Celebrity Interview: Om Puri


By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

Mumbai, Aug 7 (IANS) Actor Om Puri, who is "not very happy with the

films" coming his way, criticises the current trend of casting big

stars as villains and comedians, leaving little room for artistes like


"I think the star system needs to be broken and so too the

filmmakers' mindset. If it's the 'Mahabharat', it's got to be Amitabh

Bachchan as Bhishma Pitamah, Shah Rukh Khan as Karan, Aamir Khan as

Arjun and Salman Khan as Ashwathama. If I'm lucky and if Saif Ali Khan

refuses, I get to play the sutradhar (narrator)," he said.

"A character-actor with my experience should be able to do six to

seven films comfortably per year without going into multiple shifts per

day. But I'm dismayed by the drop in quality work in my career," Om

told IANS.

"So far I haven't allowed myself to get bitter about it. But now

it's getting a little frustrating," he added.

"The good character-roles are being played by saleable stars. The

process of taking over the character slots started earlier. The leading

men wanted to do the villain's and then the comedian's role. Now they

want to play even those roles with four-five scenes that used to come

to people like Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) and me.

"I've begun to doubt my own capabilities. Maybe I've been over-

estimating myself as an actor all these years. What's the point of

being called a good actor when you aren't taken seriously even by those

filmmakers who swore by the capabilities of Naseer and Om Puri?" asked

the actor.

Om is especially hurt by the seeming betrayal of avant-garde friends

like Govind Nihalani and Prakash Jha.

"I'm not against stars. 'Apaharan' has Ajay Devgan. He's a fine

actor. But if Jha moves to stars, what happens to an actor like me?

"All the finest filmmakers of Hindi cinema - Sanjay Leela Bhansali,

Raj Kumar Santoshi, Nihalani, Ketan Mehta, Jha - want to work with big

stars. We don't get good roles! When was the last time you saw me sink

my teeth into a role? How can I, when I've nothing to do?" he


However, he has Farhan Akhtar's "Don" and Mani Shankar's 'Mukhbir'

to look forward to.

Om, who plays a policeman in "Don", said, "It's one of the few films

I've signed recently. The other is 'Mukhbir' where I play a very

intriguing role as Sammir Dattani's mentor. I'm no longer interested in

doing a load of work just to be busy and prolific."

"I'm not very happy with the films that are coming my way," he

admitted. "A Mani Shankar or a Farhan Akhtar comes to me once in a

while. I used to do a lot more work earlier and most of it quite


But the actor has decided to do away with inane roles in big


"I'd rather sit at home doing nothing. When you argue that a

Nihalani has to sell his film to distributors through stars, you forget

'Aakrosh' and 'Ardh Satya', which featured me. Didn't these films have

to be sold to the public?

"On the other hand Nihalani's 'Dev' had the biggest stars. So, what

happened to the film? A film doesn't become successful because of a

star or a group of stars. It just has to touch the audiences' heart,"

he said.

"I've a grouse against filmmakers like Jha and Santoshi. When they

make small budget films, they come running to me or Naseer. But when

they've a sizeable budget, they don't even look at us.

"I'm more hurt than angry. Where am I supposed to go? I've proved

myself repeatedly as an actor. Hum achcha kaam karne ke liye kahan

jaayen? (where do I go to do quality work). This industry is my home,"

Om said.

The actor has decided that he will now essay only dignified


"I've no regrets about doing a two-scene role in 'Rang De Basanti'.

I had told Rakeysh Mehra that I've nothing much to do. He told me he

needed me. And I'm glad.

"People may have reservations about the ending. But 'Rang De

Basanti' is a film that knocks the lid off all definitions of art and

commercial cinema. It shakes you up. Let's not make unnecessary

distinctions between art and commerce," said Om.

"Earlier an actor like me was sure I'd get work though less money in

a specific kind of film. Now that era is gone. 'Apaharan', 'Family' and

'Khakee' aren't hardcore commercial films. They're off-mainstream films

brought into the mainstream through the presence of big stars.

"I was lucky to have done 'Aakrosh' and 'Ardh Satya'. If they were

made today, I wouldn't stand a chance," said Om, who is all set to be

on the jury of the Monte Carlo Film Festival at year-end.

"Every year there used to be at least two international projects.

This year I was supposed to do a Spanish film. But I couldn't honour

that commitment due to date problems. But now I've cleared the clutter

of commitments.

"Earlier I was afraid to sit at home. No more. No more rubbish, even

for big banners in Bollywood. I'm waiting for Bhansali to sign me. At

this stage of my career I can't go to him or his colleagues for work. I

never did that. I won't go to anyone. I'll wait," said Om.