Award-winning Indian Actor Om Puri Dies at 66

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Popular Bollywood actor Om Puri wipes his brow as he leaves a press conference after announcing his decision to campaign for the Congress Party in the forthcoming Indian national elections in Bombay, 09 March 2004. (Credit: Rob Elliott/AFP/Getty Images

Critically acclaimed Indian actor Om Puri has died at the age of 66.

According to a friend close to him, the star of movies like “City of Joy” and “East is East,” suffered a heart attack early Friday at his Mumbai home.

“He was a torch bearer of Indian cinema,” actor Anupam Kher told CNN, describing Puri as “a wonderful friend and an amazing person.”

Puri was known for his versatility and appeal across global markets. He appeared not only in mainstream Bollywood movies and regional Indian cinema, but also numerous British and Hollywood productions.

Puri was one of the lead stars of 2014’s “The Hundred Foot Journey,” and also appeared in 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War and 2012’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”

Breaking the mold

“In the 1970s and 80s, there was a certain chocolatey look required to be a part of Indian cinema. Om Puri broke that myth with sheer talent and hard work,” said Kher.

Puri trained at India’s National School of Drama and the Film and the Television Institute of India.

“He had humble beginnings,” said Kher, “but the glamor of Bollywood didn’t affect him.”

“He didn’t let himself change.”

Puri won numerous awards for his work. In 1990, he was honored with the Padma Shree, India’s fourth highest civilian honor, for his contribution to the arts.

In 2004, he was awarded an honorary Order of the British Empire for his contributions to the UK film industry. Puri also won the Best Actor category twice at India’s prestigious National Film Awards.

Puri’s hits like 1983s “Ardh Satya” and the satirical “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron” led to widespread recognition in his home country India.

A number of top Indian leaders, actors, and sports stars posted tributes to Puri on social media Friday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent his condolences, as did many members of Bollywood’s film fraternity.

Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar said, “You will live in our hearts forever.”