At age 7, young Om Puri started his career working at a dhaba near Patiala
One of India’s finest actors Om Puri, who passed away on Thursday, struggled to overcome the poverty of his early days.
Not much is known about his father who worked in Indian Army and Indian Railways at a low-paying job. As the family went around the country and could not afford to raise him, the responsibility fell on his maternal uncle who ran a dhaba at a village, Sanaur, near Patiala.
Om Puri’s first work was doing odd jobs at this Dhaba. He also collected coal along the railway tracks to supplement the family income.
He was determined to study and passed out of a local government school and joined the evening course in Arts at Khalsa college, where he was to find the first turn of his illustrious career.
A noted actor and director Harpal Tiwana, who had been invited to judge a talent fest, was awestruck by Om Puri’s performance in a Punjabi play and invited him to join his theatre group, Punjab Kala Manch.
But Om Puri rejected the offer as he used to work as a lab assistant at college at Rs 100 per month, and didn’t want to lose that money.
But Harpal Tiwana was so keen to have Om Puri, he offered him a salary of Rs 150 per month, reports The Hindustan Times quoting his wife Neena Tiwana.
But money matters continued to dog him.
Om Puri had told Rediff that he joined Pune film institute after an industrialist friend of an acquaintance promised a monthly stipend of Rs 300 a month on the condition that it would be returned.
A month after joining the institute, the industrialist failed to keep his word and left Om Puri stranded. It was Girish Karnad, the director of the institute, who helped him out by getting him a role in a B V Karanth movie Chor Chor Chup Ja, which paid him Rs 3,000.
After passing out of the institute Om Puri’s struggle continued for a few years till Ardh Satya happened in 1984.
Though it got him all the material trappings of success, he never became rich by Bollywood standards.
In an interview with News 18 last year he had said he had never received a cheque of crore for acting in a film and was willing to act for as little as Rs 15 to 20 lakh, less than what newbie actors charge in Bollywood.