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Veteran Indian actor Om Puri dies of heart attack
January 07, 2017
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NEW DELHI: Noted Indian character actor Om Puri, who worked in films at home and abroad, has died in the western city of Mumbai.

He was 66.

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

“The artists will all miss him and it’s a big loss to the industry. His name was taken along the great artists of the world, not just India,” film director Prakash Jha said, as he joined several people from the Indian film industry outside Puri’s Mumbai home.

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, or “Half Truth,” about a young policeman’s crisis of conscience as he deals with the nexus of crime and politics in India.

Puri is also remembered for his work in the 1983 cult classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, or “Let it Go Friends,” a dark comedy about India’s all-encompassing corruption. He was also acclaimed for his performance in the 1997 British film My Son the Fanatic, as a Muslim taxi driver appalled by his son’s embrace of fundamentalist Islam.

In the 1999 British comedy East is East, he played a Pakistani immigrant in England who bumbles about as he tries to wrap his head around the clash of cultures that arises from his relationship with his children from a marriage to a British Catholic woman.

He also had a small role in Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi, based on the life of the Indian freedom leader Mohandas Gandhi.

He also acted in several Hollywood films, including City of Joy, ‘Wolf and Charlie Wilson’s War.

In 2014, Puri starred with British actor 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 neighborhood Michelin-starred establishment.

Puri studied acting at the leading Film and Television Institute of India and the National School of Drama.

He was made an honorary officer of the Order of the British Empire for his contribution to British cinema in 2004.

His body will be cremated later Friday.

“It’s really a great loss,” the veteran scriptwriter Javed Akhtar said.

“Wonderful person, great actor and with such impressive body of work, right from Satyajit Ray to any commercial Hindi film to films in US and Pakistan,” he said, referring to the renowned Indian director.

Bollywood stars tweeted their shock at the news, which broke early Friday, with Amitabh Bachchan saying he was “shocked” to learn of Puri’s death.

“A dear friend, a lovable colleague and an exceptional talent...in grief!” he said.

Actress Priyanka Chopra said it was “The end of an era”, adding, “the legacy lives on”. Puri made his debut in the mid-1970s before going on to star in a number of major Hindi hits as well as, controversially, in some Pakistani movies.

“Though I did try to resist commercial films for quite some time, I succumbed to it finally as money was equally important as art,” Puri wrote in his autobiography.

“But as an artist I never compromised on what I had to do on-screen, even if the film was not up to the standard.”

Puri − who was born in Ambala, now in Haryana state — to a Punjabi family in 1950, also starred opposite legendary British actor Helen Mirren in the 2014 film “The Hundred Foot Journey”. He was sometimes in the headlines for the wrong reasons, enduring an acrimonious and well-publicised split from his wife Nandita Puri.

In October he was accused of insulting Indian soldiers shortly after 19 were killed in an attack on an army base in Kashmir when he asked, “who had asked the soldiers to join the army?”. India blamed Pakistan for the raid and Puri was actually arguing against banning Pakistani artists from working in Bollywood films, but his comments sparked a furore on social media.

Agencies

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