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Obituaries

Raj Kumar, 77; Beloved Movie Star in India Made 200 Films

April 13, 2006|From the Associated Press

BANGALORE, India — Raj Kumar, a former child actor who became one of south India's most beloved movie stars and was once kidnapped by a notorious bandit, died Wednesday. He was 77.

Kumar died in a Bangalore hospital of cardiac arrest, Dr. Ramana Rao told the Press Trust of India news agency.

The actor, whose name was also spelled Rajkumar, appeared in more than 200 Kannada-language films over five decades and had millions of fiercely devoted fans. Although he largely gave up acting in the mid-1990s, he remained one of the region's best-loved figures.

Hundreds of distraught fans rioted in Bangalore when police prevented them from entering the late actor's home to see him one last time, New Delhi Television reported.

Kumar's body was later moved to a large park in the heart of the city to allow fans to pay their last respects. The regional government will give the actor a state funeral, according to the Press Trust.

Kumar starred in action films, mythological sagas and romance movies.

Although he played rugged, masculine heroes who triumphed over scheming villains in many of his films, he was also known for never smoking cigarettes on screen and for, after his early days, never playing a drunkard.

In 2000, Kumar was kidnapped by Veerappan, a bandit who had spent decades eluding police in the forests of south India. Kumar was freed after 108 days of living in the forests with Veerappan's gang. Local reports said a large ransom was paid, although Kumar denied it.

The actor won more than 20 national and state awards for his contribution to Indian cinema. His fans called him Annavaru, meaning "respected elder brother" in Kannada.

Movie reviews often told of audiences in cinema halls booing villains who tried to pick fights with Kumar on the big screen. Fans were known to worship his image and pray that his films would be successful at the box office.

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