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OM PURI:: Working In Hollywood

April 2004
OM PURI:: Working In Hollywood

OM PURI on working in Hollywood

As an impressive thespian with a wide range, Om Puri established his reputation in India years ago. Satyajit Ray, Govind Nihalani and Shyam Benegal are some of the renowned directors he has worked with. For many cinephiles in the West, Puri is also one of the better-known Indian actors to appear in American and British films. His Hollywood movies include City of Joy, Wolf, and The Ghost and the Darkness. Puri spoke to Khabar from his home in Mumbai.

When did you start appearing in Western films? When did you get your big break?

My very first Western film was The Jewel in the Crown in '82. Then came Deepa Mehta's Sam and Me. I had a very important sequence in Gandhi; in fact, that scene was shown when they were announcing the Oscars. The first big film, I'd say, was City of Joy. The film did not do that well at the box office, but it did get great reviews. Then I also appeared in Wolf and The Ghost and the Darkness.

Based on your experiences, do you think there is an appreciation of Indian stars and films in Hollywood?

Well, we didn't talk about that, but they were great to work with. I was treated like a professional and as an equal. I did not feel even an iota of discrimination. Patrick Swayze was a very emotional person, and we interacted a lot with him and became friends during the filming of City of Joy, and we became close friends. Wolf was also a great experience, although I did not have a big part. Jack Nicholson was very, very nice. I've also done a lot of British work. I did East is East and My Son the Fanatic, which were commercially successful. Then there was The Parole Officer, another film, and a substantial television work called White Teeth.

Is working in the British film industry very different from working in Hollywood?

I'd say that the British film industry is more culturally rooted. And, broadly speaking, their approach is more towards realism rather than fantasy. Of course, there are films made in America also that are based on reality. But generally speaking, I think there is a preference for fantasy in Hollywood. British cinema is more concerned with real issues and day-to-day lives. Also, in terms of the budget, these are smaller films.

Were there any specific challenges you faced as an Indian actor in Hollywood?

Not really. I've been a professional actor for a long time. Of course, when you are working with international stars, you're extra cautious and aware because you don't want to give the impression that Indian actors lack anything. I may be a little more relaxed when I'm working with Indian stars because they already know my work. When you are on a set abroad, you want to be fully prepared. But I'm well regarded and I've always delivered the goods. If anything, working in Hollywood is a refreshing change.

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