The legendary director Steven Spielberg
once said, “Amrish is my favorite villain. The best the world has ever produced and ever will!”. Such was the level of the Mogambo of India. An Indian film and theater actor, Amrish Puri was one of India's most iconic stars, mostly remembered for portraying Mogambo in Mr. India
, Bhujang in Tridev, Barrister Chadda in Damini
, Thakur Durjan Singh in Karan Arjun
, King Raja in Koyla
, Chaudhry Baldev Singh in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge
, Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Mayor Ashraf Ali in Gadar: Ek Prem Katha
. In a career ranging from 1967 to 2005, Amrish Puri acted in almost 400 movies, winning several Filmfare and other awards. In January 2005, after an illustrious career, the actor passed away, in Mumbai due to cerebral hemorrhage resulting from complications of myelodysplastic syndrome. In 2006, the legendary actor's posthumous autobiography, The Act of Life – An Autobiography by Amrish Puri with Jyoti Sabharwal was released.
Born in Jalandhar, Punjab to Lala Nihal Chand Puri and Ved Kaur, Amrish Puri was the younger brother of late actors Chaman Puri and Madan Puri. He also had two younger siblings Chandrakanta, and Harish Puri. After graduating from B.M College, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, Puri moved to the then Bombay to try his luck in the world of glamor. He started his career with theater and frequently performed at the Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai. In 1979, he won the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, which is the highest form of Indian recognition given to practicing artists.
Amrish Puri tied the knot with Urmila Divekar in 1959 in the Shri Krishna Temple in Wadala. He is survived by two children: daughter, Namrata, and son, Rajiv. In his autobiography, Puri said it was love at first sight with Urmila, but it took him 6 months to get her to talk to him. They married four years later.
After failing a screen test for a lead role in 1954, Amrish Puri through the 1970s worked in movies like Reshma Aur Shera (1971), Hindustan ki Kasam (1973), Nishant (1975), and Jaani Dushman (1979). He was first noticed as Vir Pratap Singh, the main antagonist, in the blockbuster movie Hum Paanch. Starring an ensemble cast comprising of Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi
, Mithun Chakraborty
, Naseeruddin Shah
, Raj Babbar
, Gulshan Grover
and Amrish Puri, the movie was loosely based on Mahabharata.
Subsequently, Amrish Puri established himself as the most sought after villain in the Bollywood industry. He gave commendable performances in films such as Naseeb
(1981), Vidhaata (1982), Shakti (1982), Ardh Satya (1983), Coolie
(1983), and Meri Jung
(1985), for which he won his first Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 1987, Amrish Puri gave his most memorable performance in Shekhar Kapur
's Mr. India
, the one which defined his entire career, giving him the title of the Mogambo of India. His dialogue “Mogambo Khush Hua” is till date one of the most famous quotes in Bollywood and his character is considered to be one of the best villains in the history of Indian cinema.
Amidst working in Bollywood films, Puri also made his Hollywood debut with Richard Attenborough's biographical film Gandhi (1982). He then starred in Steven Spielberg
's adventure film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, as the main villain Mola Ram. For his role, he had to shave his head and such was the impact of the character, that Amrish Puri decided to keep the bald look for the rest of his life. The movie along with Puri starred Harrison Ford
and Kate Capshaw in the lead. Although he was known for playing negative characters, he was described by co-star Harrison Ford as “one of the nicest and kindest actors he had ever worked with”.
His unique baritone voice and towering personality made him different from many of his contemporaries like Dalip Tahil
, Anupam Kher
, and Kulbhushan Kharbanda
. Amrish Puri gave many hits even in the 90s and continued his successful reign. In 1992, he featured alongside Rajit Kapur
and Neena Gupta
in Shyam Benegal
's drama film Suraj Ka Satva Ghoda
. The movie was screened at the Sydney Film Festival and Singapore International Film Festival and Amrish Puri won the Best Actor Award at both of them. In 1995, Puri gave two super hit performances- First in Rakesh Roshan
's action drama film Karan Arjun
and the second in Aditya Chopra
's directorial debut Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge
, in which he played a supporting character. For both these films, Amrish Puri received Filmfare nominations.
He then starred in movies like Damini
(1997), China Gate (1998), Chachi 420
(1999), and Baadshah
(1999). For Rajkumar Santoshi
's Ghatak and Priyadarshan
, Amrish Puri bagged the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award.
In the 2000s, his most memorable portrayals include Mayor Ashraf Ali in Gadar: Ek Prem Katha
, Chief Minister Balraj Chauhan in Nayak: the Real Hero
, Chief Minister Bhandarker in Dev, and Mr.Ranjit Roy in Aitraaz.