It’s been 50 years since people have been enjoying pakoda platter, keema parartha and pudina chai at Cafe Samovar in Jehangir Art Gallery. Artists, students, lovers and officers all have gone to this place with a view to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and none has come back disappointed. At Cafe Samovar, poets found their poetry and lovers their love.
But soon it’s all going to be a thing of the past. Some fond memories and a coffee table book will be the only thing left of the cafe after this month.
The cafe which is being shut to allow the expansion of Jehangir Art Gallery next to it, was opened in 1964 by Usha Khanna to create a peaceful space in Mumbai for artists to meet patrons.
Khanna said she started Samovar to address the pressing questions of life in Mumbai, ” Where would artists meet their patrons? Where would poets sit and write without being disturbed? Where would young homesick executives get their ‘home food'”
Christened ‘Samovor’ by the legendry actor Balraj Sahni, Usha Khanna’s maternal uncle, the cafe has been an ‘ oasis for several generations of youth sometimes dreaming, but always struggling to make their mark in the city’ according filmmaker Shyam Benegal.
The end of Samovar is sure to break many hearts in Mumbai and two of them will obviously belong to Mr and Mrs Bachchan senior, who went to the Cafe in Kala Ghoda on their first date.
Mumbai, Jan 6, 2017: Did Om Puri have a premonition about his death when he spoke about it to IANS just a fortnight ago? In retrospect, it would seem so, because he talked about “leaving the world” and that his legacy would be “visible” once he departed.
His comments on leaving the world have become a reality too soon.
In one of his last interviews, which took place at a hotel here on December 23, 2016, Om Puri told IANS: “My contribution as an actor will be visible once I leave this world and the young generation, especially film students will watch my films.”
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The 66 year-old actor died of a heart attack at his residence here early morning on Friday.
Today, as he leaves a void in the world of cinema with his untimely demise, the film fraternity is looking back at his vast contribution to showbiz. Theatre, television, Indian and British films, Hollywood and Pakistani cinema — he did it all and left a lasting impression. His legacy, celebrities said, will live on.
A lover of alternate cinema with socially relevant themes at its core, Om Puri said: “For me, the real hard-hitting cinema was between 1980s and 1990s where Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Basu Chatterjee, Mrinal Sen and Gulzar made some remarkable films.”
He worked in multiple projects with Nihalani and Benegal — films like “Aakrosh”, “Ardh Satya” and “Tamas” which catapulted him into the realm of great actors. Both the directors were overcome by emotions when IANS contacted them after news of Om Puri’s death broke. In shaky voices, both said it was too early to talk.
Just days earlier, he was happily interacting with young scribes to promote his upcoming political satire “Rambhajan Zindabad”. Casually dressed in a pair of baggy jeans and a black shirt, he was, as was his style, devoid of any airs about his stardom — a position not defined by fanatical, frenzied fans, but by the sheer following of his nuanced performances and undying passion for art.
He was — as the biography by his former wife Nandita Puri — rightly says, an “Unlikely Hero”.
The veteran actor, a recipient of Padma Shri, started his journey as an actor with a Marathi film “Ghashiram Kotwal” in 1972. If he featured in some intense dramas, he also balanced out his filmography with movies like “Mirch Masala”, “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro”, “Chachi 420”, “Hera Pheri”, “Malamaal Weekly” and more.
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“There are two kinds of cinema — one is just for entertainment, the other touches your heart. Both have their own purpose,” Om Puri had told IANS.
When he was chairman of the National Film Development Corporation, Om Puri was focussed on encouraging meaningful films. The National School of Drama alumnus was also president of Cine and TV Artistes Association.
More recently, he featured in Bollywood films like “Ghayal Once Again” and “Mirzya”, as well as in Pakistani film “Actor In Law”. He even used his distinct baritone for the voice of black panther Bagheera in the Hindi dubbed version of Hollywood film “The Jungle Book”.
Age did not slow him down. He was busy dabbling in multiple projects like “Viceroy’s House”, “Tubelight” and “Manto”.
The two-time National Film Award winner was bestowed the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 1990.
His international career took off as early as 1982 when he featured in a small role in Oscar-winning film “Gandhi”. It also set the stage for him to explore more on foreign shores — his British films were “My Son the Fanatic”, “East Is East” and “The Parole Officer”, and his Hollywood movies included “City of Joy”, “Wolf”, “The Ghost and the Darkness” and “The Hundred-Foot Journey”.
In 2004, he was made an honorary officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to the British film industry.
While he had a glorious journey in the film world, his personal life went through turbulence. In 2013, his wife had filed a case against him, alleging domestic violence. They separated, leaving him with only visitation rights to their son, Ishaan.
He was frank and blunt about his views — and just last year, he faced the brunt of it when a police complaint was filed against him for his comments that were found to be insulting to Indian soldiers. In 2015, he spoke on the issue of cow slaughter in India. In 2012, he had landed in a bit of a soup after he called Naxals “fighters not terrorists”.
But Om Puri remained fearless till the end — in his works and his words. (IANS)