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The Act of Life by Amrish Puri

By: Praveen Lance Fernandes, IndiaFM
Monday, August 14, 2006
The Legend - The Marvel - The Vicious - The force that raised the blood pressure of every good guy and the vigor that made every child shiver down his spine. Turn on the television and you are bound to see a film with Amrish Puri in it at any point of time and it's still a bit difficult to digest that he is not amongst us anymore. This book makes up for his loss and brings back someone who has left for the heavenly abode and is amongst some of his contemporaries like Jeevan and Amjad Khan.

It took me about a month to get my hands on this book. For some reasons the Publishers restricted the sale of the book to just one bookstore across Mumbai.

The Act of Life - an autobiography written by the most feared person on Indian celluloid came to life about a couple of months ago but thanks to inadequate hype, the book might have gone unnoticed.

The book begins with Jyoti Sabharwal giving an account of her experience while working with Amrish Puri before and during the authoring of this book.

The book is broadly divided into three chapters. The first aptly titled 'Stage of Struggle'. Amrish Puri gives an account of his years of growing up in Delhi, his college life, his affiliation towards student politics and finally his affair with theatre. He goes into detail about his family which included his father, mother, 2 elder and 1 younger brother and 1 elder sister. His long stint with theatre is probably the best part of the chapter where he talks about the plays that he had done and what he did in order to prepare for the various roles. His relation with his friends in theatre including Satyadev Dubey and Girish Karnad is also put in detail. Here he also speaks about how an actor in theatre is far better than one from films because of their dedication towards the art.

The second chapter 'Act of Showbiz' speaks about his entry into films at the late age of 40. Hard to believe - Yes! This chapter is probably the highlight of the book where he talks about his struggle in getting a foothold in films, giving up the hope of becoming a leading man and his experiences with some of the best filmmakers which includes Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Subhash Ghai, Steven Spielberg, Richard Attenborough, etc.

The third chapter is the 'Act of Survival' where Amrish talks about the various incidents he had had on the sets and how he survived in the industry. He speaks about some of his memorable roles including the one on the vicious Hitler like character Mogambo in the film Mr. India (his name inspired from the 1953 Clark Gable movie Mogambo). Also he makes comparisons between stars of yesteryears and of today on how unprofessional and incompetent some of the latter are.

This book proves to be very comprehensive about even little details about his life. Puri has spoken about his family in detail. His love for his parents, the difference in character between his brothers Chaman Puri and Madan Puri, his office life and his courtship with his wife before their marriage is also written about.

Amusing (though not deliberate) comparisons are made between Dilip Kumar and Raj Kumar where the former was apologetic when accidentally hitting him during a shoot while the latter did not even acknowledge his mistake when a similar thing happened. Also the known difference between Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha during the shoot of Dostana was given a mention where he spoke of Bachchan's punctuality and Sinha's lateness on reaching the sets.

The 400 pages of this book keep this immortal villain alive in our hearts and prove to be a trip down the Bollywood memory lane where he also speaks about some forgotten artists like Om Shivpuri and Shreeram Lagoo.

A special mention to editor Jyoti Sabharwal who has done a fine job in shaping up the book.

It is indeed really sad that Amrish Puri didn't live to see the day his book got released. Armed with some really good photographs, this book could have been one collector's item. But alas! With indefinite promotion and marketing, this book might just go unnoticed.

But on the whole, a riveting account of a man who lived and died doing what he really loved is summed up in this exceptional hardback.

Rating: *** '

Publisher: Stellar Publications
Price: Rs. 595
Available at: Oxford Bookstore, Mumbai

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