Bollywood creates dreams. Good-looking heroes and heroines light up the screens, with others known as ‘character actors’ contributing to take the story forward. However, anti-hero brothers - Madan Puri and Amrish Puri repeatedly proved that fine character actors can make a serious impact, even if the film is dominated by larger-than-life stars.

Madan Puri passed away on January 13, 1985, aged 69. Amrish Puri died on January 12, 2005, aged 72. Their death anniversaries are opportunities to remind filmgoers that each brother had acted in more than 400 films, which indicates their popularity among the masses and demand within the industry.  

Amrish Puri, the more famous one, had made his debut in Prem Pujari in 1970. A superstar among character actors during his heyday, he was professionally active between 1970 and 2005. Madan Puri had debuted as a junior artist in Khazanchi way back in 1941. However, he got his first big break with Ahinsa in 1946 and continued to work until the mid-1980s.

Of failed screen tests and desk jobs 
Born in Nawanshahr, a town in Punjab, the Puri brothers were first cousins of Kundan Lal Saigal, the legendary actor-singer. Amrish Puri entered films well after his elder brothers Madan Puri and ChamanPuri had started working in the industry. In fact, he had failed his first screen test and started working with the Employees' State Insurance Corporation Ministry of Labour and Employment (ESIC) while associating himself with the stage. 

Madan Puri was an interesting man to watch.  His negative roles produced most of his best moments on the screen. He was not a giant of a man, but what made him stand out was his peculiar dialogue delivery, his mean smile and that sly look in his eyes, which conveyed that he had mischief in his mind.​​​​​​​

Amrish Puri was cast in a different mould. Tall and well-built, he also owned a baritone that could match the best in the industry. The actor’s work on the stage had been recognised with the SangeetNatak Academy award in 1979. Although he started working in films when he was close to 40, his stardom in the 1980s and 1990s was comparable to most lead actors. 

Abroad, he made an impact with his turn as Mola Ram in auteur Steven Spielberg’s grand fantasy, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In India, he became widely popular as Mogambo, the flamboyant villain with a booming voice in the Shekhar Kapoor-helmed enjoyable fantasy, Mr India. Mogambo’s body language and dialogue delivery charmed viewers nationwide, and even today, just about any filmgoer remembers his famous line: ‘Mogambokhushhua.’

AmrishPuri’s fame – perhaps, 'notoriety' – was the outcome of his performances in negative roles. When he played the villain in big-budget films, he frequently excelled, which was seen in his performances as Bhujang in Tridev, Balwant Rai in Ghayal, Jagavar in Vidhaata and Thakur Durjan Singh in Karan Arjun.  So formidable was his screen presence that the viewer remembers these performances even today.
He also made a significant impact in positive roles. Among them are his performances in China Gate, Ghatak, Chachi 420, and DilwaleDulhaniya Le Jayenge. His most popular character in a non-villainous role was in DDLJ in which he was seen as Kajol’s conservative, strict, but well-meaning father.

Madan Puri was also immensely, though not equally, successful. Among his popular negative characters are Samant in Deewar, Nekiram in Roti KapadaAurMakaan, Tejpal in Hamraaz, John Chang in Howrah Bridge, Seth Jamunadas in ChorMachaye Shor and Charan Das in Upkar. These were remarkable performances and, in fact, there were many more.  

Like his brother, he, too, was equally comfortable playing supporting roles that were either positive or had shades of grey. If he was a kind-hearted jailor in Aradhana, he was a progressive father in Ankhiyon Ki Jharokon Se. Favoured by Manoj Kumar with whom he worked in several films, he was a character with pro-British leanings who mutates into a man who realises the value of patriotism in Kranti.

In spite of playing such characters, however, he will always be best remembered as the actor who commanded a huge following because of his negative characters that gave a twist to stories with their machinations, intrigue and, at times, aggression.

Madan Puri’s last release was Balbi rWadhawan’s Santosh, which hit the marquees in 1989, four years after his death. Amrish Puri’s final role was in Subhash Ghai’s period film Kisna: The Warrior Poet, which released in 2005 nine days after his death.

The Puri brothers made a huge contribution to Hindi cinema. Years after their death, their names conjure numerous memories of successful films. Had Amrish Puri known about this today, he might have thundered, “Mogambokhushhua.”