Om Puri is an Indian actor who has appeared in both mainstream Indian films and art films. His credits also include appearances in British and American films. He has received an honorary OBE. He has worked in numerous Indian films and also in many films produced in the United Kingdom and the United States.
He made his film debut in the 1976 film Ghashiram Kotwal, a film based on a Marathi play of the same name. He has collaborated in many films with Amrish Puri as well as Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil in art films such as Bhavani Bhavai (1980), Sadgati (1981), Ardh Satya (1982), Mirch Masala (1986) and Dharavi (1992). Om has also been active in Punjabi cinema. In the 1980s Puri also made two highly successful Punjabi films called Chan Pardesi (1980) and Long Da Lishkara (1986). After nineteen years, Puri returned to Punjabi cinema with the film Baghi (2005). He also acted in another Punjabi film, Gurdas Mann's Yaariyan (2008).
He was critically acclaimed for his performances in many unconventional roles such as a victimized tribal in Aakrosh (1980) (a film in which he spoke not a single line of dialogue, save for during flash-back sequences), Jimmy's manager in Disco Dancer (1982), a police inspector in Ardh Satya (1982), where he revolts against life-long social, cultural and political persecution and for which he got the National Film Award for Best Actor the leader of a cell of Sikh militants in Maachis (1996), as a tough cop again in the commercial film Gupt in 1997, and as the courageous father of a martyred soldier in Dhoop (2003).
In 1999, Puri acted in a Kannada movie A.K. 47 as a strict police officer who tries to keep the city safe from the underworld which went on to become a huge commercial hit. Puri's acting in the movie is very memorable. He has rendered his own voice for the kannada dialogues. In the same year, he starred in the successful British comedy film East is East, where he played a first generation Pakistani immigrant in the north of England, struggling to come to terms with his far more westernized children. Puri also had a cameo in the highly acclaimed film Gandhi (1982, directed by Richard Attenborough).
In the mid 1990s, Puri diversified to play character roles in mainstream Hindi cinema, where his roles are more tuned to mass audiences than film critics. He also became known internationally for starring in many British films such as My Son the Fanatic (1997), East is East (1999) and The Parole Officer (2001). As well as these he appeared in Hollywood films including City of Joy (1992), opposite Patrick Swayze; Wolf (1994) alongside Jack Nicholson and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) opposite Val Kilmer.
In 2007, he appeared as General Zia-Ul-Haq in Charlie Wilson's War, which stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. He has also worked in Hindi TV serials like Kakkaji Kaheen (1988) as a paan-chewing 'Kakkaji', which was a parody on politicians and Mr. Yogi (1989) as a suave 'Sutradhaar' who enjoys pulling the protagonist's leg. These two serials underlined Om Puri's versatility as a comedian.
He received critical acclaim for his performance in Govind Nihalani's television film Tamas (1987) based on a Hindi novel of the same name. He also essayed comic roles in Hindi films like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron which reached a cult status, followed by Chachi 420 (1997), Hera Pheri (2000), Chor Machaye Shor (2002) and Malamaal Weekly (2006). His more recent Hindi film roles include Singh Is Kinng, Mere Baap Pehle Aap and Billu Barber. Om Puri was also seen in the role of Mohammad Ali Kasuri in Road to Sangam.