Filmmaker Prakash Jha's new movie "Chakravyuh", which explores the Maoist insurgency, will see Om Puri playing a character similar to Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy. The veteran actor has read a lot on Ghandy's life to relate to his role in a better way.
"Prakash Jha's original plan was to take elements from Kobad Ghandy's life and incorporate it into Om Puri's character. But Om got progressively drawn into Kobad Ghandy's life and teachings and urged Prakash to make his character as close to Kobad as possible," said a source close to the project.
Ghandy's fascinating journey from Mumbai to the Naxalite jungles of Karnataka has flummoxed and fascinated social scientists. At 63, Ghandy's saga continues to be an enigma of social protest and insurgency.
Om Puri, who's currently in Canada, is silent about the character, but he doesn't deny the parallels.
"I can't deny that my character is akin to Kobad Ghandy. I play a professor and an educationist who gives up a cushy life to become a Maoist," he said.
Though Om Puri admits he is impressed by Ghandy's teachings, the actor clarifies he doesn't believe in Maoists' way of bringing social change.
"I truly believe in what Kobad said about the poor. He said, 'I don't believe in a democracy that doesn't respect the poor.' I believe that," he said.
"However, I don't subscribe to the Maoists' means of bringing social change. I don't think blowing up railway tracks and damaging public property is the solution. Surely, there has to be a less violent means to bring about social change," he added.
Om Puri doesn't fear any backlash for playing such a controversial character.
"I truly believe Maoists are not terrorists, but rebels. Having said that I play a character in the film, my own beliefs are separate. But if people see my voice speaking in unison with Kobad Ghandy about social equality, then I don't mind his ideology being attributed to me," he said.
Jha is also guarded in comparing Om Puri with Kobad Ghandy. He said: "It's too risky to compare characters in our films to real-life people. Someone, somewhere is bound to get angry. So let's just say people are free to read similarities between Om's character and the gentleman you've mentioned."