Om Puri passed away this morning at the age of 66. Here’s leafing through Naseeruddin Shah’s autobiography, where he talks about one of his closest friends.
Excerpted from And Then One Day: Memoir by Naseeruddin Shah, Penguin Books India
And who should get cast in the main part but Om Puri, also a classmate, who had very quietly persevered in self-improvement through the time he had been at NSD.
Om Puri before delivering a Kabuki performance at NSD, New Delhi, 1975. Photo by ( and copyright of) Pablo Bartholomew.
Via FB. pic.twitter.com/ZTrOU4t8PL
— Raheel Khursheed (@Raheelk) January 6, 2017
When the play was performed Om, for once cast as a flamboyant warrior, was a revelation. I was stuck doing production duties for this play I would have killed to act in, and could only watch him in wonder and envy. Despite intensely coveting the role, it was difficult not to be thrilled at the level of performance he had achieved. Something told me I could NOT have done what he did. Om had always been a model, if somewhat stodgy, student and human being: completely virtuous, genuinely considerate, deeply compassionate, industrious, punctual, attentive, thoughtful; but had so far received attention because of his sweet temperament rather than for his acting. Now he had delivered a knockout performance, and I could see there was no magic formula responsible. He was so astoundingly good because, quite simply, he had gone for broke and expended every ounce of his energy in preparation.
Om continued to inspire me for a very long time. Even though I initially found his sincerity amusing and quite unnecessary—at complete variance with my own attitude—I finally began to see its virtues, and had to admit to myself that none of my own performances in the school productions could begin to approach Om’s achievement in Ibaragi.