Photographs: Sanjay Sawant Patcy N in Mumbai
It was an emotionally-charged evening for Om Puri when he launched his biography Unlikely Hero.
The actor broke down when he re-lived his life on stage, and recalled old relationships. He wasn't the only one, who took a trip down memory lane. Close friends also recalled their times with him and gave some insight into the veteran actor.
Directed Om Puri in their first film Aakrosh together, followed by great movies like Ardh Satya, Droh Kaal, Tamas and Dev.
Om is a wonderful human being and a brilliant actor. He is very honest, warm, emotional and intense. You will find all these qualities when he acts too. People know him as a serious actor but you should see his comedies -- he has a tremendous sense of humour and great comic timing. He creates all his characters with such ease that you can't help but fall in love with them.
Om started his film career with my first film Aakrosh and later in films like Ardh Satya and Tamas. He wasn't there in all my films because the script didn't demand him. We worked together again in Dev after a gap. I hope to work with him in many more films.
Om like everything to be perfect on the sets. If something is wrong, he will fix it himself or get the production guys to fix it.
'Om is a very sensitive person'
Co-actor and friend, Tom has worked with Om in films like Gandhi, Bharat Ek Khoj, The Hangman and Mangal Pandey.
I have known Om for 35 years. I think Om, the actor and Om, the human being is one and the same. Ek hi phool ke juda naam hai. He is very transparent. He broke down when he spoke about his past relationships though he later said that he was just acting. But he wasn't acting. It was from his heart. The beauty of Omji is that he acts from his own experiences and that is the reason why we like him so much.
Once I met Om after he has finished shooting for Satyajit Ray's film Sadgati. I jokingly said, "Tumhe kya saare gaonwalon ki hi filmein milti hai (do you get all the villager roles)," because he played a villager in Sadgati and also in Aakrosh. Pat came the answer, "Tum bhi toh har film main angrez he bante ho (even you always play a foreigner in your films)."
He was laughing when he said that. But I got the feeling that he was telling me not to make fun of him. He is a very sensitive person and that's another reason why he is such a great actor.
I know his father too. I was born and raised in North India and they are Punjabis as well. So we had lots in common. One day, Om's father called me home. He wanted me to tell his son to get married. The girl Om's father wanted him to marry was actress Geeta Khanna, who also happened to be a friend of mine. She is still unmarried.
'I am sure somebody will make a movie on Om Puri's life'
Om Puri's student in Roshan Taneja's acting school, Gulshan Grover has done films like The Hangman, Zameer and Hera Pheri with Om Puri.
We all know that Om Puri is a great actor. But most people don't know that he is a great human being too. Om Puri is inspiration to me. He came from a very modest background but was not embarrassed about it. He speaks about his earlier days without regret because he is truly talented and hard working guy. He has achieved so much, not only in India but also abroad.
Om Puri was my teacher at Roshan Taneja's acting school where my batchmates were Anil Kapoor, Mazhar Khan and Madan Jain. Om Puri later became my colleague.
I am sure his book will inspire other young people, who are not so well off, to achieve something in life too. I am sure somebody will make a movie on Om Puri's life. When that happens, I will be the first watch it.
When you work with senior actors, you usually don't hang out with them after the shoot, as you can't be yourself. But with Om, it is different. We would sit and talk after the shoot was over. We were shooting in Canada for almost a month for The Hangman where he played a hangman and I played the jailor. The story is about our friendship. We had a great time shooting for the film.
'Om is not manipulative'
The singer/actress is Om Puri's friend and co-star in films like Ardh Satya, Droh Kaal, Mandi, China Gate and Ghatak.
I have known Om for 25 years. He is very honest and hardworking, not manipulative at all. He is very straightforward. He is the face of the common man.
Recently, we were shooting for West is West, the sequel to East is East in Chandigarh when the fiasco (the book had kicked up a storm initially as details of Om Puri's sexual past were revealed) happened. He was very restless about it. People were saying that the fiasco was a publicity stunt but it wasn't. He is very sensitive and honest. Plus, he loves his son Ishaan a lot.
'Om Purisaab is a very informal person'
Friend and singer
Om is a simple and down-to-earth guy. There is nothing professional about our friendship. I am very close to his wife Nandita and son Ishaan too.
I like Om Purisaab's informality when we go to his house or when he visits our house. Ishaan loves music and is learning to sing so sometimes when they come over, I ask him to sing. Om Purisaab has requested me to teach Ishaan too. He is a very informal person.