Indian actor Om Puri, who appeared in Oscar-winning Gandhi, dies at 66

Indian actor Om Puri (R) seen with British actress Helen Mirren (L) at the Gala Screening of ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ in London in 2014.
Image: EPA

Legendary Indian actor and recipient of the country’s fourth-highest civilian honor, Om Puri, breathed his last on Friday. He was 66.

The news was shared by his filmmaker friend and colleague, Ashoke Pandit, on social media.

Puri was a leading light in India’s parallel cinema that defined the ’70s and ’80s, when commercial cinema hit many lows. A truly versatile actor, he played everything from an alcoholic taxi driver and an angry cop to the oppressed poor and a Shakespearean witch.

His most memorable films included Ardh Satya, Sadgati, Paar, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Maachis and Tamas. And his unforgettable cameo in Sir Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning film Gandhi (1982) is the stuff of legends.

His trysts were not restricted to Indian cinema only. Puri starred in the hit British comedy East is East (1999)and the drama film My Son the Fanatic (1997). And in Hollywood, he appeared in films such as City of Joy (1992), Wolf (1994) and more recently, The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014).

Besides being a Padma Shri awardee in India, Britain awarded Puri an honorary Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2004 for his services to their film industry.

As news of his death broke, rich tributes poured in for the actor. India’s Prime Minister and other eminent personalities from the film industry joined in.

One of Puri’s last tweets was a reflection on his career.

He also retweeted old friend and fellow Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah’s recollections of their time spent together.

This Indian filmmaker summed up Puri’s contribution well.

The actor’s last finished film, Viceroy’s House, releases in March.

And we shall make a beeline for him!

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