In 1970 he appeared in his first film, Prem Pujari although the first film he had signed was Reshma Aur Shera which released in 1971. This was followed by many negative or supporting roles in numerous art films such as Shyam Benegal's Nishant, Manthan, and Bhumika and Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda. His finest and most memorable art film role was Govind Nihalani's Ardh Satya in which he was cast with Om Puri.
He got recognition in 1980 from the film Hum Panchi.
After that, he started getting cast as the main villain in other movies. In 1982, Puri played the main villain, Jagavar Choudhary in the Subhash Ghai super-hit film Vidhaata. That same year, he again played the main villain, JK in the movie Shakti starring two legends- Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. Next, in 1983, Subhash Ghai again cast him as the main villain, Pasha in the hit movie Hero. Puri regularly featured in subsequent Subhash Ghai films.