Om Puri’s Contribution to Theatre

754 Views

For his contributions to Indian cinema and theatre, Om Puri was conferred the 4th highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri, which was presented by the Indian Government in 1990. Furthermore, for his services to the British Film Industry through art films and crossover films, he was conferred the title of Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

om_puri_in_his_first_movie__kashiram_ghotwal

For his contributions to Indian cinema and theatre, Om Puri was conferred the 4th highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri, which was presented by the Indian Government in 1990. Furthermore, for his services to the British Film Industry through art films and crossover films, he was conferred the title of Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Invaluable contribution to theatre

Om Puri has always been associated with theatre. He started performing as early as 1966, when he was 16 years old and was part of a theatre group called Punjab Kala Manch. He began acting in the theatre group under the tutelage of Harpal Tiwana, who was a graduate from the National School of Drama. Before joining the NSD in 1970, Om Puri was a part of many plays with Harpal Tiwana, like The Father, Oedipus Rex, The Misunderstanding, and many other Punjabi plays. In the later part of his life, after he gained stardom, Om Puri, along with Gurdas Mann proposed to the then Chief Minister of Punjab to build a theatre in honour of his teacher. A year hence, the Harpal Tiwana Centre for Performing Arts was established and is today, one of the best theatres in Punjab.

early_picture_of_om_puri__shabana_azmi__and_naseeruddin_shah

After he graduated from the NSD, Om Puri formed the theatre group, Najma. From the late 1970 to the late 1980, Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah, together as a part of Najma, staged many plays. Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah were seen together in plays like Zoo Story and Waiting For Godot. Najma also staged a play (Govind Deshpande’s Udhvastha Dharamshala) in Prithvi Theatre on the evening that it was inaugurated. Om Puri also acted in the Marathi play Ghashiram Kotwal, which was later made into a movie. The movie was also marked in history as the first film in which Om Puri acted. According to Om Puri, some of the best plays in which he has acted are Anton Chekov’s Three Sisters, a Hindi adoption of a Kabuki play called Ibaraki, and one of his most famous and successful plays till date, Bichhoo.

Om Puri was a pioneering theatre artist who opened the doors of mainstream cinema to many talented artistes who followed in his footsteps. Satish Kaushik, who has known Om Puri for more than four decades, says that if it wasn’t for Om Puri, theatre actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Divya Dutta would never have had the chance of making it big in mainstream cinema. Om Puri paved the bridge that exists between the mainstream cinema and theatre today. It is because of his contribution and the contribution of select other celebrated artists that the theatre industry thrives the way it does.

As a part of his immense contribution to the theatre, from time to time, he holds workshops in various drama schools. He interacts with young and aspiring theatre artists, and gives them valuable insight through experience. Very recently, he was at the Madhya Pradesh School of Drama (MPSD) where he conducted a workshop for aspiring artists. Being the realist that he is, he even went on to advise the aspiring artists that they should not pursue theatre as their full-time jobs because it can prove to be financially challenging. Om Puri was quoted saying, “as Sanskrit is the mother of all languages, theatre is the mother of all art forms”. He furthered his belief in the theatrical arts saying, “Theatre is the mother of all art forms and language has nothing to do with good performance”. He proved his point by doing a play in Punjabi, Teri Amrita, which starred Divya Dutta as well.