Amrish Puri was Steven Spielberg’s favourite villain; his powerful voice and characterizations were superb

With the recent release of the film Indiana Jones And The Dial of Destiny in theatres across Hyderabad and elsewhere, the iconic action hero is back on the silver screen after many years. According to the director James Mangold the Indiana Jones films have always been the perfect blend of history, science and miracles. In a readership poll carried out in 2017 by Total Film Magazine, Indiana Jones was voted the greatest movie character of all time, beating out Batman for the top spot.

The only Indian actor who has ever acted in an Indiana Jones movie is Amrish Puri. He played the role of the villain Mola Ram in the film Indiana Jones And The Temple Of  Doom released in 1984. Puri’s acting came in for high praise from the famed Hollywood actor Harrison Ford who made the role of Indiana Jones come to life.

A few years after the Temple Of Doom film was released, Harrison Ford said in an interview that Amrish Puri was a sophisticated and cultured man in real life. “He was a wonderful person, a very charming man. He was nothing like the character that he played in our film. I really admired his marvelous acting ability and enjoyed working with him,” said Ford. Hollywood’s most successful director Steven Spielberg also praised Puri. “You are unique in the world as a bad guy. You are my best villain. Can’t wait to work with you again.”

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So what were the qualities that had made Puri such an impactful film villain?

His deep resonant voice

Firstly it was his powerful and deep voice. He had the kind of voice that sounded menacing. His resonant and commanding tones had a unique quality that added depth and intensity to his villainous characters. It allowed him to deliver dialogue with authority and create a lasting impact on the audience.

Hypnotic eyes

Then his eyes and expressions had a hypnotic quality in them. His intense, blazing gaze added a layer of complexity to his characters. He could effortlessly switch between subtle nuances and explosive rage, captivating viewers with his performances.

Great versatility

Moreover Puri showed versatility in his performances. He portrayed villains with diverse personalities, ranging from cunning and manipulative ones to ruthless and intimidating. He could adapt to different genre and deliver memorable performances, whether it was a historical epic, an action thriller or romantic drama. He was a villain who could be fitted into any background and any plot.

Commanding presence

His commanding physical presence also enhanced his portrayal of villains. His stature and imposing demeanor lent him a formidable force on the screen. He used his physicality to intimidate his co-actors and create a sense of dominance in his characters.

Meticulous approach

Finally, Puri was meticulous in his approach to characterizing his villains. When one watches his roles, one can realise that he has taken pains to understand the requirements of the characters. He has tried to figure out the motivations of the character that he is going to portray. He portrayed villains who were not one-dimensional but had shades of gray, making them more believable and compelling.

Memorable roles

Over his prolific career, Puri played several iconic villainous roles that have become part of Hindi cinema’s cultural ethos. Characters like Mogambo in Mr. India and Baldev Singh in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, have become synonymous with the name of Amrish Puri. We cannot imagine anybody else playing those roles. In Shyam Benegal’s film Manthan, Puri acts the cunning and exploitative Mishraji. His ability to leave a lasting impression on the audience has consolidated his status as one of the greatest villains in Indian cinema.

Now, eighteen years after his death, if Amrish Puri’s soul looks down from heaven and reflects upon the roles that he played so successfully in his life, it would probably declare in that typically deep voice: “Mogambo Khush Hua.”

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