January 18, 2005
| Amrish Puri and Om Puri were
brothers by default. Of course more than half of India thought
they were real brothers.
Even respectable publications
and television channels have been saying so the past few days.
I have been taking condolence calls from Pakistan, Dubai and
even as far as Italy.
Yes, they did have certain facial
similarities. Both had booming voices. A similar built. Did
nearly similar roles at times.
Both were typical
Punjabis. And most importantly shared the same surname. And
after years of trying to rectify this misimpression, they
finally gave up. And said, “Yes, we are brothers.” And were
obviously proud of the fact.
This, in spite of the fact
that they were not even remotely related to each other.
Neither did they come from the same town. Whilst the senior
one came from Shimla, the younger one came from Patiala.
But they shared much more than sibling love — they
respected each other professionally. No wonder, I keep saying
that they were brothers not by blood, but by
And the late Amrish Puri enjoyed playing the
older brother role every bit. There were times when he would
admonish Om gently, every time the latter played some
practical joke on him or humoured him — and this would be
Om would often joke that since every one
thought they were brothers, he was entitled to a fair share of
the ancestral property.
“We’d better settle out of
court,” Om would often joke. “Oiye, kaminey. I will not give
you a penny. Do what you want.” The latter would keep up the
Not only did he play the role of the
patriarch to the hilt in his films (the last being in
Hulchul), he loved playing it in real life too. And his
personality helped him play the roles.
I remember an
incident years ago in Manali. We were there for the filming of
Maachis and Purisaab happened to be there for some other film.
There was this local chaat house, which served mouth-watering
Purisaab was keen to savour some and since
I used to frequent the place daily, I decided to take him and
Urmila bhabhi (his wife) there.
After having our fill,
I went and quietly paid up at the counter. Purisaab wiped his
hands and came to the counter and asked for the bill. The guy
smiled and gestured to me saying that I had taken care of it.
Purisaab thundered, “Who gave you the permission to
take money from her. Can’t you see I am around? How dare you?”
This time round Mogambo was truly upset.
“But…s..s..sir…,” the poor chaatwala stammered.
Purisaab would hear none of it. To my amusement he made the
frightened guy return my money and insisted on paying himself.
Later he turned around and warned me never to pay in his
presence. “I am the head of the family,” he would say
After that whenever I would go to the chaat
house, the poor guy would first look around, make sure that
Amrish Puri was nowhere around and then charge me!
Once actress Mita Vashist called me in the afternoon
asking for Purisaab’s number. “I have to thank him. He is so
thoughtful. He left a message on my answering machine, wishing
us on our anniversary,” she mumbled something to that effect.
When she called to thank Amrish Puri, he was totally
unaware as to what she was talking about. But he suddenly
said, “Oiye. It must be that kamina Om.” When Mita replayed
the message for me, I could not tell the difference. The
impersonation was so good.
These and other such
incidents keep flooding my mind. And these are the happy
memories of Amrish Puri that I would like to keep. Ever
concerned, ever thoughtful, ever present. In every occasion —
happy or sad.
The last time I met him was at the
premiere of Veer-Zara. In his customary hat. Much frailer
though. But the commanding presence was obviously felt. It is
going to take a while
to get over this.