Om Puri: My friend, Patrick Swayze
Patrick Swayze, who lost the battle to pancreatic cancer on Monday, had a close Indian connection. He starred in the film, City Of Joy, featuring Om Puri and Shabana Azmi. The film was shot in Kolkata.
Om Puri heard about his death only an hour before this reporter spoke to him -- when his wife Nandita gave him the news -- and he was completely shaken.
The actor looks back at the days of filming City Of Joy, and tells Patcy N what a wonderful man Swayze was.
The last time I spoke to Patrick was four months ago. I had spoken to him earlier too, when he was detected with cancer. He took it in his stride. No one thought he would die so young. Fifty-seven is not an age to die. I am devasted.
Patrick was a dear friend to me. He had written the foreword to my biography, which will be out next month.
The last thing he told me was that he was very keen on reading my book. He asked me for a copy. But he passed away before it was released.
Image: Patrick Swayze and Om Puri in City of Joy
'Patrick and I have not just acted together but we have also toured the world together'
I still remember the day Patrick landed in India. I was given the charge to take him around Kolkata. Our director Roland Joffe was cruel. He asked me to take Patrick out within an hour of his reaching the city.
Roland wanted to give Patrick a culture shock, so I was given a false address and we were asked to search for it. We walked and walked on the streets of Kolkata. It was so hot.
Patrick was tired and jet-lagged. He was walking like a zombie. We walked the whole day that day.
When we were shooting for City Of Joy, the two kids who were playing my children in the film were slum children. One day, Patrick brought them to Oberoi Hotel -- a five star hotel -- where we were staying. He pushed the kids into the swimming pool. The hotel manager got very upset and told him that he cannot allow slum kids to swim in the pool. Patrick fought with him and saw to it that those kids had fun.
Patrick and I have not just acted together but we have also toured the world together. After City Of Joy was completed, we went on a tour to promote the film. We went to Japan, Australia, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Montreal and many more places.
Image: Poster of City of Joy
'Patrick would always say that I intimidated him'
Patrick would always say that I intimidated him. He would feel his father was with him when I was around because our nature and attitudes matched.
I remember an incident when we were promoting the film in Japan. Patrick had a personal problem and was sulking. He did not mingle with anyone and seemed really upset.
One day, he just locked himself in his suite and refused to come out. Everybody was scared to enter his room. The producer asked me to knock on the door because Patrick liked me.
I knocked on his door, and called out for him. He let me in. I explained to him that we had come for some work and must finish it. He was very upset so we chatted for some time. Then he got ready and went down for the promotion.
Image: A scene from City of Joy
'He was a very nice human being'
After Japan, Patrick was supposed to go to Australia to promote the film. I was not part of that. When Patrick asked the producer why I was not going, he said that I did not have the dates.
So Patrick asked me if I could come. I said I could. So he immediately called the producer and told him to make the arrangements. That was a Saturday and I had to still get my visa.
I don't know what Patrick had told the producer but he took me to the Tokyo visa office on a Sunday morning, got it opened for me and I got my visa.
I travelled with Patrick to Sydney and Melbourne.
Once Patrick and I were having wine in Melbourne. Patrick got tipsy and went on stage. He said that if Om does not get an Oscar for City Of Joy, I will kill them. That was really sweet of him to say that.
Patrick was a follower of Buddhism. He was a very nice human being. I will call his family members to pay my respects.
Image: A scene from City Of Joy