Sometime in the early 1980s, director Goutam Ghose was shooting his ambitious Paar , about a labourer and his wife who become fugitives after taking on the villainous landlord. The team was camping in Bihar and a local had been hired to play the village mukhiya. And then, Goutam realised he needed an ‘actor’ for the role. “I sent a telegram ‘Om. SOS’.” He turned up at the shooting spot, prepped for two days and did a great job. “It was a brief but important role, and he knew what it required,” recalls Goutam, speaking from Kolkata.
The two collaborated again for Patang , and Goutam says he had another role in mind for him, before it all got over, too soon. “It feels terrible to speak about him in the past tense. He was a wonderful actor and a lovely person, warm and friendly. He loved food and cooking. We’ve shared great times when he visited my city.”
What Goutam recalls most fondly is Om’s ability to integrate himself into the set of a movie. “For instance, in Paar , when he did not have a scene, he would help manage crowds. In Patang , he held the reflector and helped the trolley man. He was that kind of person.”
Speaking of his dedication to the craft, Goutam says that when shooting Patang , in which his character had a broken hand, Om would walk around like that even after his scene, like his hand was really broken.
“That’s Om for you. And, despite all the years in the limelight and international fame, he remained a simple, village boy from Punjab. It’s sad that he’s gone when he has so much more to give the industry. You know we are both 66; that’s too young to go.”