Amrish Puri at the premiere for The Hero: Love Story of a Spy
Amrish Singh Puri
22 June 1932 Jalandhar, Punjab, India
12 January 2005 (aged 72) Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Urmila Diveker (1957–2005)
Amrish Puri (22 June 1932 – 12 January 2005) was a leading theatre and film actor from India, who was a key player in the Indian theatre movement that picked up steam in the 1960s. He worked with notable playwrights of the time, such as Satyadev Dubey and Girish Karnad. However, he is primarily remembered for essaying iconic negative roles in Hindi cinema as well as other Indian and international film industries. To Indian audiences he is the most remembered for his role as Mogambo in Shekhar Kapur's Hindi film Mr. India (1987), and to Western audiences he is best known as Mola Ram in Steven Spielberg's Hollywood film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
Amrish Singh Puri was born in Nawanshahr (former Tehsil of District Jalandhar), Punjab to Sardar Nihal Singh Puri and Sardarni Ved Kaur as the fourth of five children. His siblings include elder brothers Chaman Puri, Madan Puri (both actors) and elder sister Chandrakanta and younger brother Harish Puri. He later moved to Shimla and graduated from B.M. College, Himachal Pradesh.
Amrish Puri came to Mumbai in the footsteps of his elder brothers Chaman Puri and Madan Puri (both actors), who was already an established actor known for playing negative roles. He failed his first screen test, and found a job with the Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC). 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, Marathi, 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 films. 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.
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!".
It is also rumoured (though unconfirmed) that he may have portrayed the villain Scar in the Hindi dub of the 1994 blockbuster The Lion King.
He died on 12 January 2005, due to cerebral haemorrhage resulting from complications of myelodysplastic syndrome. in Mumbai, Maharashtra, aged 72.