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Veteran actor Saeed Jaffrey, a well-known name both in India and overseas, died in London on Sunday. He was 86.
News of his death was first communicated via a Facebook post by his niece Shaheen Aggarwal that was picked up by media both in India and the U.K. on Monday following an official statement from his reps at Jaffrey Associates. It said the actor collapsed at his London residence from a brain hemorrhage and never regained consciousness. The statement added his funeral will take place in London in around two weeks.
In addition to appearing in more than 100 Bollywood titles, Jaffrey’s international filmography included John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King (co-starring with Sean Connery and Michael Caine), Richard Attenborough’s multiple Oscar-winning Gandhi and David Lean’s A Passage to India, to name a few.
His many honors included a BAFTA nomination for his turn as a successful entrepreneur in Stephen Frears‘ My Beautiful Launderette. His television career further enhanced his profile given his roles in British television dramas such as Tandoori Nights, The Far Pavilions, Gangsters and long running soap Coronation Street, among others.
Switching effortlessly from his clipped British accent in his foreign appearances to chaste Hindi and Urdu in his career at home, Jaffrey was well-known for his diverse roles which included mainstream Bollywood and offbeat fare.These included one of Bollywood’s favorite comedies Chashme Buddoor (named after a colloquial term that refers to warding off the evil eye) to Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Players).
Jaffrey was born in 1929 in the northern state of Punjab in then undivided India. According to his reps, he started his own English theater company in Delhi. He later became the first Indian actor to tour and perform Shakespeare across the U.S. He was also the first Indian actor to appear in a major role on Broadway appearing in A Passage to India opposite Dame Gladys Cooper. In 1995, Jaffrey was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his contributions to drama.
“Today, a generation of Jaffreys has passed away,” Aggarwal wrote on Facebook. “Saeed Jaffrey has joined his brothers and sister and is rejoicing in the lap of his Heavenly Father, eternally.”
Tributes for the actor included a message from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said in an official statement, “Saeed Jaffrey was a multifaceted actor whose flair and versatility will always be remembered. Deepest condolences on his passing away.”
Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapur, whose Bollywood directorial debut Masoom featured Jaffrey, posted on Twitter, “Goodbye dear Saeed. Started my career with u in Masoom. Cant forget ur kindness n enthusiasm for your art n others.”
The actor was married to well-known actress, food writer and television personality Madhur Jaffrey with whom he had three children. The couple divorced in 1966. Jaffrey is survived by his wife Jennifer whom he married in 1980.
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