UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH OM PURI

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MAHEEN GHANI TASEER SPEAKS WITH THE LEGEND HIMSELF ABOUT HIS TRIP TO LAHORE, MALALA YOUSAFZAI AND THE TIME HE FELL INTO A WELL

What brings you to Lahore?
This is my first trip to Lahore. I am here to perform in a play called Teri Amrita, along with another Indian film actress, DivyaDutta. I stayed at the Avari Hotel, recommended by an old fried, which has been a fantastic stay. What I love most about Lahore are the domestic sparrows. It’s an alien concept, considering where I hail from. I love how there are birds everywhere here and it’s very nice.
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 How do you prepare for a role?
The parameter is the script. You read it like you are reading a book. You look at the character, not just a particular slice of his life, but try and imagine the rest of his life. It helps you subconsciously. See the history of the man, his responses and reactions to things, how he lives his life, his hardships, his background. You build the character in your mind. I divide a role/character into three parts. So first, I mentally research the character and his experiences in life. Second, I evaluate his emotional side and how sensitive he is or isn’t and how he deals with human relationships. Third comes the physical aspect. For example I did a movie once, Susman, in which I played a weaver. So I had to learn weaving. For Arsatya, I had to learn how to ride a motorbike and ride it in a way that I have been doing it for many years. Suppose you are playing a pan wala, you have to make the pan on screen in a way that it looks real. That’s the physical aspect. You have to know the little details, like the fact that he will chat to you while he is making the pan.
How many languages do you speak?
Punjabi is my mother tongue. But I can speak Hindi, Hindustani-Urdu and Hindi-mixed. I speak a bit of Bengali too.
What did you miss most about home while living in England?
I missed Desi food. My son once asked me for bhindi and off we marched to South Hall. The world is full of Pakistanis and Indians. That’s the beauty of it all.
You have worked with some big directors. Who did you find the most challenging?
Most of my good work happened with Shyam Benegal and Govinda Nihalani And in a way, both are my mentors.Can you recall any behind the screens blunders?
Small things always happen. Once while filming a documentary, the camera was facing at a tractor, and there were some youngsters who climbed on to the truck. We told them they were in the shot and had to leave, but they wouldn’t listen. So the next day when they came, we just packed our bags and ran. Once, I even fell in a well. People often think I am Amrish Puri’s brother. We are not related!

What are your thoughts on current India-Pakistan relations?
We all have to die one day, whether it is in a bomb blast or due to some illness. What is important is to understand is that those trying to pull us apart are not strong enough. We must all be determined so stand up for what is right. We are the same people. I wish people would realize that.

What is your take on Lollywood? Do you watch Pakistani TV shows or films?
I really enjoyed Bol and Khuda Kay Liye, and Tanhaiyaan and Dhoop Kinaray.

What’s next for you?
I am playing the character of General Kiyani in a biopic on Malala Yousafzai. She’s a brave girl and I appreciated the former Chief of Army Staff’s gesture to reward her. So, the role is based on what Kiyani did in real life. Kiyani Saab’s essence is captured. I enjoy working in films that are socially relevant. It gives me immense pleasure, even if I don’t always get much money for it. I am always prepared to work in a good film. For those, I don’t ask for my commercial price. Dhoop, for example, was very close to my heart. I did it for peanuts.

 

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