Thousands mourn south Indian film star Puneeth Rajkumar’s sudden death

Thousands of bereaved cinema fans thronged the streets of Bangalore on Friday after the sudden death of regional Indian film star Puneeth Rajkumar from a heart attack at just 46.

The actor, known as “Powerstar” for his action roles in the Kannada-language film industry, was admitted to hospital on Friday morning with chest pains and died shortly afterwards.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led tributes, tweeting that a “cruel twist of fate has snatched away from us a prolific and talented actor… The coming generations will remember him fondly for his works and wonderful personality.” Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj S. Bommai said that Rajkumar was the state’s “most loved superstar. A huge personal loss and one that’s difficult to come to terms with.”

Authorities enhanced security around the actor’s house fearing violence by his fans, some of whom could be seen chasing the ambulance in which his body was being taken from the hospital. Elsewhere his admirers were crying and hugging.

“It is very painful to have lost him. He was a gem in the Kannada film industry and he is unforgettable. It is very painful,” one bereft fan, Sandeep, said.

Local media reports said Rajkumar was rushed to hospital after he collapsed while working out in his gym. Son of another actor known simply as Rajkumar, Puneeth Rajkumar had recently wrapped up the shoot of “James” and was to begin work on a new film soon.

Having made a name for himself as a child actor, he starred in some 30 films, with his debut action-comedy flick “Appu” being one of the biggest hits.

Hindi-language Bollywood is India’s biggest film industry but the vast country also produces hundreds of films in its 21 other official languages every year.

“It feels as though I have lost a younger brother. My thoughts & prayers go out to his family with whom I share a close bond,” tweeted Mohanlal, a major star in Malayalam-language cinema in the south Indian state of Kerala.

Chiranjeevi, a superstar in the Telugu-language film industry, said Rajkumar’s demise was a “huge loss” to the Kannada industry and the Indian film fraternity at large.

Rajkumar is survived by wife Ashwini Revanth and has two children.

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