Om Puri: Veteran Indian actor dies at the age of 66

Indian actor Om Puri smiles during his felicitation ceremony organized by the Rotary Club of Mumbai in Bombay August 15, 2004Image copyright
Reuters

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Om Puri acted in both mainstream and art films in Bollywood

Veteran Indian actor Om Puri, star of British hit East is East, has died aged 66.

The actor suffered a heart attack at his residence in Mumbai early on Friday, reports say.

Om Puri, who acted in both mainstream and art films, was known for his gritty performances in a number of landmark Indian films in the 1980s.

He also appeared in a number of British films, including a cameo in Richard Attenborough’s epic on Mahatma Gandhi.

A versatile actor, Puri was known for his roles in Indian, Pakistani, British and Hollywood films. He was awarded an honorary OBE for his contribution to the British film industry in 2004.

Media captionActor Om Puri dies aged 66

Puri, who was born in 1950 in the north Indian state of Haryana, made his film debut in the 1976 film Ghashiram Kotwal.

He became a well-known figure in the Indian film industry in the 1980s before he found international fame in the following decade.

His roles in American and British films included the 1999 British comedy East is East about a Pakistani immigrant adjusting to life in the north of England.

Puri also appeared in City of Joy, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Charlie Wilson’s War and most recently starred in The Hundred-Foot Journey alongside Dame Helen Mirren.

Media captionOm Puri found international fame for his roles in films such as East is East

At home, Puri was best-known for his performances in critically-acclaimed films like Ardh Satya, Sadgati, Paar and the satirical Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.

Media captionOm Puri spoke to the BBC in 1984 about his future career hopes

Puri was one of India’s truly successful crossover actors, doing films with stars such as Jack Nicholson and Tom Hanks, the BBC’s Soutik Biswas said.

His roles in Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh as a tribal man falsely accused of murder and a policeman in Ardh Satya beaten back by the system remain among the finest performances on Indian screen, Biswas added.

Puri is survived by his wife Nandita Puri, who he married in 1993, and their son Ishaan.

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AFP

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Om Puri acted with Helen Mirren in The Hundred-Foot Journey

The actor is being mourned in neighbouring Pakistan with newspapers reporting prominently on his death.

He had recently spoken out against the ban imposed by India on Pakistani actors working in Bollywood films, following tensions over Kashmir.

Media captionFilm Director Gurinder Chadha has been working with Om Puri on her upcoming film Viceroy’s House

“Pakistani artists are not terrorists,” he told an Indian TV channel. The remark led to criticism by sections of the Indian media.

The actor made several other comments that caused controversy in the country.

These included statements on the Indian army, politicians who “loot” the country, and a comment on the controversial lynching of a Muslim man in 2015 over beef, when he said, “Those who wanted to put a ban on slaughtering cows in the country were hypocrites.”

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Om Puri appeared in BBC TV drama The Canterbury Tales

Actor and director Ananth Mahadevan, who was a close friend of Puri, paid tribute to the star.

He told the BBC World Service’s Newsday programme: “It’s a personal loss and a loss to cinema because he was truly India’s international star.”

Mahadevan praised Puri’s “sheer versatility”, adding: “He was a man that proved that you needn’t be a very handsome-looking, tall, strapping guy to be a leading man.

“You needed loads of talent and that is what Om proved with his sensibility and sensitivity.”

In a tweet two weeks ago, the actor reflected on his life and career, saying he did not have a “conventional face” but was “proud” of his success.

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@OmRajeshPuri

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@OmRajeshPuri

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office led the tributes to the actor:

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@PMOIndia

A number of leading filmmakers and actors also remembered Puri:

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@ikamalhaasan

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@sachin_rt

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@akshaykumar

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@AnupamPkher

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@karanjohar

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@FarOutAkhtar

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