Amrish Puri – The incredible villain of Indian Film industry.
Mogambo Khus Hua
… roared a rock solid voice that was enough to send chill down the spine of the viewer.
Well, that was Amrish Puri, an all round actor, who dominated Bollywood as the highest paid villain and had the privilege of acting against veteran actors like Dilip Kumar
(Vidhatta), Raaj Kumar
(Sudagaar) and present day stars like Amitabh Bachchan
(Shahenshah) , Shah Rukh Khan
(Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge)etc.
Amrish Puri dominated Bollywood and did a variety of roles ranging from villain in films like Mr India, Meri Jung, Ghayal, Karan Arjun to a verity of character roles in films like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Phool Aur Kaante
and China Gate
Though commercial cinema gave him name and fame, parallel cinema gave him solace as an actor. His roles in films like Nishnat, Manthan
, Ardya Satya, Ghatak etc. His performance in Shyam Benegal’s Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, won him International acclaim like winning Sydney Film Festival, Best Actor Award –1994: Singapore International Film Festival, Best Actor Award – Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda.
22 June 1932
Screen Name/ Original Name
Amrish Lal Puri
Lala Nihal Chand Puri (Father)
Ved Kaur (Mother)
He has three brothers Chaman Puri and Madan Puri (both of whom are also actors), Harish Puri.
One sister Chandrakanta
Amrish Puri failed in first film screen test and took up govt job
Amrish Puri had acting in his blood. Eminent film legend K.L. Saigal was his close relative and his elder brother Madan Puri and Chaman Puri were famous villains in Bollywood.
Amrish Puri himself was interested in acting and was quite active in theater during his college days. Hence after completing his graduation from B.M. College, Himachal Pradesh, Amrish Puri moved to Mumbai to join films hoping it will be cake walk for him but things were different!
Reader would be surprised to that Amrish Puri failed his first screen test and dejected he took up a government job at Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC).
In the day he worked as Insurance agent and at night he worked at theater.
Theatre opened doors for Bollywood for Amrish Puri
His acting stint at theater helped him fetch roles in films. Recalling his theatre experience he once said, “I am obliged to Ebrahim Alkazi (India’s most revered theatre director) who introduced me to theatre in 1961. It was here I had the opportunity work as assistant director to another legend of theater world Satyadev Dubey. Soon at Mumbai’s Prithvi Theatre I became famous as a good actor and top filmmakers who thronged Prithvi Theatre started giving me small roles. I remember Dev Sahab (Dev Anand) first offered a small role of Jerry, a henchman in church in his film Prem Pujari (1970). Later Sunil Dutt offered me Reshma Aur Shera ; Chetan Aaand gave me Hindustan Ki Kasam etc.”
Shyam Benegal brought Amrish Puri into limelight
While the commercial cinema misused Amrish Puri’s talent by giving him insignificant roles, it was Art Cinema’s film wizard Shyam Benegal who exploited Amrish Puri talent to the core and brought him into limelight.
In his film Nishant (1975) Benegal gave Amrish Puri a tailor made role of a village zamindaar that suited Puri’s macho personality to the perfect ‘T’.
The role won rave reviews and was noticed by Boney Kapoor, who was making Hum Paanch (1980) a modern version of Mahabharata. In the film Amrish Puri played a similar role of a village Zamindaar, who exploits the villagers. The film was directed by Bapu and was instant hit. Yet again Amrish Puri’s dynamic image of a ruthless Zamindaar was applauded. The film was a box office hit! And Amrish Puri became a popular name in Bollywood. But success still evaded him.
Subhash Ghai gave impetus to Amrish Puri’s talent
After Hum Paanch, Amrish Puri was noticed by big film producers like Manmohan Desai (Coolie; Naseeb), Feroz Khan (Qurbani), Yash Johar (Dostana) etc. But yet again, though all movies were hit, but Amrish Puri’s role was not strong. Hence despite talent he could not hit the bull’s eye.
Eventually Subhash Ghai dared to take the risk and gave Amrish Puri, a power packed role in Vidhatta.
In this film he made Amrish Puri the main villain opposite thespian Dilip Kumar. The film was a huge hit! Ghai in his next film Hero, yet again gave Amrish Puri the lead villain. His famous one liner Pasha Ki Bhasha became a craze.
Amrish Puri becomes a star villain
After a series of hit films opposite thespian Dilip Kumar like Shakti, Saudagar, Mashaal etc and opposite superstar Amitabh Bachchan in movies like Shahenshah, Jaadugar, Aaj Ka Arjun, Ajooba, Lal Baadshah etc Amrish Puri was declared Bollywood’s No 1 and highest paid villain.
Hollywood director Steven Spielberg signed Amrish Puri
Not just Bollywood, Amrish Puri’s popularity reached Hollywood in the mid 80’s. Impressed by Amrish Puri’s marvelous performance, Hollywood filmmaker invited Amrish Puri to Hollywood and give screen test for his film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But Amrish Puri refused. In his reply he asked Steven Spielberg to come down to India, if he was interested. Believe it or not, Spielberg, instead of being angry, came down to Mumbai and signed Puri!
Film maker Priyadarshan exploited the best of Amrish Puri
While the commercial film industry only focused on the villainy aspect of Amrish Puri, South filmmaker Priyadarshani exploited the many moods of Amrish Puri. Speaking about Priyadarshan, Amrish Puri said, “I admire Priyan (Priyadarshan) he has been one director who gave me challenging roles like Gardish, in which he exploited my emotion and in Muskurahat, he explored my comedy, which nobody imagined I could do!”
The other best role that Priyadarshan gave Amrish Puri was in Virasat. Amrish Puri recalled, “Actually the role was originally offered to Dilip Shab (Dilip Kumar) as the film was a remake of Thevar Magan and the role was played South legend Sivaji Ganeshan. But Dilip Sahab was busy shooting with other film hence the role was offered to superstar Rajesh Khanna but he turned it down, finally I was approached. I immediately grabbed the role as it was a pivotal role and fetched me much applause and awards.
1968: Maharashtra State Drama Competition
1979: Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Theatre
1986: Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award, Meri Jung
1991: Maharashtra State Gaurav Puraskar
1994: Sydney Film Festival, Best Actor Award – Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda
1994: Singapore International Film Festival, Best Actor Award – Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda
1997: Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award – Ghatak
1997: Star Screen Award for Best Supporting Actor – Ghatak
1998: Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award- Virasat
1998: Star Screen Award for Best Supporting Actor – Virasat
2000: Kalakar Awards for Best Supporting Actor
Amrish Puri became immortal as Mogambo in Mr India
Despite Amrish Puri made his entry in films in 1970 but it took him 17 long years to become a star with Boney Kapoor’s super hit film Mr. India (1987) in which he played the unforgettable role of Mogambo.
Though with hit films like Hum Paanch, Vidhatta, Shakti, Saudagar, Mashaal, Meri Jung, Shahenshah etc Amrish Puri had made a name for himself in Bollywood but it was his ruthless character of Mogambo in Mr India that made him immortal in the annals of Indian Cinema.
Readers would be surprised to know that when Salim Javed narrated the character of Mogambo to film director Shekher Kapur, he was not convinced and recommended to change as the character didn’t appear to be brutal or callous. But Salim Javed stuck to their guns as they were confident of its success. Finding an apt actor was quite difficult finally when Amrish Puri gave the screen test, everybody was unanimous that he was perfect!
What made the role memorable was Amrish Puri’s dreadful baritone aided with his magnetic huge eyes and authoritative physique. The one liner Mogambo Khush Hua became a national craze as Gabbar Singh’s Kitne Aadmi The…. in Sholay.
Amrish Puri died on 12 January 2005 at the age of 72.