Bollywood Actor Om Puri, Star of 'East is East', Dies at 66

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Om Puri

A veteran of Indian cinema, Puri worked on a number of films in the U.S. and especially the U.K.

Om Puri, the prolific Bollywood actor who also starred in several British and Hollywood films, has died. He was 66.

Indian media reported Puri's close friend, filmmaker Ashok Pandit, confirming the actor had died from a heart attack. Pandit later took to Twitter to pass on his condolences. 

Over a career that stretched almost half a century, Puri starred in over 100 films. His craggy features and penchant for taking unusual roles made Puri a critics' favorite, and he gave award-winning performances in the films Aakrosh (1980) and Arohan (1982). In recent years he had roles in more mainstream Bollywood films like Singh Is Kinng (2008) and Don 2 (2011).

As well as working in Bollywood and several of the regional Indian film industries, Puri starred in many British films later in his career, most notably 1997's My Son the Fanatic, the hit comedy East is East (1999) and the Steve Coogan comedy The Parole Officer (2001). Puri also had a cameo in the Oscar-winning film Gandhi and worked on television shows Jewel in the Crown and The Canterbury Tales. Though not a citizenPuri was awarded an honorary OBE in 2004 for his services to British film.

Puri also appeared in a number of Hollywood films including City of Joy (1992), Wolf (1994), The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) and notably played Pakistani General Zia-ul-Haq in the 2007 Tom Hanks film Charlie Wilson's War. In 2014, he appeared alongside Helen Mirren in the comedy The Hundred-Foot Journey. 

Born in the northern Indian state of Haryana to a Punjabi family in 1950, Puri would later attend the Film and Television Institute of India as well as National School of Drama, where he was a classmate of actor Naseeruddin Shah. In addition to the honorary OBE, Puri was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India.


The Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi and a number of Bollywood stars took to Twitter to express their shock and sadness at Puri's passing.