From Bollywood To 'East Is East': Five Great Om Puri Performances

Photo of Cassam Looch
Social Editor6 January 2017

Celebrated actor Om Puri has died at the age of 66 in his native country, India. The veteran star, who appeared in over 70 films, first made his name in Bollywood projects but quickly found himself appearing in British productions such as Gandhi and The Jewel in the Crown.

We take a look back at five iconic roles that highlighted the global appeal of Puri, and the lasting impression he left on India and his co-stars.

Leading tributes was the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose official twitter account tweeted: “The Prime Minister condoles the passing away of actor Om Puri & recalls his long career in theatre & films.”

The Big Bang Theory star Kunal Nayyar led a string of celebrity messages.

Panjabi starred alongside Puri in East Is East, which is where we begin our look back at the defining films and TV roles of his career.

East Is East

The role of Pakistani patriarch George Khan has defined British Asian cinema since its release in 1999. Puri took on his most challenging role to date, portraying a man who was both comedic light relief in one instance and a horrible domestic abuser the next. The sequel West Is West was released in 2010.

Ardh Satya

A breakthrough role, which actually followed Puri’s Ghandi performance, this 1983 Bollywood production saw the actor team up once again with director Govind Nihalani. Ardh Satya (translated as ‘Half Truth’) led to a number of awards for Puri, and the gritty cop drama is considered to be one of the greatest genre films made in India.

Om Puri (left) as conflicted police officer Sub-Inspector Anant Velankar | © Shemaroo Video Pvt. Ltd

White Teeth

Zadie Smith’s seminal novel unfolds over a series of short stories, and the TV adaptation, released in 2002, followed a similar path. The cast, including pre-Hollywood fame Naomie Harris and James McAvoy, reflect the multi-ethnic backgrounds of modern London. Om Puri and Phil Davis starred as two former soldiers who fought in the Second World War.

Om Puri in ‘White Teeth’ | © All3Media/Channel 4

Malamaal Weekly

A massive hit in India, this 2006 comedy showcases Puri’s ability to play an everyman for laughs. Starring as a hapless dairy farmer from a small village, Puri’s character Balu stumbles into a plot to fraudulently claim a large lottery prize. Critics might have turned their noses up at the film, but cinema-goers loved it.

Om Puri (left) as Balu | © Sahara One

The Hundred-Foot Journey

One of his last major English-language films this gentle British/French co-production, released in 2014, cast Puri as a widower who takes his family to France in an attempt to open up an Indian restaurant. He just so happens to find a spot opposite the unimpressed Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), but soon the pair find a mutual love of food that draws them together.

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