Naseeruddin Shah on watching Om Puri on the stage for the first time: ‘He was a revelation’

Puri was dazzling as a warrior in the kabuki-themed play ‘Ibaragi’ at the National School of Drama, says his peer and friend.

We returned from vacation for our final year, to be informed that auditions would be on for the next production, a Kabuki play in Hindi, Ibaragi, to be directed by an expert from Japan. My awareness of this classical form was as immature as that of a twenty-two-year-old drama student can be expected to be. We had never actually seen a Kabuki play but had been shown films of some performances. It would be a stretch to perform like that, I knew, particularly with the vocal acrobatics required, but I felt more than confident that the big part in it would be mine. Even though I then had frequent laryngeal trouble, and had to often perform with a voice that was no more than a ghostly whisper, I was cocky to the core that if anyone could pull this off it had to be me. It did not occur to me that there were other actors too, not as showy as myself, who had been far more diligent in practising their craft than I had been. Arriving at the school for the first read-through, we were told that only the students of acting would be cast. We, the students of direction, were to only observe and assist in the production. I was gutted and so was Jaspal, who had naturally assumed that with his vocal abilities, he would be a shoo-in. And who should get cast in the main part but Om Puri, also a classmate, who had very quietly persevered in self-improvement through the time he had been at NSD. [National School of Drama].

When the play was performed Om, for once cast as a flamboyant warrior, was a revelation. I was stuck doing production duties for this play I would have killed to act in, and could only watch him in wonder and envy. Despite intensely coveting the role, it was difficult not to be thrilled at the level of performance he had achieved. Something told me I could NOT have done what he did. Om had always been a model, if somewhat stodgy, student and human being: completely virtuous, genuinely considerate, deeply compassionate, industrious, punctual, attentive, thoughtful; but had so far received attention because of his sweet temperament rather than for his acting. Now he had delivered a knockout performance, and I could see there was no magic formula responsible. He was so astoundingly good because, quite simply, he had gone for broke and expended every ounce of his energy in preparation. Om continued to inspire me for a very long time. Even though I initially found his sincerity amusing and quite unnecessary—at complete variance with my own attitude—I finally began to see its virtues, and had to admit to myself that none of my own performances in the school productions could begin to approach Om’s achievement in Ibaragi.

Excerpted with permission from And Then One Day: A Memoir by Naseeruddin Shah, published by Penguin Books India (Hamish Hamilton).

Support our journalism by paying for Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Bringing the glamour back to flying while keeping it affordable

The pleasure of air travel is back, courtesy of an airline in India.

Before dinner, fashionable women would retire to the powder room and suited-up men would indulge in hors d’oeuvres, surrounded by plush upholstery. A gourmet meal would soon follow, served in fine tableware. Flying, back in the day, was like an upscale party 35,000 feet up in the air.

The glamour of flying has been chronicled in Keith Lovegrove’s book titled ‘Airline: Style at 30,000 feet’. In his book, Lovegrove talks about how the mid-50s and 60s were a “fabulously glamorous time to fly in commercial airlines”. Back then, flying was reserved for the privileged and the luxuries played an important role in making travelling by air an exclusive experience.

Fast forward to the present day, where flying has become just another mode of transportation. In Mumbai, every 65 seconds an aircraft lands or takes off at the airport. The condition of today’s air travel is a cumulative result of the growth in the volume of fliers, the accessibility of buying an air ticket and the number of airlines in the industry/market.

Having relegated the romance of flying to the past, air travel today is close to hectic and borderline chaotic thanks to busy airports, packed flights with no leg room and unsatisfactory meals. With the skies dominated by frequent fliers and the experience having turned merely transactional and mundane, is it time to bid goodbye to whatever’s enjoyable in air travel?

With increased resources and better technology, one airline is proving that flying in today’s scenario can be a refreshing, enjoyable and affordable experience at the same time. Vistara offers India’s first and only experience of a three-cabin configuration. At a nominal premium, Vistara’s Premium Economy is also redefining the experience of flying with a host of features such as an exclusive cabin, 20% extra legroom, 4.5-inch recline, dedicated check-in counter and baggage delivery on priority. The best in class inflight dining offers a range of regional dishes, while also incorporating global culinary trends. Other industry-first features include Starbucks coffee on board and special assistance to solo women travellers, including preferred seating.

Vistara’s attempts to reduce the gap between affordability and luxury can also be experienced in the economy class with an above average seat pitch, complimentary selection of food and beverages and a choice of leading newspapers and publications along with an inflight magazine. Hospitality aboard Vistara is, moreover, reminiscent of Singapore Airlines’ famed service with a seal of Tata’s trust, thanks to its cabin crew trained to similarly high standards.

The era of style aboard a ‘flying boat’ seems long gone. However, airlines like Vistara are bringing back the allure of air travel. Continuing their campaign with Deepika Padukone as brand ambassador, the new video delivers a bolder and a more confident version of the same message - making flying feel new again. Watch the new Vistara video below. For your next trip, rekindle the joy of flying and book your tickets here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vistara and not by the Scroll editorial team.