By Subhash K. Jha, Bollywood Hungama News Network
Om Puri's latest international project Charlie Wilson's War directed by Mike Nichols of Silkwood and Closer fame has just been released abroad. In this war epic, Om plays the former Pakistani President Zia-Ul-Haq. "It turned out to be a very small role. But Mike Nichols is a 'huge' director. At first, I refused the role because of its brevity. But he insisted, and I couldn't say no. Besides when would I get a chance to work with Hollywood legends like Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, and the enormously gifted Philip Seymour Hoffman?"
Incidentally, Irrfan Khan is also a great admirer of Seymour. Says Om, "Hoffman is a real talent…Charlie Wilson's War is doing well. And though I had just two scenes I put in full preparation for the role of Zia-ul-Haq." Om watched video footage on Zia-ul-Haq and even spoke to Shatrughan Sinha who knew the Pakistan president personally. Om has been traveling outside India for three months. "I recently returned from Australia where I was shooting for Anees Bazmi's Singh Is Kinng. Then I shot in Goa, Cochin and Chennai for Priyadarshan's Mere Baap Pehle Aap. I play a guy in his 40's desperate to marry. I play the role in a black wig," Om says poker-faced. "It was fun. Then I was in Jaipur for Rakeysh Mehra's Dilli 6. Rakeysh's film is very hard to shoot. We're shooting all night in the freezing cold."
Om has just signed a film with Piyadarshan's assistant. "It's a light-hearted story of two former 'pehelwaans' played by me and Sharat Saxena. I shoot this film until March. But after that I've kept April completely free. I need to spend time with my family. "In the meanwhile, the comprehensive 'Om Puri biography' by Aparajita Krishna is also being prepared. “ It's taking time because the author is trying to talk to everyone closely associated with me, from Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani to Dominique Lapierre and Mike Nichols. It's hard to contact some of my foreign associates. I am personally contacting some of these people. The portions pertaining to my childhood have me particularly interested.”
In the meanwhile, Om's 10-year old son shows every inclination to grow into a chip of the old block. "He's very sincere and acquiring a lot of skills. He's learning classical Indian music. He's the head-boy in his class. Let's see where life takes him."