Some actors are etched in our memories forever because of the characters they play. One such gem in Bollywood was the ace actor, Amrish Puri. Amrish Puri worked in the film industry for more than 3 decades and acted in more than 500 films.
For some people, he is the Babuji from Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and for some, he will be the bad guy Mogambo from Mr India. The late actor played every character with dedication and honesty. Koimoi spoke to Amrish Puri’s grandson Vardhan Puri and we asked him 5 unknown things about his grandfather’s iconic characters. From DDLJ to Virasat, Vardhan shared with us some interesting and amazing facts about the Shakti actor’s Bollywood journey.
Read all the facts Vardhan Puri shared about his late grandfather below:
1. I’ll start with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. My grandfather had based the characterisation on my great grandfather, Nihalchand Puri. It was something very close to his heart. It was a role which was written with my grandfather in mind. I remember Aditya Chopra would come home for narration without having any script in the hand. Post the narration, Aditya Chopra said that Amrish Ji if you say yes to this film then only I’ll making otherwise, I’ll not make it. My grandfather told him that this is by far the best narration he’d ever heard and he’ll definitely do the film. My grandfather told Aditya Chopra that I would like to base this character on his father Nihalchand Puri and he showed his pictures and imitated his way of speaking. Aditya Chopra said this is bang on and let’s play on it.
2. In Virasat, the role of Raja Thakur was originally to be played by Dilip Kumar Sahab. But incidentally, when they went to Dilip Sahab, he told the makers that ‘I have a feeling Amrish Puri will be the best person to play this. He is made for the role’. That’s when the producers got convinced by directors. They said that Priyan ji, Amrish ji is the only person who can play this role and even Dilip Sahab was right. Even his character in Virasat had some shades of my great grandfather. That was a role very close to my grandfather and he always said that was one of the favourite performances of myself.
3. For Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Steven Spielberg auditioning actors from around the world to find his Molaram, who was the villain. They couldn’t find anyone who would be right to play it. Then, one of his casting directors suggested Amrish Puri’s name. He called my grandfather that he would love to test you for this. My grandfather was doing so much work at that time that he wasn’t able to go anywhere to audition outside of the country. He was doing 2-3 shifts a day. For the first time in the history of any film of this magnitude and scale, the whole team came to Mumbai and audition him. They finished the audition and locked him right there for the character. That’s how the film actually got signed. Steven Spielberg had spoken to my grandfather post that and he had written a letter which is quite popular. In the letter, he wrote that ‘Mr Amrish Puri will always be the greatest villain in the world and nothing can change that’. He also told my grandfather that he is only the person for whom he flew to another country to audition. That’s how he badly needed him in the film and no one else could’ve played the character.
4. My grandfather has so much respect for his mentors like Satyadev Dubey, Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal and Girish Karnad that even he became a superstar, he always continued charging them exactly what he used to charge when he was a nobody and when they had given him work. When they had asked him to quote his price once he became very successful, he said that I want you to pay me exactly what you used to pay me earlier because nothing’s changed. That is something they always remember.
5. Mr India was also a film that my grandfather wasn’t the first choice for due to his high market price. The producers had cast Mr Anupam Kher in the film. Later on, they realised they want my grandfather Mr Amrish Puri. They went to him and said that they have finished shooting the majority of the film and they have not shot for Mogambo. They told him that we know only you can do this and can you please be a part of it. My grandfather agreed and that time, Shekhar Kapur said he was always convinced that Amrish Puri was correct for the part. But due to his market price, the makers were not sure if they could get him on board due to the budget. Finally, 40 days at a stretch, they shot at RK Studios in Chembur. I met Shekhar Kapur recently and he said that Mr Amrish Puri is the reason why Mr India is Mr India. You take him out of the puzzle and it will fall flat.