Amrish Puri was born in Nawanshahr, Punjab to Lala Nihal Chand and Ved Kaur as the third of four children. His siblings include elder brother Madan Puri (actor) and elder sister Chandrakanta. He later moved to Shimla and graduated from B.M. College, Himachal Pradesh. Amrish Puri came to Mumbai in the footsteps of his elder brother, Madan Puri, who was already an established actor known for playing negative roles. He failed his first screen test, and found a job with the Life Insurance Corporation of India. At the same time, he started performing at the Prithvi Theatre, in plays written by Satyadev Dubey. He eventually became well-known as stage actor and won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1979. This theatre recognition soon led to work in television ads and eventually to films at the late age of 40.
He went on to work in Hindi, Kannada, Hollywood, Punjabi, Malayalam, Telugu and Tamil films. Though he was successful in all of these industries, he is best known for his work in Bollywood cinema. He has appeared in over four hundred movies. His dominating screen presence and baritone voice made him stand out amongst the other villains of the day. He is best known for his role as Mogambo in the 1987 blockbuster, Mr. India and for his portrayal of Mola Ram, the antagonist in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
In 1970 he appeared in his first film, Prem Pujari although the first film he had signed for was Reshma Aur Sheraaa which released in 1971. This was followed by many villain or supporting roles in numerous art films such as Shyam Benegal's Nishant, Manthan, and Bhumika and Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda. He also appeared in Govind Nihalani's film, Party in 1984. Amrish Puri grew to became a staple of Hindi films in the 1980s playing mostly villainous roles, and attracting the most acclaim for his work in the 1987 hit film Mr. India, directed by Shekhar Kapur. He played an egotistical international super-villain, Mogambo, who frequently refers to himself in the third-person, expressing satisfaction at the actions of his underlings with the phrase, Mogambo khush hua (Mogambo is pleased). Since then the Mogambo catchphrase has become one of the best recognized lines in Hindi Cinema.
He also went on to play many positive supporting roles, including his famous role as Baldev Singh, the conservative father who eventually lets his daughter marry her love instead of being forced into an arranged marriage, in the Bollywood blockbuster Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995). Other positive roles include Group Captain Varghese, a Malayali officer in the Indian Air Force based movie Vijeta, an ailing idealistic father in Ghatak. He was a kind-hearted American businessman in Pardes (1997) and a genial grandfather in the films Chori Chori Chupke Chupke and Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai. He is also known to play a strict old man in comedy movies like Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate, where he played a retired cop and Muskurahat where he played a retired judge. His last films included Kisna: The Warrior Poet and Kachchi Sadak, which were released some time after his death.
He starred as the sadistic jailor in Kalapani in which co-acted Padmashri Mohanlal, the biggest name of the Malayalam film industry.
He is best known in Punjabi cinema for his role as the landlord villain Joginder Singh in the legendary film Chan Pardesi (1980). He also starred as the villain Zalam Singh in the religious Punjabi film Sat Sri Akal (1977). After twenty years, he returned to Punjabi cinema to make a brief appearance as the Sufi Saint in the acclaimed film Shaheed Uddham Singh (2000).
He also appeared in Telugu movies such as Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, Major Chandrakanth, Aditya-369, Kondaveeti Donga, Aswamedham, Aakhari Poratam etc.
He appeared in the Tamil film Dalapathi (1991), directed by Mani Ratnam, opposite Rajnikanth and Mammootty, Tamil and Malayalam superstars respectively. After Dalapathi, Amrish Puri made his second and last appearance in the Rajinkanth's film "Baba" (2002) in which he played the role of an evil tantrik who helps politicians and other evil elements to succeed in their hideous schemes.
He acted in some Kannada movies during the early days of his career. He played the protagonist role in a black & white off beat Kannada movie Kaadu directed by Girish Karnad.He also acted in some other mainstream films.
He is known to international audiences for his roles as Khan in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982) and as the main antagonist Mola Ram in the Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). He shaved his head for the role, and it created such an impression that he kept his head shaved and became one of the most popular villains in Hindi Cinema. Amrish and Spielberg shared a great rapport and Spielberg often said in interviews that, "Amrish is my favorite villain- The best the world has ever produced and ever will!"
He married Urmila Divekar on 5 January 1957, at the Shri Krishna Temple in Wadala. The couple have two children, son Rajeev Puri and daughter Namrata Puri. His son Rajeev is a businessman married to a physiotherapist, Meena. They have two children - Harshvardhan Puri and Sachi Puri. Namrata Puri and her husband Shirish Bagwe, also have two children, Krish and Shantanu. Amrish had a passion for collecting hats, and bought a hat or two on every trip abroad. He had a collection of over 200 hats from across the world. Amrish was a very religious person by heart and a Shiva devotee. He was also very secular minded and believed that all religions had their own strong ideologies.
He passed away on 12 January, 2005 due to brain hemorrage in Mumbai Maharashtra, India at the age of 73.
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