MADAN PURI - villain per excellence

To mark his 27th death anniversary held on January 13 this year, we reproduce an interview of MADAN PURI by JYOTHI VENKATESH from Cinelink issue dt 13th February 1978
  It was on the sets of Ramsay Films Aur Kaun, a murder mystery starring Sachin and Padmini Kapila in the lead that I met Madan Puri, the veteran character artiste of the film industry for this interview for Cinelink. He said he was slated to do a special appearance in the film as the villain as usual. Notwithstanding the accolades that he had earned for his performance in the film Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye as a character artiste par excellence as Prem Kishen’s father.
Why does he accept each and every role that is offered to him by the producers without trying to be choosy about his assignments? Wouldn’t it affect the quality of his performance? I shot my first question as we settled down on a sofa in a corner of the sets, with my pen and pad.
“I do not believe in being choosy. That is the prerogative of only the stars. I want to do a variety of roles because I believe in the adage that variety is the spice of life. A role is a role whether it is a good one or a bad one. What matters is how you manage to do the role in spite of restricting the range of your talent.
“Right from the beginning of my career about 32 years ago, I have continued to dabble with different kinds of roles instead of clinging to only one kind of role. Would you believe it or not, I played the role of the hero in Sona opposite Munawar Sultana, Kuldeep opposite Tasneem and Vijayamohini and Kamal opposite Mona. Today God knows where those heroines of mine are but by the grace of God, I am still lingering in the industry, earning my daily bread via my performances.”
When did Madan Puri switch over to villainy? “I realized that I was just not cut out to play the hero. I had my own limitations. And I did not have a false ego. I decided to plunge into negative roles. And my hunch proved to be correct. The public which had rejected me as a leading man accepted me as a villain. And I came to stay in the industry with the Dev Anand –Suraiya starrer Vidya in 1947. My performance in Jeet, another Dev Anand-Suraiya starrer fetched for me rave notices and consolidated my opposition as a leading villain and I did not look back till recently.”
However, today Madan Puri is fed up of playing the same old routine villain in film after film, without any variation because the producers want to play safe at the box office. “I have decided to go in for serious comedy and sympathetic roles. I detest being typed, because only a star needs an image for survival. A character artiste like me does not need to rely on any image to click with the audience. That in fact, is a blessing in disguise for a character artiste. Otherwise even an artiste of the caliber of Pran could not have effectively done the switch over from villain to the character artiste in time with Upkar”.
Madan Puri has completed as many as 280 films till date. Which are his memorable roles according to him? “The best role of my career is the one I did in the recent Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye. I am indeed surprised and happy to note that I was accepted in Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye. My scope in it was only 25%. 50% of the credit for my performance in the film ought to go to the role itself and 25% to the director and the way he presented the character. An artiste is merely a tool in the hands of the director.”
“My roles in Devendra Goel’s Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan and Pyar Ka Sagar, Aradhana and Blackmail are the ones I consider memorable in my career because they afforded good scope for characterization like the role in Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye. Even today, I am ready to do any challenging role without caring a damn for my image. For example, I will play a pimp or a customer with the same enthusiasm that an artiste should show to his work.”
Today Madan Puri is working in as many as 15 films. They include Aahuti, Dushmani, Dictator, Chor Ke Daadi Mein Tinka, Kranti, Muqabla, Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhonse, Jaani Dushman and Aur Kaun. “I am happy as I am today. I have no regrets being a character artiste because stardom is ephemeral. Stars may come and stars may go on forever, but character artistes may go on forever, because unlike the stars they do not have to cultivate their images. Every actor is a character artiste. What is the definition of a star? It is one who is able to sell the film on his own shoulders as a star. Even though Pran and Premnath are characters artistes, they are stars, because today they certainly have more drawing power than some of our so called heroes who keep on mushrooming day in and day out. Why, even though Pran and I belong to the same tribe of character artistes, the grading in which both of us are placed is quite different, according to the distributors who call the tunes today. The difference between Pran and me is the difference between Amitabh Bachchan and Satish Kaul. Facts are facts and I am not ashamed to admit it. I know my placing in the industry and I try to live in it by a process of adjustment.”
Madan Puri does not wish to take up the mantle of production like some of his veteran co-stars like for example Pradeep Kumar who is making a film with Navin Nischol and Sarika today. “Uneasy lies ahead that wears the crown”, quipped Kumar Ramsay, the story and screenplay writer of Aur Kaun, who tip toed behind the sofa to call Madan Puri for the next shot. Madan went to give the shot and returned to resume our conversation.
“You see, I have found that to be a producer is a head spinning job. Today I get salaams from every star. In case, I become a producer I have to return them in the other direction. Stardom consists of a hare and tortoise race. You never know when you will hit the jackpot. One bad step and you will be finished for ever. I am happy to be in a position to earn through my performance and serve myself and my family. I entertain the public at large in order to make a living for myself and not in order to serve art.”

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