Millions mourn as Kannada film industry’s ‘power star’ Puneeth Rajkumar dies of heart attack at 46
It was in 1982 that a seven-year-old Puneeth Rajkumar sang “Kaanadante Mayavadhanu, Namma Shiva, Kailsa Serikondanu’, (Went missing and cant be seen, my Shiva, reached Kailasa) in the movie ‘Chalisuva Modagalu’, becoming a household name.
Three years later, his captivating role of a young, studious boy from a poor family in the 1985 film Bettada Hoovu bagged the then 10-year-old a national award. Over the next four decades, Puneeth built a stellar career with blockbuster hits and a cult following in Karnataka for his action sequences and fitness regimen.
The 46-year-old actor died on Friday after suffering a cardiac arrest, leaving the state in shock, grief and disbelief. Doctors said the actor -- the youngest son of Kannada screen legend Dr Rajkumar and known to legions of fans by his moniker ‘power star’ -- developed chest pains after his regular exercise on Friday morning.
“Puneeth Rajkumar was an extremely fit 46-year-old gentleman. This morning after his routine exercise, he complained of chest pain and went to the family doctor where an ECG revealed acute heart attack and was immediately referred to our hospital for further management,” said Dr Ranganath Nayak, cardiologist at Vikram Hospitals in Bengaluru.
The doctor added that the actor’s heart had stopped when he arrived at the hospital and even a cardiac massage, shock therapy and ventilator bore no positive change. He was declared dead at 2.30 pm.
“In spite of prolonged advanced and aggressive measures, the patient continued to be non responsive and asystolic. The panel of medical experts extended all efforts to save him,” Vikram hospitals, a unit of Manipal hospitals, said in a statement.
The news came as a shock to his hundreds of thousands of fans, whose memories of seeing a fit Puneeth’s workout session videos and movies are still fresh. Many swarmed the hospital and gathered outside his house, crying and hugging each other. Police shut shops and offices.
He is survived by his wife Ashwini Revanth and two daughters, Dhriti and Vanditha.
Puneeth’s body will be kept at the Kanteerava Stadium to enable the public to pay their last respects, state minister R Ashoka told reporters. He said Puneeth’s last rites will be performed with full state honours and the family will decide when it will happen.
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 Bommai said that Puneeth was the state’s “most loved superstar... A huge personal loss and one that’s difficult to come to terms with.”
Puneeth starred in 49 films, 12 of them as a child artist. He was seen as Kannada cinema’s most popular actor with remuneration for each movie upwards of ₹3 crore.
He was the youngest son of Dr Rajkumar, one of Kannada cinema’s legends and Dada Saheb Phalke award winner, who died in 2006.
His mother, Parvathamma Rajumar was a producer and one of the most influential names in Kannada cinema. His brothers -- Shiva Rajkumar and Raghavendra Rajkumar -- are also actors and producers, making this arguably the first family of Kannada cinema industry.
The actor, like his father Dr Rajkumar, donated his eyes, said a senior official at the department of information and public relations.