Om Puri who died a sad lonely man on January 6, 2017,was highly disenchanted by Filmistan’s shoddy treatment of his talent.
Once he told me angrily “ Why do you think I gravitated towards the West? I was not getting challenging or or interesting roles in India.I’m still doing just one or at the most two international projects per year. The Indian projects are becoming harder and harder to come by. It’s because of the kind of films being made in Mumbai. Every second film is a young love story. What kind of role do I play in such films except the stereotypical father? My success abroad is akin to the situation I faced here after Aakrosh wherein I was only recognized by the intelligentsia and directors like Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen and Satyajit Ray responded to my performance. Ardh Satya was my breakthrough in the commercial circuit locally. Now I need one film like Ardh Satya internationally. But let tell you the recognition I get from the common people on the streets abroad is amazing.”
Om was also very unhappy about his remuneration in India. “The other day an old friend Rahul Rawail called to offer me a part. He asked, ‘Paise kitne loge?’. I replied , ‘Bahut sarey’. We were just bantering. But my secretary and I are very pragmatic about my price. We evaluate a project and then quote a fee. Someone wanted me to do a voiceover for his big-budget film but wasn’t willing to pay me. I said, ‘Dekho , Dost. You have a big star in your film. If it was a commentary for a regional film or for a documentary on a social issue I would have done it for free. Why should I not charge a price for a huge budgeted film?’ I don’t have fixed price. Nobody does these days. Here I am being used for the last twentyfive years like a potato in every dish—be it a comedy, thriller or a love story. The bloody bhindi costs Rs 60 per KG. But the price of potato remains unchanged.”
Friends like Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi were in a state of shock at his sudden death. The two actors together with Om formed the titanic triumvirate of non-mainstream actors who changed the way we look at cinema. While Naseer and Shabana have come to terms with their lack of fluency with commercial cinema, Om till the end remained torn between the two extremities represented by Shyam Benegal and David Dhawan.
He once confessed to me, “I have to make my family and I financially secure. To a large extent I’m already on the way to doing that. If today I decide to migrate to a small town , I don’t have to worry about my income. But I want a little more from my career. I do have certain ideas for films swimming in my head. Sometimes I feel being part of an escapist entertainer is just fine. At other times I feel like addressing myself to issues that bother me.”