Om Puri is an Indian actor, who has appeared in both mainstream Indian Cinema films as well as art films. His credits also include appearances in British and American films. He has also received an honorary OBE.
Puri was born in Ambala, and spent the early part of his life in Sanaur, Punjab, India. He graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India. He is also an alumnus of the 1973 batch of National School of Drama where Naseeruddin Shah was a co-student.
Puri has worked in numerous Indian films and also in many films produced in the United Kingdom and the United States. He made his film debut in the 1976 film Ghashiram Kotwal, a film based on a Marathi play of the same name. He has collaborated in many films with Amrish Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil in art films such as Bhavani Bhavai (1980), Sadgati (1981), Ardh Satya (1982), Mirch Masala (1986) and Dharavi (1992).
In the 1980s Puri also made two highly successful Punjabi films called Chan Pardesi (1980) and Long Da Lishkara (1986). After nineteen years, Puri returned to Punjabi cinema with the film Baghi (2005). He starred in another Punjabi film, Gurdas Mann’s Yaariyan in 2008. He was critically acclaimed for his performances in many unconventional roles such as a victimized tribal in Aakrosh (1980) (a film in which he did not speak even a single line of dialogue), Jimmy’s manager in Disco Dancer (1982), a police inspector in Ardh Satya (1982), where he revolts against the life-long social, cultural and political persecution. For this film, he got the National Film Award for Best Actor.
In the mid 1990s, Puri diversified to play character roles in mainstream Hindi cinema, where his roles are more tuned to mass audiences than film critics. He also became known internationally for starring in many British films such as My Son the Fanatic (1997), East is East (1999) and The Parole Officer (2001). He also appeared in Hollywood films including City of Joy (1992), opposite Patrick Swayze; Wolf (1994) alongside Jack Nicholson and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) opposite Val Kilmer.
Puri also had a cameo in the internationally acclaimed film Gandhi (1982, directed by Richard Attenborough), based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi. In 2005 he starred in the film, The Hangman. In 2007, he appeared as General Zia-Ul-Haq in Charlie Wilson’s War, which starred Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
He has also worked in Hindi TV serials like Kakkaji Kaheen (1988) (roughly meaning “Uncle Says”) as a pan-chewing ‘Kakkaji’, which was a parody on the politicians and in Mr. Yogi (1989) as a suave ‘Sutradhaar’ who enjoys pulling the protagonist’s leg. These two shows underlined Om Puri’s versatility as a comedian. He has also competently essayed comic roles with equal brilliance in Hindi films like Chachi 420 (1997), Hera Pheri (2000), Chor Machaye Shor (2002) and Malamaal Weekly (2006).