VIJAY PRASHAD SHARES HIS PERSONAL FAVORITE FILM MOMENTS
Vijay Prashad, historian, journalist, commentator, Marxist intellectual and author shares his personal favorite Om Puri film moments and the profound impact the actor made in the world of Indian social cinema.
Om Puri was the opposite of a bureaucrat, although in my favorite film — Ardh Satya (1983) — he played a police officer, and in many films he played policemen and IAS officers. He had the capacity to be stern on screen, the hat under his arm, the baton parallel to the ground. But behind that studied poise were his eyes — gentle and revealing. Ardh Satya — directed by Govind Nihalani — reveals the corruption of the system and the impossibility of being good inside the system.
Om Puri plays an honest police officer whose every move runs into the entanglement between the mafia and local politicians. Matters are so bad that in the end the officer has to throw himself at the mercy of the local political kingpin, who humiliates him to the point that Om Puri kills him. There is no idealism of the bureaucrat, the sense that good people can heal a corrupt system. It is a wretched world, made worse by the difficulty of changing it.
Dark and gloomy films do not exhaust Om Puri’s work. He was an actor of considerable range. One of his early films — Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983) — once more focused on corruption, but this time with satire as its mood. Om Puri’s Ahuja, finding the coffin with the corpse of the Municipal Commissioner on the road, is a master-class in comedy. There he is, drunk, thinking that the coffin is a car, chatting with the corpse, trying to change the nonexistent tire on the coffin. Even in some of the more forgettable films over the last decade (such as Mumbai Xpress), Om Puri’s comedic timing is apparent. He was sincere in making you laugh and cry. Read more...