Om Puri against anti-Pakistan Bollywood films
LAHORE: Indian film actor Om Puri on Wednesday denounced the onslaught of propaganda films on both sides of the border, especially in India, which insult Indian and Pakistani sentiments, and said he would never consider acting in such films.
He disliked the stereotypes of Muslims around the world and thought of Naseeruddin Shah and Anjum Rajab Ali as defying these notions, he further added.
Indian actors Om Puri and Divya Dutta were replying to various queries during a press conference organised by Barfi Theatre in collaboration with the University of Lahore at a local hotel to promote their play ‘Teri Amrita’.
Before taking questions from media persons, Om Puri said it had been a joy for him and his wife to wake up this morning to the sound of birds in Lahore. The actor recited a poem in Punjabi that he had written to express his sentiments while crossing the Wagah border on foot the other day.
Divya Dutta – who has acted in Bollywood including ‘Train to Pakistan’, ‘Veer Zara’ and ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ – said that she was honoured to perform the play to Pakistani audiences. The Indian Punjabi actress said that her mother was originally from Karachi and was moved to tears when she brought her to the city, shortly after Veer Zara was released in India. She said that the Pakistani people had lived up to her expectations in warmth and hospitality.
When informed by a reporter that Indian channels, including Star Plus and Zee TV, were watched avidly in Pakistan, whereas Pakistani channels were not streamed on Indian TV, Om Puri expressed his disappointment with the lack of reciprocation. “I would like to tell my government that this is not how we should respond to such gestures of goodwill from Pakistan,” he stated.
Drawing from his memory, the actor recounted a personal anecdote of his experience shooting a film in England. Puri, while shooting a Bollywood film, had stayed in an apartment in Holland Park, London where there were few desi restaurants. Upon his son’s insistence, he travelled to Southall looking for desi food. He finally arrived at a Pakistani restaurant, where the owners provided him with delicious ladyfinger free of cost.
“I had similar experiences in Karachi, while interacting with everyone from hotel managers to waiters and police officers. I don’t know where this enmity is coming from? May Prabhu and Allah grant us all good life,” remarked Om Puri.
On a question concerning the lack of Pakistani films screened at theatres in India, Om Puri said that it was up to the Indian distributors to decide which films would be commercially viable and profitable for them. He also added that Geo’s productions Bol and Khuda Kay Liye were a big hit with Indian audiences.
Om Puri fondly recalled playing General Ziaul Haq for Hollywood director Mike Nichol’s ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ and said while he did not wish to imitate the general, he was aware of his speech, the partition in his hair and his sole gold tooth as he was preparing for the role.
Last question of the press conference focused on the declining status of Indian parallel cinema.Om Puri acknowledged this, saying that the films currently being made in India were far from politically engaging and hard-hitting in their scripts and themes. “A softer version is being projected on screens,” he further remarked.