When I woke up this morning, I could not believe that the man who had become so helpless in his last few years- Om Puri- has left us. Ace filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt has described Puri's condition in recent times quite perfectly in our today's concluding article which we are coming up with in about an hour from now.Herewith, I reproduce my interview with Puri - with the kind permission of Mumbai Mirror's Editor Meenal Baghel- when his wife Nandita had filed a police complaint accusing him of domestic violence. I was working for Mumbai Mirror then,and it was being said that Puri is 'absconding'. My repeated and fervent request texts on his cellphone that he should talk about his troubled marriage eventually made him respond to me, saying that he was at Fountain and was ready to meet in his lawyer's chamber if and only if I could make it to be with him the next 30 minutes. I raced out of my office (at VT) and was sitting next to him after 27 minutes:
Read on for the heart-rending interview:
Your estranged wife Nandita has accused you of physical violence...
She has gone to town saying that I hit her with a stick. Pray, who keeps sticks at home? There is a bamboo cane at home, a decorative item purchased by Nandita. I am ready to send that for forensic tests. She complained to the cops at claiming that I had beaten her up at . What made her wait for seven hours?
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Are you seeking anticipatory bail?
Yes. What else can I do? Our legal system is soft on women in such cases. But I have nothing to fear. I have been in the film industry for 35 years and everyone including the spot-boys will vouch for my character. Six weeks ago, Nandita filed a criminal case against me and my ex-wife Seema Kapoor accusing us of trying to kidnap our son Ishaan. The very next day she backtracked saying she 'suspects' that we will kidnap him. That just explains her state of mind.
What transpired on ?
We simply had an argument. She said I had to shell out Rs 10,000 to ten girls who had tied a rakhi to my son, Ishaan. I handed over Rs 10,000. Then she said that our maid had also tied a rakhi and she had given her a mobile phone worth Rs 3,000 and she demanded that I pay for that too. I put my foot down. The next thing I knew I was accused of domestic violence. I never thought our marriage will come to such a sorry pass.
What went wrong in the marriage?
We've not been getting along for the past 15 years. We are two very different people. While my roots are absolutely rural, her tastes are very elitist. Yes, I smoke a few cigarettes and have an occasional drink. But that's it. I don't spend on expensive brands. I don't need foreign holidays. She has taken 35 holidays abroad . She dropped in on every foreign shoot and I had to pay through my nose every time.
Nandita says you've stopped paying for household expenses. Is that true?
Rubbish! I am paying for everything in her and Ishaan's life and I am not complaining. Be it electricity bills, telephone bills, chaffeur or servants. But Nandita does not know how to control her expenses. It was her idea to sign a MOU, then I gave her joint ownership of three flats and transferred two-thirds of the contents of my bank account to her and Ishaan, but she still wants more. She refuses to sign divorce papers because she doesn't want to give away a single penny. Moreover, she always wants to be known as Mrs Om Puri.
How much has this affected Ishaan?
I try my best to keep him out of this. But he is totally under Nandita's influence. Yesterday I tried to reach him on the domestic help's phone, but I overheard him saying, 'Tell him I have a sore throat'. Now I am going to request the Court to provide me access to him on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
You were recently on a holiday with Nandita and Ishan. Pictures suggested everything was fine...
I wish it was true. I wanted to enjoy a holiday with my son but Nandita tagged along.
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How has Nandita behaved during this conflict?
She is very aggressive and uses abusive language against me. She has grabbed my collar on more than one occasion. I try to remain calm and just walk out of the house. But she stands by the door blocking my way and if I try to make my way past her, she says that I am attacking her. She went to Seema's building and screamed expletives.
Would you like to stay with Seema after the divorce?
I can go and live with anybody, but first let me get out of this mess.
That doesn't answer my question.
Yes. I would like to live with Seema, I like her. But if that happens, it would happen only when I have legally parted ways with Nandita.
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Nandita says you are in an adulterous relationship with Seema. Is there truth in the allegation?
At the age of 64? I can't write properly, my signature has changed because my hands shake. How will I indulge in adultery? And let me tell you Nandita is responsible for my ill health too. We were in Punjab, when I suffered a neuro problem. The doctors told her to fly me back to Mumbai/Delhi and get a spine surgery done but she ignored the doctors and did not inform me too. Was her holiday more important than my health? I got the surgery done when a doctor in Mumbai pressed the panic button but it was too late.
Have you lost out on work because of problems at home?
Workwise, I won't blame Nandita. Perhaps age has caught up with me. Also stars like Amitabh and Rishi have started doing character roles. But I did a nice film Trafficker in Bangkok recently. And I am doing a film with Spielberg.
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