Actors Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar have paid tribute to writer Sharat Sardana, who has died aged 40, describing him as like a "brother".

Sardana was behind huge television hits such as Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at Number 42 and he was a long-time collaborator with the pair.

He died at Whipps Cross University Hospital on Tuesday, the east London hospital confirmed.

In a statement, Syal and Bhaskar said they were "stunned and completely broken hearted about Sharat's death".

They said: "He was not just a gifted writer and a long-standing colleague and friend. We were part of each other's extended families and losing him feels like losing a brother.

"There is so much he should have and could have done, though we're grateful and so very proud of what he achieved in his all-to-brief life."

The couple were joined in their tribute by EastEnders actress Nina Wadia, who also starred in Goodness Gracious Me. She said: "My heart goes out to his family.

"The time we spent creating something new and special and bigger than ourselves was a privilege I'll always treasure. We've lost a genuinely unique talent."

The Evening Standard reported that Sardana collapsed at his father's home, suffering from a streptococcal virus.

Jon Plowman, executive producer of BBC Comedy, said: "It's a very sad day for comedy to lose a writer who managed to help comedy break through in the way that Goodness Gracious Me did... This is a truly shocking loss."