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


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