Puneeth Rajkumar: A youth icon gone too soon
He was matinee icon Rajkumar's son, of course, but Puneeth Rajkumar was also the 'Powerstar' who moved out of his father's long shadows to glitter in the arclights as Kannada cinema's most bankable, highly paid actor.
Puneeth was only 46 when he died after a massive heart attack following a two-hour workout in the gym, stunning his legions of fans, colleagues and political leaders left wondering just how a young man so seemingly fit and healthy could have gone so soon, so suddenly.
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.
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.
Puneeth, the fifth and the youngest child of the superstar, made his mark early in life with an extraordinary performance in 'Bhakta Prahalada' where he worked with his father. But it was 'Bettada Hoovu', where he played the role of a young boy Ramu that won Puneeth a national award as the best child actor.
As a leading man, Puneeth made his entry into Kannada film industry with the 2002 feature 'Appu', the movie that brought him enormous success and fan following, so much so that his followers started calling him Appu.
Puneeth hit a dry spell during the period 2006 -2009 but returned with a bang with back-to-back hits like 'Prithvi', actioner 'Jackie', 'Hudugaru' and 'Yaare Koogadali'.
The biggest hit of career came in 2017 when Puneeth headlined 'Raajakumara'. The blockbuster film became the highest-grossing Kannada-language film of all time. But the record was next year broken by 'KGF: Chapter 1'.
After having no releases in 2018, Puneeth returned with 2019's supernatural action film 'Natasaarvabhowma' and had a cameo appearance in 'Padde Huli'.
The actor last featured in filmmaker Santhosh Ananddram's 'Yuvarathnaa' and had recently wrapped shooting for Chethan Kumar's 'James'.
Following in on the footsteps of his famous father, Puneeth had pledged to donate his eyes and his wish was honoured after his death.
On the small screen, Puneeth hosted the first two seasons of 'Kannadada Kotyadhipati', the Kannada version of Amitabh Bachchan's 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'. After sitting out for the third season, he returned to host it for the fourth season.
Condolences pour in
Mourning Puneeth's sudden passing away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the young actor's death a "cruel twist of fate".
"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 said Puneeth's death was difficult to come to terms with.
"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 CM told reporters.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin also expressed shock at Puneeth's sudden death and remembered him as a "humble human being despite his stardom".
South star Mohanlal sent his condolences to his family.
"The loss of Puneeth Rajkumar has come as a terrible shock. I still find the news hard to believe. 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."
Actor Mahesh Babu said Puneeth's sudden demise has left him "shocked and deeply saddened".
"Shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic news of Puneeth Rajkumar's demise. One of the most humble people I've met and interacted with...," he tweeted.
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.
"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.