Suchitra Sen, India's legendary actress known for her memorable roles in both Bengali language and Bollywood films, died today after a cardiac arrest, her daughter said. She was 82.

Sen was in hospital in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state, more than three weeks ago for treatment of a respiratory tract infection, said Moon Moon Sen, who is also an actor.

She was due to be cremated later today.

Suchitra Sen started acting in 1952 and reigned supreme for 26 years.

Sen won fame in the Bengali films, especially co-starring with actor Uttam Kumar. The two become associated with Bengali melodramas and romantic movies through the 1960s and the 1970s.

Her most memorable Bengali films included Agnipariksha, Devdas and Saat Paake Bandha.

The doe-eyed beauty shunned appearing in public after her retirement from films in 1978. She acted in 57 Bengali and seven Hindi films.

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh said that Suchitra Sen had carved a special niche in the hearts of millions of Indians through her graceful cinematic presence.

He said: "Her versatility and range of performances mark a unique contribution to Indian cinema, and to Bengali films in particular."

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan said he was saddened by the news of her death.

"Beauty, talent, enigmatic - she adorned the film world of Bengal with exquisite performances ... She graced Hindi films too!" Bachchan tweeted.

"She was a wonder. She was not just a legend," said Mamta Banerjee, the state's top elected official.

Suchitra Sen made her debut in Bollywood with the 1955 film Devdas, co-starring with Dilip Kumar, another legendary actor, and won the best actress award for the movie.

Another big Bollywood hit was Aandhi where she played the role of a politician inspired by the life of the then-Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

She was the first Bengali actress to be honoured at an international film festival. She was picked as the best actress for her role in Saat Paake Bandha, a Bengali language film, at the 1963 Moscow film festival.

The Indian government honoured her with Padma Shri, a top civilian award, in 1972.

Suchitra married Dibanath Sen, an industrialist, in 1947 before launching her successful acting career. Her husband died in the early 1970s.