Kannada cinema's reigning star and celebrity television host Puneeth Rajkumar, known for films such as Appu, Veera Kannadiga and Maurya, died in Bengaluru on Friday following a massive heart attack, hospital said. He was 46.
Puneeth, 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 carve a place all his own in the Kannada showbiz industry.
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.
Later, 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, the last rite will be performed on Sunday, as the family awaits the arrival of Puneeth's daughter, who is staying abroad.
According to the hospital, the actor was brought to the hospital with a family doctor diagnosing that he had had a heart attack.
'At the time of arrival to the emergency, the patient was non responsive and was in cardiac asystole. Hence, immediate advanced cardiac life support measures were initiated for resuscitation...
'The panel of medical experts extended all efforts to save him. He was declared dead at 2.30 pm on 29.10.2021,' read the statement by Dr Ranganath Nayak, a cardiologist at Vikram Hospital.
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,' the chief minister tweeted.
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 CM told reporters.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also paid her condolences.
'A bright star. He had a long promising career ahead. My condolences to his family, his innumerable fans and followers,' she posted on Twitter.
Former chief ministers Siddaramaiah, B S Yediyurappa and S M Krishna also condoled the actor's death.
After a stint as a child actor, Puneeth made his debut as a leading man in the 2002 movie Appu and followed it up with a string of successful movies, including Abhi, Maurya, Ajay and Arasu.
Puneeth was also a popular celebrity host on television. He hosted the first two seasons of 'Kannadada Kotyadhipati', the Kannada version of Amitabh Bachchan's Kaun Banega Crorepati.
He also emceed Colors Kannada's reality show Family Power.
Colleagues such as Chiranjeevi, Mahesh Babu, Prakash Raj as well as Abhishek Bachchan and Sonu Sood posted their condolences on Twitter and other social platforms.
'Ahh Noooo .. Gone too soon my dear Appu. I'm shattered .. Heart broken .. not fair #BlackFriday #PuneethRajkumar,' Prakash Raj said on Twitter.
'Shocking, devastating & heartbreaking! #PuneethRajkumar 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!' added Chiranjeevi.
Actor Parvathy Thiruvothu shared a throwback photograph with Puneeth from one of their films.
'It aches beyond words could ever express. Puneeth Broken heart #PuneethRajkumar' she captioned the picture.
Actor-producer Prithviraj Sukumaran said he was heartbroken.
'This hurts so much! Rest in peace superstar! May the family, friends and the millions of fans have the strength to tide through this sorrow! #PuneethRajkumar Folded hands.'
Mahesh Babu said Puneeth's sudden demise has left him 'shocked and deeply saddened' and recalled Puneeth as being one of the most humble people he had met.
'Heartbreaking news! Gone too soon. #PuneethRajkumar My condolences to his family and his fans. You will be missed,' said Abhishek Bachchan.
Singer Shreya Ghoshal said the actor's death has left her devastated.
'This can't be true! Devastated to hear this. #PuneethRajkumar. A humble superstar, so young, at the pinnacle of his life simply left the world. My deepest heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and fans. Om Shanti,' she wrote.