Om Puri, actor who starred in Bollywood and Hollywood films, dead at 66

Om Puri, Indian actor who moved through art house, Bollywood, Hollywood and European film roles in a career dating back to the late 1970s, died Friday of cardiac arrest.

Nominated for a BAFTA for East is East, Puri also appeared in City of Joy, Charlie Wilson's War

Actor Om Puri thanks the audience in Toronto at the premiere for West is West, the sequel to the critically acclaimed East is East a decade earlier, at Roy Thomson Hall on Sept. 12, 2010. (Vito Amati/Getty Images for Icon)

Veteran Indian Bollywood actor Om Puri died on Friday in Mumbai, close friend and actor Anupam Kher said. Puri, 66, died from cardiac arrest, Kher told Reuters.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of leading movie stars tweeted condolence messages shortly after Puri's death Friday morning.

In a career spanning more than three decades, Puri had won a slew of national awards and international fame for his work in several critically acclaimed films.

His breakthrough film was the 1983 gritty drama Ardh Satya, about a young policeman's crisis of conscience as he deals with the nexus of crime and politics in India.

Puri had a small role in 1983 Oscar winner Gandhi, and would increase his international profile through the years in Hollywood and European films such as East is East and its sequel West is West, as well as City of Joy, Wolf, The Ghost and the Darkness and Charlie Wilson's War.

In 2014, Puri starred with British actress Helen Mirren in the comedy The Hundred-Foot Journey as the patriarch of a family of Indian immigrants who open a restaurant in a French town but end up clashing with a neighbourhood Michelin-starred establishment.

'He lives through his work'

Puri garnered a BAFTA best actor nomination in 2000 for East is East and was made an honorary officer of the Order of the British Empire for his contribution to British cinema in 2004.

Puri also appeared in Canadian-made productions, including director Deepa Mehta's 1991 film Sam & Me.

"He showed that you didn't have to be 'fair' and 'good-looking' to be a protagonist," Saeed Akhtar Mirza, who directed Puri in one of his earliest films, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai, told Reuters. "It was just the force of his personality and his performance."

Indian actor is shown in a Sept. 3, 2014 photo in London promoting The Hundred Foot Journey, a film in which he co-starred with Helen Mirren. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

Several Bollywood stars, fans and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to pay their respects.

"Who dare say Om Puri is no more? He lives through his work," actor Kamal Hassan tweeted.

An alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India and later, the National School of Drama, the actor's work in Govind Nihalani's Ardh Satyaand and later Aakrosh won him several accolades.

Along with Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil, Puri was seen as one of the stars of the alternative cinema movement that contrasted sharply with Bollywood's often crass content.

His distinctive baritone, and ability to switch seamlessly between art house, Bollywood, Hollywood and British film, made him an international star, one of the few Indian actors to cross over to the West before the likes Irrfan Khan and Priyanka Chopra made the jump.

Chopra, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story star Riz Ahmed and the Toronto International Film Festival's Cameron Bailey were also among those to pay their respects on social media.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press


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