By Sujoy Dhar and Shilpa Jamkhandikar
KOLKATA/MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh, known for his sensitive portrayal of interpersonal relationships, died in Kolkata on Thursday of a heart attack. He was 49.
Ghosh first caught the attention of cinema lovers in the 1990s with a clutch of films made in his native Bengali language.
His work, often showcased on the Western film festival circuit, resonated with global audiences with memorable and strong women characters. Mainstream Bollywood stars such as Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgn featured in some of his later films.
"Shocked and deeply grieved ... loss of a great creative mind," Bachchan told Reuters in a text message.
Bachchan, who worked with Ghosh in the 2007 English-language film "The Last Lear", said he had spoken to the director recently about a new film they were planning.
Born in 1963, Ghosh started his career in advertising and made his movie debut with a children's film "Hirer Angti" (The Diamond Ring).
Ghosh won a dozen national film awards, including the best feature film honour for "Unishe April" (19 April) in 1995 that explored the nuances of a mother-daughter relationship. His film "Chokher Bali" (Sand in the Eye), starring Aishwarya Rai, was nominated for the Golden Leopard, the top prize at the Locarno Film Festival in 2003.
"No one understood women better than Rituparno," said actress Raima Sen, who was cast in several of his films. "It is a personal loss to me."
Ghosh, who flaunted his sexuality and often dressed in women's clothing, also played gay characters in some of his last films.
The filmmaker tweeted on Tuesday he had wrapped up shooting for his new movie "Satyanweshi" (The Truth Seeker), a crime thriller about the popular fictional Bengali detective Byomkesh Bakshi.
"Very very sad that the man whose every frame spoke of cinematic beauty and gave a new identity to New wave Bengali Cinema is no more," filmmaker Onir said on Twitter.
"His passing away will be a big loss not only to lovers of cinema and art, but a huge loss to the LGBT community," he added.
(Writing by Tony Tharakan, editing by Paul Casciato)