Amrish Puri was born in Nawanshahr (former Tehsil of District Jalandhar), Punjab to Sri Nihal Singh Puri and Ved Kaur as the third of five children.
He started out his acting career by 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.
In 1971 he appeared in his first film, "Prem Pujari" although the first film he had signed for was "Reshma Aur Shera" which was 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 eventually became a houshold name 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". Other positive roles include Group Captain Varghese, a Malayali officer in the Indian Air Force based film "Vijeta", an ailing idealistic father in "Ghatak: Lethal". He was a kind-hearted American businessman in "Pardes" 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 films 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 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".