Pakistani audience must patronize their cinema”: Om Puri
There is no denying that Bollywood actor Om Puri has long been a force to reckon with. Though known more for his work in parallel cinema and crossover films likeEast is East and One Hundred Foot Journey, the veteran actor has always managed to play his role in a commercial Bollywood film with equal panache. With over four decades of experience in television, theatre and film and having made it to Hollywood, the actor recently crossed borders for his Pakistani film debut in Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza’s Actor In Law. The film released this Eidul Azha alongside two other local films and so far is reigning the local box office with great response from audiences and critics alike.
HIP caught up with the actor on his experience working in the film and in Pakistan while he is busy with promoting the film across the country and internationally:
HIP: How were you approached for Actor In Law?
Om Puri: Fizza [producer] and Nabeel [director] sent me the synopsis first and then the script; and I thought that it was absolutely fantastic. It’s a very human film; it deals with human emotions. It’s been shot in a very casual and warm manner. And it says it all – the film also narrates how using the means of peace can do so much for people. The team has treated me very well and I had a great experience working here.
And I would also like to mention that the love and affection that Pakistanis on a whole have showered me with has been very overwhelming. I don’t know where to start and where to end, I’ve had such cherish-worthy encounters and I feel that I’m at ease here.
HIP: How was your experience working alongside co-stars Fahad Mustafa and Mehwish Hayat?
OP: I think Fahad is a wonderful actor and I can tell that he will grow by the day. I for one like actors who are versatile and I see the potential in Fahad to be able to do justice to any sort of character. For instance, he played the legendary poet, Mir Taqi Mir in his biopic. So his goal is not to become a superstar, but also continuously polish his skill. He’s got a great sense of humor, he’s a brilliant dancer and he also performed the emotional scenes very well.
Mehwish will be seen playing a major role in a feature film after two small parts previously. And I’m sure that you’ll really be surprised. She’s playing a Parsi woman and she has done a phenomenal job in carrying a very authentic accent, which doesn’t create a caricature of the minority.
HIP: What made you do a film in an industry that has just taken off, and also given the political instability between both the countries?
OP: I am willing to go anywhere in the world as long as I am getting a chance to work on scripts that are worthwhile. I wouldn’t mind working in Pakistan again either. I’ve extensively worked in the West; roughly about 20 films including major roles in British films. And even though I’ve had cameos in many of the American films that I’ve done, I worked with the likes of such accomplished actors. According to me, art has no borders or restrictions.
HIP: Having been a part of the Indian film industry since a long time, what do you think can be our next step forward?
OP: I see almost every Indian film playing in Pakistani theatres and I want your [Pakistani] films to showcase there [in India] too. We don’t have a language barrier; people in India can very well understand Urdu. And since India has a huge population, you [Pakistani films] will be able to have a bigger audience and eventually grow global. I think Pakistani filmmakers must make an effort to release their films in India.
With that not only will the market widen, but Pakistani film industry will also be able to raise the budget of their films. Movies on a larger canvas can be made; such as period/historical films, to action-epic extravagance; just simply diversify and try out new genres.
I also think that the Pakistani audience must patronize their cinema. Even if a few Pakistani productions are not entertaining or are not up to the mark; people must encourage the fraternity. Mainly because I feel that you [Pakistan] have impeccable talent – very rich literature, poets, musicians, actors – and I feel that Pakistan’s art lacks nothing at all.
HIP: You were also spotted on the sets of an untitled joint venture that stars Pakistani actors Sami Khan and Yasir Hussain. Can you tell us a bit more about that film?
OP: The makers had requested me to shoot only for one day, which I agreed to. It’s been written by a very fine Indian writer, Javed Siddiqui. However, I cannot sign any film, let alone this one, before I thoroughly go through the script, which I quite honestly haven’t been able to as of yet.