Normally book release events held at Five Star hotels where celebrities figure either as subjects or chief guests are followed by cocktails but at the release of UNLIKELY HERO the guests treated themselves to a drink preceding the launch (the function began at eight instead of 7.30 p.m. mentioned in the invite). Kamal hassan, the chief guest breezed in soon followed by Om Puri, his wife, the author and their young bespectacled son and took their seats on the dais. After the formal welcome Nandita Puri,( journalist and writer) speaking about the book said it was not a biography which went into encomiums about her husband’s talent in acting or the Awards he won but a very candid presentation of the man’s struggle during his early life and success thereafter. She dealt with all aspects of his personality including his weaknesses as well, she said.
Om Puri spoke about his humble beginnings, said he was a rag picker, coal picker to be exact from the railway tracks, took the coal home for his mother to cook food. He stayed with his maternal uncle as his School was situated in that village but soon found himself on the streets as his uncle threw him out. He refused to leave the school premises and told the head master that he would like to continue studying in the same school with the result the headmaster gave him a room to stay and asked him to give tuitions to the boys weak in studies. While studying in College he took up a few jobs (he switched quite a few he said) and chucked his job with the Government to act in plays which finally became his profession where he earned name and fame.
Talking about how he met Kamal hassan on the flight, he recalled writing a fan letter to him which failed to get a response. But we took an instant liking to each other from day one, he said. He is an actor who creates his own opportunities, does not wait for an opportunity, he added.
Om Puri concluded in a lighter vein saying he gave a glimpse of what the book contains “for the benefit of those who haven’t brought their wallets”
Kamal hassan said the instant liking was mutual and he admired the actor’s repertoire saying a day should come when great western actors should be compared to Om Puri instead of the other way round. He fondly said the pock marks on Om Puri’s nose reminded him of another brilliant actor, the late Nagesh.
A small section of the guests matched the formal ambience of The Park Sheraton but the Celebrities for whom the event was got up were very informal and down to earth in contrast.
n.meera raghavendra rao