By Subhash K. Jha IndiFM
Strange are the ways of filmdom. Om Puri who is eight years younger to Big B was cast as the superstar's elder brother in Ravi Chopra's Baabul. "The role was to be played by Amrish Puri Saab," explains Om with a laugh. "Amrishji was gone. I think he'd have been a far more appropriate choice for the role. But it's ok. People in any case, believe Amrishji and I are brothers. I still get condolences for his death."
The super-prolific Om has decided to cut down on his work-load. "Enough is enough. I've slogged for thirty years. I've accumulated a decent bank balance (though it may not be decent by Bollywood standards). I've done roles for fun and for job satisfaction. Now I need to take it easy. I keep turning down offers. I need a break. ."
Om will be seen shortly in a very unusual English-language film titled The Hangman directed by debutant Vishal Bhandari. "It's about the turmoil of a hang-man. It's a somber film about a man who doesn't want his son to be a hang-man. My son finally ends up in the gallows. We all know how tough it was for them to find a hangman for the recent execution of that boy for rape and murder in Kolkata. My character portrays the stress and drama of being in the most thankless job on this earth. It's not an entertaining film by any means. So I don"t know how it will be released. But it"s a very powerful film."
For now Om has decided to take a break. He's very excited about Mani Shankar's Mukhbiir. "It's a very realistic espionage drama. Mani has gone into an aspect of the government's secret service that hasn't been tackled before. It shows how the government recruits, uses and discards young informers. It's almost like the underworld which employs desperate youngsters and bumps them off at will. I play a ruthless hardcore professional who's almost a father-figure for the informer played by Sammir Dattani."
Om gets nostalgic about his pal Naseeruddin Shah. "He directed a film last year. I've no such plans. I'm happy with my lot in life. It's just three of us. My son, wife and I. Our expenses are meager. My wife does like to indulge herself a bit. I had taken her along to Vancouver where I was shooting last month.
Om worries about his son who's just 10. "I've a little son. He needs careful nurturing. I can't just sit back and relax. Naseer's children are grown up. His responsibilities are over. And besides he has earned a lot more than me. I've been paid peanuts for my efforts. I was paid a mere 7 lakh rupees for playing one of the central characters and working four months non-stop in Raj Kumar Santoshi's China Gate. I'm sure Naseer must've got five times more money for the same film. Surely big filmmakers like Santoshi Saab should be more cautious of my worth. But I've no complaints. I just want to take the next two months off. I may return to theatre, or do a small but meaningful film that gives me satisfaction as an actor. The Hangman and Mukhbiir are such films."