footage and space to make an impact. In Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi Om appeared in just one sequence . It is remembered to this day.
After signing Tubelight Om excitedly called to say, “In Tubelight I play a Muslim Gandhian . The film is set during the India-China war in 1963. I have a very interesting sympathetic character. If you remember I had played a sympathetic liberal Pakistani mullah in Kabir Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan. It’s good to be cast in characters with unexpected shades of empathy.Kabir knows how to use actors in the best way possible.”
About shooting with Salman, Om says, “I had done Dabangg with him. Then we did Bajrangi Bhaijaan ,now Tubelight. Salman has evolved as an actor.He is a good human being and very down-to-earth in spite of being such a big star.”
The Tubelight team misses Om . But we his audience and friends miss him more than ever. Luckily for us Om will be seen one more time , this time in Gurinder Chaddha’s Viceroy’s House which releases in India in August.
In the film Om plays a blind Gandhian freedom fighter.
What’s with this Gandhian connection that has emerged with such powerful force posthumously?
I am sure Om and the Mahatma are chuckling over this together in Heaven or wherever great tormented souls go.