Puneeth Rajkumar, the popular Kannada actor, died of cardiac arrest at a private hospital in Bengaluru on Friday. He was 46.
The actor’s remains will be kept at the Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru for people to pay their homage. He will be cremated with state honours, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said. Puneeth donated his eyes just like his father, the legendary Indian actor and singer Rajkumar.
Puneeth was rushed to Vikram Hospital in Bengaluru after he complained of chest pains on Friday morning. He was declared unresponsive when brought in to the emergency department by hospital authorities.
Puneeth first appeared in films as a toddler, in Premada Kanike (1976). He later debuted in a lead role with the 2002 film Appu and is still fondly called Appu by fans and peers. He went on to star in commercially successful films like Mourya (2004), Aakash (2005), Milana (2007), and Jackie (2010), among others.
As news broke of the actor suffering a heart attack, fans thronged Vikram Hospital on Friday afternoon. A huge crowd of fans was spotted outside the hospital premises and Bengaluru police cordoned off roads adjoining the hospital, including Ali Askar Road and Cunningham Road.
Chief Minister Bommai was among those who rushed to the hospital after hearing the news on Friday.
Puneeth won his first award for the 1982 film Chalisuva Modagalu that featured his father in the lead role. He went on to win the National Film Award for Best Child Artist for the 1985 film Bettada Hoovu. Puneeth was also the recipient of the Karnataka State Film Award, the South Indian International Movie Awards, as well as the Filmfare Awards South.
Despite a successful career as a child actor, he did not want to commit to a lifetime of acting. “When I was just out of my teens and had to make a serious decision, I didn’t feel much like acting. Everybody else was doing it, and doing it well. I wanted to do something new so badly,” the actor told Silverscreen India during an interview.
“Coming from the kind of background I did, there was this fear of being labelled as the wastrel son of a rich father. I did not want to stay true to that stereotype. So, I tried to tough it out on my own. My parents didn’t understand this need, but they supported me nonetheless,” he said.
Puneeth, however, did eventually choose a career in acting and went on to become a revered figure among Kannada people. He was commonly referred to as ‘Power Star’ by fans.
Tributes poured in from across the country for the late actor.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai wrote, “Shocked and deeply saddened as Karnataka’s most loved superstar Puneet Rajkumar is no longer with us. 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.”
Actor Chiranjeevi, who primarily works in Telugu cinema, wrote, “Shocking, devastating & heartbreaking! Puneeth Rajkumar gone too soon. Rest in Peace! My deepest sympathies and tearful condolences to the family. A huge loss to the Kannada / Indian film fraternity as a whole. Strength to all to cope with this tragic loss!”
Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag also shared his condolences on Twitter, “Saddened to hear about the passing away of Puneeth Rajkumar. Warm and humble, his passing away is a great blow to Indian cinema. May his soul attain sadgati. Om Shanti.”
Lyricist Ramajogaiah Sastry expressed his grief and recalled that Puneeth had sung a song written by him for the Kannada film Golisoda.
Hindi actor Vivek Oberoi took to Twitter and wrote, “Shocked and deeply heartbroken to hear this terrible news! We will all miss you dear Appu. You will live in our hearts forever! My condolences and prayers for the family to deal with this deep pain.”
Puneeth Rajkumar is survived by his wife Ashwini and two daughters.