B.H.Harsh wrote on 11 Aug 2008
Amrish Puri was born on June 22, 1932. He belonged to a middle class family from Newanshehar district near Jalandhar. Amrish was 4 of the 5 siblings to his parents. He finished his college at B. M. College in Shimla. After his college, he came to Bombay with less than 100 rupees in his pocket to become a film hero.
Amrish Puri failed in his first screen test, and had to resort to a job with the ministry of labour. Meanwhile, he began acting in the plays done at Prthivi Theatres written by Satyadev Dubey. This work at theatre got him noticed by some film makers and fetched him a few roles in films. Amrish Puri was noticed by Sunil Dutt, and he approached him to play a small role in his next film Reshma Aur Shera (1972). However, Amrish Puri’s first released film was Prem Pujari (1971). He also got a few secondary roles in the parallel films made by Shyam Benegal in the 70s like Nishant (1975), Manthan (1976), and Bhumika (1977).
Amrish Puri came into limelight in 1980. Aakrosh, Dostana and Qurbani had him in villain roles, and all were popular films that year. Amrish Puri thus became a popular name for villainous roles.
Amrish Puri succeeded in maintaining a balance between mainstream and parallel cinema. He had negative roles in Shakti (1982) and Hero (1983). Some of his other known roles were in Ardh Satya (1983), Mashaal (1984), Meri Jung (1985), Nagina (1986) and Jaanbaaz (1986). He also played a major role in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
But the turning point in Amrish Puri’s career was Mr. India (1987), where he played the role of Mogambo. The character became a cult figure, and Amrish Puri became a legendary figure in Hindi cinema. Although Amrish Puri also played a few positive roles, he excelled at villainous roles. His other memorable turn ups were in films like Shahenshah (1988), Ram Lakhan (1989) and Kishen Kanhaiyya (1990). Then came Ghayal (1990), which re-iterated the fact that when it came to playing Villains, there was no one like Amrish Puri.
But in the 90s, Amrish Puri also played some character roles with ease like Phool Aur Kaante (1991), Gardish (1993), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Ghatak (1996) and Virasat (1997). And he was at his best with films like Karan Arjun (1995), Kaala Pani (1996), and Koyla (1997). However, his performance in Shyam Benegal’s Suraj Ka Saatwan Ghoda (1994) was probably his best ever. He got appreciation at various film festivals all over the world. Year 1999 had him in two positive roles in Taal and Thakshak. Although there were new contenders popping up to replace him, Amrish Puri still was the hot favourite for out and out villain roles. 2001 proved to be a major year for the ageing Amrish Puri when his performances in Zubeidaa, Gadar and Nayak were acclaimed by all and only proved his versitality.
After 2001, there were very few memorable roles which came Puri’s way like The Hero (2003) and Dev (2004). But his charm remained intact. Amrish Puri died on Jan 12, 2005 due to brain haemorrhage, and then came to an end an entire era of Indian cinema, the era of Amrish Puri’s evil on screen. Amrish Puri won Fimafare Award for Best supporting actor on 3 occasions – Meri Jung (1985), Ghatak (1996), and Virasat (1997).
He also won the Maharshtra Gaurav Puraskar in 1991. Famous actor Madan Puri was his elder brother. He had a collection of over 200 hats, which he had collected from different parts of the world.