A sea of grieving fans poured into Bengaluru's Kanteerava Stadium on Friday to pay last respects to Kannada cinema's reigning star and celebrity television host Puneeth Rajkumar, whose death at 46 after a heart attack sent shockwaves across the country. His last rites will be performed with full state honours, state minister R Ashoka told reporters.
Videos showed the stadium packed wall-to-wall with thousands of fans. A government order said his last rites will be performed at the Kanteerava Studio where his parents Dr Rajkumar and Parvathamma were cremated. According to government sources quoted by news agency PTI, the last rites will be performed on Sunday, as the family awaits the arrival of Puneeth Rajkumar's daughter, who lives abroad.
Known for films such as "Appu", "Veera Kannadiga" and "Maurya", the actor known as "power star" died on Friday following a massive heart attack, hospital sources said.
Rajkumar, who was known to be a fitness enthusiast, was rushed to Vikram Hospital after he complained of chest pain following a two-hour workout in the gym, doctors treating him said. He died shortly after. He is survived by his wife Ashwini Revanth and two daughters Dhriti and Vanditha.
Restless crowds of stunned fans milled around the hospital complex as news came in of the sudden death of the actor, the son of much-loved matinee idol Rajkumar who fast outgrew his father's shadow to make a place for himself in the Kannada showbiz industry.
According to a statement from the Vikram Hospital earlier in the day, Puneeth was taken to the emergency department "... with history of chest pain at 11:40 am, he was non-responsive... advanced cardiac resuscitation has been initiated".
Condolences at the death of the actor, who began his career as a child artist appearing in movies such as "Thayige Thakka Maga" and "Bhagyavantha", poured in from political leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, colleagues in the southern film industry as well as those in Bollywood -- their messages echoing his legions of fans grieving the hero who had gone too soon.
Sharing a picture with the actor and his family, the prime minister said, "A cruel twist of fate has snatched away from us a prolific and talented actor, Puneeth Rajkumar. This was no age to go. The coming generations will remember him fondly for his works and wonderful personality. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti."
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai was among the first to condole the death.
"A huge personal loss and one that's difficult to come to terms with. Praying the almighty gives the Rajkumar family and fans the strength to bear this loss." he tweeted," the chief minister said.
Bommai said the actor was supposed to meet him on Friday to plan Kannada Rajyotsava on November 1.
"But the destiny had something else in store. Instead of meeting me, he went somewhere else. This is extremely shocking," the Chief Minister told reporters.