Mourners gather around a vehicle carrying the body of late Indian actor Soumitra Chatterjee during a funeral procession to a crematorium in Kolkata.

Legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee has been hailed as one of Indian cinema's leading lights after his death at the age of 85 from health complications after he contracted the coronavirus. Chatterjee appeared in around 300 films over six decades but was best known internationally for his work with Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray.

He was admitted to a Kolkata hospital after testing positive for Covid-19 last month and was kept there as he suffered further ailments linked to the virus, according to local media. The acting icon's condition deteriorated and he died on Sunday, his daughter Poulami Bose wrote on Facebook. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Chaterjee's death was "a colossal loss to the world of cinema" and India's cultural life.

"International, Indian and Bengali cinema has lost a giant. We will miss him dearly," added West Bengal state chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Twitter. Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, who suffered his own bout of Covid-19 earlier this year, tweeted that Chatterjee was "one of the mightiest pillars" of India's film industry and "a gentle soul".

Chatterjee appeared in 14 of Ray's films and made his debut in the third installment of the director's acclaimed Apu Trilogy. He was in 2012 presented with Indian cinema's highest honor, the Dadasaheb Phalke, and France awarded him the Legion of Honor three years ago. Thousands of mourning fans gathered in Kolkata near the crematorium where his body was taken late on Sunday, carrying candles and photographs of the actor.-AFP