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Shocking! India's greatest actor has no work!

Last updated on: August 04, 2014 16:16 IST

Shocking! India's greatest actor has no work!

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Sonil Dedhia/Rediff.com in Mumbai

'After The Hundred-Foot Journey, I don't have any work. Indian cinema seems to have nothing to offer me any more,' Om Puri tells Sonil Dedhia/Rediff.com

After having worked in more than 25 international films, Om Puri is looking forward to The Hundred-Foot Journey, which releases in India, the US and Canada on August 8.

Produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, Puri plays the lead role opposite Oscar winner Helen Mirren.

In conversation with Sonil Dedhia/Rediff.com, Puri speaks about cooking for Mirren, meeting Winfrey, and why he is contemplating retirement from acting.

You recently underwent surgery after a white patch was found in your mouth.

Yes, it could have been a cancer patch, but thankfully it's benign.

I am fine now. I was in hospital for two days for minor surgery to find out if it was malignant, but it wasn't.

Have you quit smoking?

I have cut down on it. I used to have 30 cigarettes a day, but now I have only four or five.

Slowly, I will completely quit.

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Image: Om Puri as Papa in The Hundred-Foot Journey: Will the role win him an Oscar?


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'I am a wonderful actor, but not a commercial star'

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Sonil Dedhia/Rediff.com in Mumbai

In a recent interview, you said that not many roles are written for older actors...

(Interrupts) Which is true. There are not many roles being written for us.

After The Hundred-Foot Journey, I don't have any work.

In the West, there are roles for older actors. Helen Mirren and I play the protagonists in The Hundred-Foot Journey. But that is not the case in Hindi cinema.

Indian cinema seems to have nothing to offer me any more. After having seen and done it all, I suddenly find myself jobless at home.

But actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Paresh Rawal, Naseeruddin Shah still get a lot of work.

They have been stars. I am not a star. Not commercially, at least.

I am a wonderful actor, but not a commercial star.

There are roles especially written for Amitabh Bachchan. Today, filmmakers are interested in casting big stars. Unlike the West, films here are made for money. I have never got paid Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) for a film. I get Rs 40, 50 lakh (Rs 4 million, Rs 5 million). It is sad that Hindi cinema is becoming more commercial day by day.

It has also become very repetitive. Every film today has some over-the-top action sequences and item numbers.

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Image: Amitabh Bachchan and Om Puri in Govind Nihalani's Dev.


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'Playing a lead role in a Hollywood film adds to my credibility as an actor'

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Sonil Dedhia/Rediff.com in Mumbai

Do you get paid well in Hollywood?

Yes, certainly, but it depends on the budget of the film.

British films have a small budget, but it is still more than what you get in India.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is produced by Steven Spielberg, but still it falls in the small budget category as the film isn't made on a big canvas.

How did you become a part of The Hundred-Foot Journey? Did you audition for the role?

The only film I have ever auditioned for was City Of Joy, which released in 1992.

The casting team of The Hundred-Foot Journey approached my agent in London and they sent me the script.

I read the script and found it very attractive. I was very thrilled when I came to know that I was working opposite Helen Mirren in a film produced by Steven Spielberg.

It is an honour to be part of such a film. Playing a lead role in a Hollywood film adds to my credibility as an actor.

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Image: Om Puri, Shabana Azmi and Patrick Swayze in Roland Joffe's City of Joy.


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'Helen Mirren is a wonderful co-star'

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Sonil Dedhia/Rediff.com in Mumbai

Tell us about working with Helen Mirren.

She is the Smita Patil of Hollywood (laughs).

She is a wonderful co-star and I really enjoyed working with her.

Our chemistry in the film looks really good. She hasn't seen much of my work, but she did have an admiration for me as an actor.

She is really professional in her work. There is a sequence in the film where we have to dance. I was very nervous as I am not a dancer, but she helped me in that scene.

You play a restaurant owner in the film. How good a cook are you?

I am a very good cook. I can be a perfect house husband (laughs).

I love to cook. I like to make vegetarian curries, parathas, pulao... When shooting for the film, I stayed in an apartment and would cook every day.

On Saturdays, I would invite a few people from the sets for dinner.

Did Helen Mirren taste your food?

I cooked for her three or four times. She loves Indian food and she really had a good time.

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Image: Om Puri and Helen Mirren in The Hundred-Foot Journey.


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'Oprah Winfrey always greeted me with a namaste'

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Sonil Dedhia/Rediff.com in Mumbai

Did you interact with Steven Spielberg?

No, I haven't had the chance to meet him. I will meet him at the film's premiere on August 4.

But I met Oprah Winfrey (the co-producer of the film).

She is a very warm lady. She always greeted me with a namaste. We spoke about spirituality.

She is planning to come to Rishikesh for meditation. I gifted her a book, Blue Mountain, written by Eknath Easwaran.

Since you don't get work in Hindi cinema, will you concentrate on work in the West?

No. I have never done that. If I get a good offer from Hollywood, I will do it. If I don't get work, then I will retire.

I don't go and knock on the doors of filmmakers for work.

I might even do theatre again.

What about direction?

I don't want to direct films.

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Image: Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Helen Mirren in The Hundred-Foot Journey.


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'Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor are doing good work'

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Sonil Dedhia/Rediff.com in Mumbai

Do you find any of the crop of young actors promising?

David Dhawan's son Varun (Dhawan) and Boney Kapoor's son Arjun (Kapoor) are doing good work.

Has your son shown any inclination for acting?

He is just 17 years old. He has shown some desire to become an actor, but it's too early.

I talk to him about the pros and cons of being in this industry.

I have never discouraged him in anything. But I told him that you should always have an alternative thing to do in life if something doesn't work out.

Would you help your son get work?

If he wants to be an actor I will send him to those I consider to be good directors.

Today, Farhan Akhtar and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra are doing some good work. I might approach them.


Image: Om Puri with his son Ishaan.
Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar

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