Nandita Puri marches forward, donning many hats

- February 18, 2024
| By : Santosh Mehta |

Despite the challenges following the loss of her husband, Om Puri, in 2017, Nandita Puri remains resilient, embracing life's ebbs and flows. Her critically acclaimed book ‘Jennifer’ is set to captivate audiences on the silver screen

POSITIVE: Nandita Puri has forged ahead despite the challenges she has faced since her husband's sudden passing in 2017. (Photo: Getty)

Nandita Puri, writer, artist and wife of the late legendary actor Om Puri, continues to forge ahead despite the challenges she’s faced since her husband’s sudden passing in 2017. Reflecting on her loss, she remarks that the void left by his absence remains palpable, but “life is all about ups and downs”. 

“One has to move forward, choose the right path, and take the right direction. I am happy that my son, Ishaan, is accompanying me to fulfil my husband’s dream,” she muses.

Nandita gained widespread recognition after penning the internationally acclaimed bestseller, ‘Jennifer: One Woman, Two Continents and a Truth Called Child Trafficking’, which is slated for a cinematic adaptation. A former student of English literature, she commenced her career as a journalist, contributing regular columns to leading publications.

In addition to her stint as a broadcaster for All India Radio (AIR) and Mark Tully’s Radio Network, Nandita has served on the script committees of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and the Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI).

Prior to ‘Jennifer’, she authored the collection of short stories ‘Nine on Nine’, followed by the highly successful biography, ‘Unlikely Hero, Om Puri’.

In 2017, Nandita launched the Om Puri Foundation at the 70th Cannes Film Festival in honour of her late husband, with the aim of perpetuating his legacy and philosophy. Presently, she holds the chairmanship of the Om Puri Foundation.

Nandita’s journey as a journalist, writer, and now actress has been both extensive and inspiring, serving as a beacon of encouragement for women worldwide.

Recently, she made her acting debut in the award-winning film Yes Papa, portraying the role of a victim’s mother. Describing the experience as “wonderful”, she recalls the novelty of sitting in a vanity van, giving shots, and applying makeup for the first time. 

GOING ALL IN: Nandita Puri has been an author and a journalist before taking a leap of faith in acting in films

“I became a celebrity overnight, and these experiences gave me the strength and courage to persevere,” she shares.

Her excitement mounts as ‘Jennifer’ transitions to the big screen. She emphasises that ‘Jennifer’ recounts the true story of an Indian American girl deported to America under the guise of adoption, only to be abandoned and subsequently deported to India after a swift trial. Left alone with two children, she grapples with the trauma and exploitation inflicted upon her by society.


What inspired you to write the book ‘Jennifer’?

I met Jennifer in 2014 when lawyer-activist Pradeep Havnur introduced me to her. He provided me with some documents and after hearing Jennifer’s harrowing story, I couldn’t shake off the impact it had on me. Her ordeal haunted me, compelling me to delve into her narrative. 

Jennifer’s story was a stark awakening, and I felt compelled to share it with the world.

We have heard your book ‘Jennifer’ is going to be adapted into a film. Can you confirm?

Yes, indeed. I am thrilled to announce that ‘Jennifer’ will be brought to the big screen. As both a writer and the wife of the late Om Puri, I am immensely proud of this development.

Could you provide some insights into the upcoming ‘Jennifer’ film?

It will be adapted into a film by Priyanka Chopra Jones’s production company, Purple Pebble Pictures. PPP is known for producing smaller budget films and have shown great interest in this project, thus extending their support. Currently, I am in the process of renewing the contract and Priyanka remains committed to bringing Jennifer’s story to life on screen.

Can you offer any details or a potential timeframe for the release of the film?

At this moment, I am unable to provide specific details or a timeframe for the release of the film. However, rest assured, progress is underway, and I will share updates as soon as they become available.

How did your collaboration with Saif Hyder Hasan, the director of Yes Papa, come about? And what was it like portraying a mother in the film?

Saif Hyder Hasan approached me as a friend. I have admired his work in theatre. He sought to partner with Om Puri’s foundation for his film, given its focus on child trafficking, which aligns with the foundation’s mission. Playing the role of a mother in the film was gratifying, and the audience response was incredibly rewarding.

Could you share how you landed the role in Yes Papa?

When Saif Hyder Hasan presented the script of Yes Papa, I initially felt a bit apprehensive. However, he instilled confidence in me, assuring me that I could portray the character. Drawing from my experience as Om Puri’s wife and my previous role as a stepmother in the play ‘Tugluk’, I prepared myself for the role, diligently studying the script and dialogues.

What emotions did you experience when offered the role in Yes Papa?

Accepting the role in Yes Papa was accompanied by a mix of apprehension and nervousness. As someone with no prior acting experience or background in showbiz, I harboured concerns about potentially disappointing the audience. There was a fear that criticism could arise, questioning my abilities, particularly as the wife of a renowned actor. However, I found solace in the guidance provided by my late husband, who imparted invaluable advice during his time on stage, which served as a source of inspiration and learning for me.

You’ve portrayed various roles in your life, including that of a wife, mother, writer, journalist, and housewife. Which role do you find most fulfilling?

Each role I’ve taken on holds a special place in my heart. I’ve cherished being a journalist, writer, and housewife. Cooking for my family brings me joy, and I find fulfilment in nurturing my children. Reading and writing are passions of mine that I deeply enjoy. Ultimately, I find satisfaction in performing all my roles to the best of my ability.

Could you tell us about your role within the Om Puri Foundation?

I serve as the chairman of the Om Puri Foundation, alongside trustees like my son Ishaan, actor Kabir Khan, and Bittu Sehgal. Notable filmmakers such as Govind Nihalani and Shyam Benegal, and the late Girish Karnad, serve as advisors. Additionally, actors and directors like Ananth Narayan Mahadevan, Anup Soni (of ‘Crime Patrol’ fame), and Atul Tiwari are part of our foundation’s team.

As a mother, what advice would you offer to young girls who may become victims? How can they be protected?

It’s crucial for parents to listen to their children and not turn a blind eye if they encounter any form of abuse or trouble. By being attentive and supportive, parents can ensure the safety and well-being of their children. It’s essential not to ignore any issues they may face and to take proactive steps to address them.

What are your thoughts on Delhi?

Delhi holds a special place in my heart, filled with cherished memories. I recall accompanying Omji during his frequent visits to Delhi for theatre performances. Exploring the city with friends, shopping for clothes, strolling in Lodhi Garden, and experiencing the vibrant atmosphere of the India Habitat Centre are memories that I hold dear.

Could you share any upcoming projects?

Currently, I’m immersed in working on my next book, which follows the success of my previous work dedicated to my hero. Additionally, I’m planning an Om Puri film festival and compiling his collective works.

Is your son pursuing acting?

Yes. My son Ishaan is currently studying at the London School of Economics while also pursuing his passion for acting. He is training under the guidance of Pearl Padamsee and has joined Roshan Taneja’s school, where his father once studied.