When Naseer was brutally attacked and Om saved his life

The story of two poster boys of Indian Parallel Cinema

Author Sushobhit Saktawat
Widgets Magazine
There are many layers of the friendship of Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. Both of these lived through the days of misery and hardships. Both dreamt together and lived their dreams together too. Both went on to become the poster boys of Indian Parallel Cinema. Their personal bonding has many dimensions. They both have been a part of a historical narrative, an art movement, which had unfolded in India some four dacades ago.
 
Nasser and Om both hail from middle class families. They were no prince charming. In those days, it could not have been even imagined that people with such ordinary features can become heroes in Hindi films. But thanks to the parallel cinema movement, unleashed by the likes of Mrinal Sen, M.S. Sathyu, and Govind Nihlani, they found their feet in Mumbai and created a niche for themselves, a great legacy for the posterity.
 
They studied in National School of Drama in Delhi together. Then they both joined Film and Television institute in Pune. Naseer got his break (“Nishant”, 1975) ahead of Om but once there, Naseer tried his best to make way for Om too. Naseer was immediately appreciated as an actor, Om took time to warm up, however as soon as he started getting his chances, there was no looking back for him.
 
In his autobiography “And Then One Day”, Naseer has been brutally honest about himself as well as others, but in the book he always referred to Om with affection. He even went on to say that Om have been an inspiration for him. In NSD, it was Om who was thought to be more accomplished actor than Naseer and this had prompted Naseer to work harder on himself. In FTII, Naseer had lead a student’s protest against then chairman Girish Karnad, and Om had dedicatedly stood by his side.
 
Not many people know that during the shooting of Manthan, a brutal attack was led onto Naseer. The attacker was an another actor Rajendra Jaspal, who had worked earlier in “Arvind Desai ki Ajab Dastaan.” Om was by his side when this particular incident happened. He took him to hospital and looked after him. Naseer says that if Om was not there on that day, then he probably would not have survived.
 
Initially Om would only get minor roles. Even in films of Naseer like “Sparsh”, “Albert Pinto”, “Paar”, “Bhavani Bhavai” etc he played little hand. But in “Aakrosh”, Om’s still minor performance compared to Naseer caught eye of everybody. This culminated in “Ardh Satya”, where Om got the role of lifetime. Now Om was main lead and Naseer was playing a little part. There is a scene in the film, where Om is seen paying bills of Naseer. This seems to have a symbolic value. We can say that in “Ardh Satya”, Om got himself out of debt of Naseer and went on to become the central figure of parallel cinema himself, since by that time Naseer was more keen to work for mainstream cinema.
 
From 1980 to 1985, there was a phase when the National Award for best actor was constantly shared by Naseer and Om. Naseer won it for “Sparsh” and “Paar”, Om won it for “Ardh Satya” and “Arohan.” Who knows during those days these two would have sit together and remembered the good old days of NSD and FTII. Naseer is indeed a superior actor between two, but Om had an acid intensity about him which could not be matched by anyone else. In many ways these two were complimentary to each other. Now when we have lost Om forever, it would be hard to imagine how solitary Naseer must be feeling today.
Widgets Magazine
Widgets Magazine