WHEN a person of Om Puri’s stature takes centrestage and says something, people are bound to sit up and take notice. So, when he says that this“The country needs a benevolent dictator to set it right,” said the statement carries enough weight and reason for its utterance.
“Don’t get me wrong, but I feel India needs to earn its democratic status. Let there be a benevolent dictator, a fair and strong leader who can run this country and then, in 10-15 years, restore democracy,” said Puri.
While his thoughts did perturb those at Press Club who had invited Puri along with writer-producer Santosh Bartiya and city-based actor Amit Sharma of the film Hogaya Dimaag Ka Dahi for a ‘Ru Ba Ru’, Puri stuck to his stand unapologetically.
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“Gandhiji said, there is enough for everyone’ need, but not everyone’s greed. Look around you… our population is 120 crore, our poverty line is shameful, there is greed and corruption, and we are all becoming selfish, careless and irresponsible citizens who don’t deserve democracy. Compare yourself to the West… how they have resurrected and progressed in spite of World Wars, and then look inwards. It’s tragic how we’ve damaged ourselves,” Puri spoke with sharp insight and passion.
Puri felt that although films revolving around such subjects are being made, the lack of stars or large-scale promotion kills the effort. “Look at the recent ones… Jai Ho Democracy and Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho. Such brilliant satires and sharp commentary on the system, yet no takers, no audience. I pray my upcoming film doesn’t suffer the same fate,” said Puri, referring to Fauzia Arshi’s directorial debut Hogaya Dimaag Ka Dahi, which releases this October 16. An entertainer which will also see the comeback of legendary Kader Khan on screen after a decade, the film has been penned by journalist Bartiya and focuses on the youth gone astray. “It’s a very Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Sai Paranjpae kind of genre. I play Mirza Kishan Singh Joseph, a tough dictator kind of character whose bodyguard is a dog,” said Puri.
That he believes in taking risks and picking up a variety of themes to enact is evident in his body of work. Hogaya Dimaag Ka Dahi is no different. “Fauzia is such an accomplished woman… educated, writer, singer, painter, multi-tasker. I was immediately taken in by her attitude, personality and the story she narrated to me. Plus, she offered me a decent signing amount,” added Puri.
According to the veteran actor, there are two kinds of cinema – the one that ‘massages the brain and creates awareness’, and the other that entertains and brings a smile on everyone’s face. Hogaya belongs to the latter category, “for I feel humour and laughter are essential ingredient to handle life”, said Puri, refusing to make any more ‘political heavyweight comments’, especially on FTII.