The tragedy of Om Puri being remembered at Oscars but not in India

The country has never respected its artists.

 |  3-minute read |   04-03-2017
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Om Puri, it seems, chose a wrong moment to die, at least in India.

The 2017 Oscars ceremony, the world’s biggest stage for cinema, honoured the late Bollywood actor (as well as international thespian), who passed away recently. The 89th Academy Awards ceremony remembered the actor during the 'In Memoriam' montage. The segment paid tribute to other departed souls of the past year as well. And rightly so.

Being the versatile genius that he was, the highly acclaimed actor produced some memorable performances in British, Pakistani and Hollywood films such as City of Joy, Gandhi and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

However, it is in India that the actor did his most memorable work. Together with Naseeruddin Shah, Amrish Puri, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil, Puri formed the highly revered coterie of actors who inspired respect from everyone, ranging from commercial movies to off-beat ones, so much so that he began to be considered a staple for what was earlier referred to as “art films” which delivered hits like Ardh Satya (1982), Mirch Masala (1986), Bhavn iBhavai (1980), Sadgati (1981), and Dharavi (1992). He was awarded the National Film Award for Best Actor.

Ironically, India, doesn’t seem to bother about him. Bollywood’s award functions don’t have a word for him. This was enough for actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui to slam such award functions for not respecting the talent in their own country.

However, in my view this is nothing. Om Puri was subjected to far worse treatment when he was alive and much worse after his death. The actor was repeatedly termed "scum" and a "Pakistani dog" on Twitter after his death.

Ultranationalist scumbags trolled him, calling him anti-national, saying he deserved to die and had no right to live in India. The iconic figure of Indian cinema - one of the pillars of the parallel movement - was humiliated even in death.

On his trolling, Bollywood actor Swara Bhaskar said:

In reality, Om Puri, was one of the few alternative and rational voices left in Bollywood. His unconventional roles reflected his views on society and politics. When others preferred to toe the line, it was he who always stuck his neck out for his beliefs, not caring for the consequences.

He spoke his mind and boldly faced those who targeted him. In fact, Puri had been battling jingoist trolls in the last few months of his life, having been subjected to vitriolic comments on the internet by ultranationalist trolls; the same people he had entertained through his performances.

Also read: I tried to help Om Puri, the struggling man behind the actor

Writer

Muqbil Ahmar Muqbil Ahmar @muqbil_ahmar

The writer is a theatre activist, film critic and blogger who wants to bring harmony in society. Music, poetry and food are his passions.

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