Ashish Vidyarthi and Amrish Puri, well-known Villains, were Theatre Actors Initially

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Two well-known villains, Ashish Vidyarthi, and Amrish Puri, celebrate their birthdays this week. Ashish graduated to cinema from theatre and TV. Despite winning several awards, he could not make his mark in the Bollywood but continues to rule in South Indian cinema. Amrish Puri too came into cinema from theatre. He made it big, both in Bollywood and Hollywood. Smriti profiles the two villains, in the regular column, exclusively in Different Truths.

Ashish Vidyarthi: Renowned Villain he graduated to Cinema from Theatre and TV

Ashish Vidyarthi, noted for the antagonist characters played by him in Hindi as well as regional films turns 55 on 19th June. Ashish’s mother is renowned Kathak dancer Reba Vidyarthi and father Govind Vidyarthi, a Malayali theatre personality. Ashish was born in Kannur, Kerala and later moved to Delhi, where he joined the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Mehta Vidyalaya. He graduated in History from the Hindu College. Ashish was into dramatics since his school days and was highly acclaimed for his performances as an actor.

Ashish was a known theatre personality but mass recognition came to him with Sai Paranjpye’s T.V. serial Hum Panchi Ek Chawl Ke. He then went on to play many roles in regional television also and was immensely popular as the main antagonist in the Hindi serial Dastaan.

Ashish’s popularity as a television artist paved his way to the big screen and he began his film career with a supporting role in Kannada film Anand. He debuted in Bollywood with Najaayaz and Baazi. His villainous characters gained popularity and he mainly played negative characters in his following films, some of them like, Barfi and Kaho Na Pyaar Hai won him appreciation and critical acclaim. However, unfortunately, his performances were considered to be crass as compared to other sophisticated villains played by actors such as Pankaj Kapoor, hence offers for new films in Bollywood reduced. But offers flooded from regional films down south and Ashish worked with almost all the major actors in the south industry and is now considered to be the No. 1 villain of the same.

Ashish is a typical case of actors getting typecast in Hindi movies. He is undoubtedly a fine actor with a wide range but has been limited to negative characters. Though he did a few positive and comic villainous roles, his major recognition came from his negative performances only. His work has been recognised by many awards which include a National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor in Drohkaal, Star Screen Award for Best Villain in Iss Raat Ki Subah Nahi, Filmfare Best Villain Award for the Telegu film Athanokkade.

On his birthday, we at Different Truths, extend our good wishes to him and hope he achieves more success in life.

Amrish Puri: A Fearsome Villain in Bollywood and Hollywood

He immortalised Mogambo. Meet Amrish Puri, who, still lives in our memories through innumerable powerful performances.

Amrish was born on 22nd June 1932, in Jalandhar, Punjab, to Lala Nihal Chand Puri and Ved Kaur. He had a big family with four siblings, three brothers and one sister. The famous singer and actor K.L. Saigal was his first cousin. Though born in Punjab, he later moved to Shimla and graduated from B.M. College, Himachal Pradesh.

Motivated by his elder brothers, Madan Puri and Chaman Puri, established actors of Hindi cinema, Amrish came to Mumbai with an aspiration to act in movies. Amrish failed his first screen test for the role of a hero and had to join a job with LIC. Simultaneously, with his job, he started doing plays at Prithvi Theatres and worked with playwrights such as Satyadev Dubey and Girish Karnad. He was soon an acclaimed actor and even won the Sangeet Natak Academy Award. The recognition and fame from theatres led him to films, though this happened at a relatively late age of 40. Though he started late in films, he went on to be very successful in films and worked in many regional films besides Hindi cinema.

The first Hindi movie Amrish signed was, Reshma Aur Shera, but his first release was Prem Pujari, in 1970, a year before the release of Reshma Aur Shera. He appeared in many supporting roles in various films till the release of Hum Paanch, in 1980, in which he was the main villain. His role of the lecherous and wealthy zamindar Thakur Veer Pratap Singh was appreciated by both the masses and classes. This was followed by Amrish playing the main villain in several other movies, Jagavar Choudhary in Vidhaata, JK in Shakti and Pasha in Hero, to name a few.

Through the 1980s and the 90s, Amrish reigned in villainous roles. Almost all the Bollywood movies of the time had him as the main villain. His dominating screen presence and booming voice made him stand out amongst a sea of actors. This was the time when he played the role of evil Mogambo in Shekhar Kapoor’s Mr. India. His dialogue “Mogambo Khush Huya” from the film was immensely popular, and his rendering the same with his eyes rolling added to the terror of Mogambo.

Amrish was one of the pioneer actors of Bollywood, who crossed the border and entered Hollywood. His performances in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi and the main antagonist in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom won him acclaim and fame internationally too.  Puri and Spielberg shared a great rapport and Spielberg often said in interviews, “Amrish is my favourite villain. The best the world has ever produced and ever will!” Amrish shaved his head for his role in Indiana Jones and the impression that this look created, made him keep his head shaved. His bald look provided him the flexibility to experiment with different looks in the subsequent roles he played as a villain.

Besides playing the villain, Puri did many positive roles too in his career. His role of the strict disciplinarian father Baldev Singh in the blockbuster Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge, the kind-hearted businessman in Pardes and the genial grandfather in Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, are some of the memorable performances of him.

This petrifying, cruel, ruthless villain of Hindi cinema had a very peaceful contented family life. He married Urmila Divekar on 5th January 1957 and had two children, son, Rajeev and daughter Namrata. Amrish had a passion for collecting hats, had more than 200 hats, always buying one or two on his every trip abroad. He was a very religious person and a devotee of Lord Shiva.

The actor who worked in more than 400 films, had a beautiful family, a huge fan following across the globe, left for his heavenly abode on 27th December 2005, due to a brain hemorrhage at the age of 72. The baritone voice was silenced for always, but it resounds in our ears through his various roles and Mogambo continues to steal our heart.

We, at Different Truths, pay homage to the great actor on his birth anniversary.

©Smriti Maheshwari

Photos and video from the internet.

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Smriti Maheshwari loves cooking, reading, mostly fiction and thrillers. She enjoys mythological stories too. She also loves meeting people and making friends, socialising, and is a big movie buff. A homemaker and a dreamer, she stays in Allahabad with her husband.