Described as "the finest actor of the post-independence generation" by one expert on the Indian cinema, Om Puri is one of India's most respected and prolific screen personalities, having appeared in over 140 films over the course of his career. Thanks to starring work in such films as My Son the Fanatic and East Is East, Puri has also earned increasing recognition among a Western audience, further establishing himself as an actor of great range and versatility.
Born in a rural area of northern India in 1950, Puri grew up planning to be a military man like his father. His ambitions shifted when, as a student at a Punjabi university, he joined a theatre group. With the support of his parents, Puri studied acting for three years at the National School of Drama in New Delhi, where he performed in a wide variety of works ranging from Indian folk plays to Kabuki drama to Shakespeare, the last of which gave him the opportunity to play Hamlet in Hindi. The actor followed his studies with a stint at the Indian Film Institute in Poona and then decided to try his luck in Bombay, India's film capital. Although he lacked the classically handsome features of most Indian film stars, Puri was able to find work based on the strength of his previous theatre experience. Once he began appearing on the screen, he found himself in great demand thanks in large part to his seemingly limitless versatility, and he became established over the years as one of his country's best-known actors.