Bollywood strongman Dara Singh dies at 84
FILE- In this June 2, 2005 file photo, Indian wrestler and Bollywood action hero Dara Singh, right, poses with Bollywood actor Dharmendra, left, and then Madhya Pradesh Gov. Balram Jhakar, at the inauguration of a new cinema in Mumbai, India. Doctors said Dara Singh died Thursday, July 12, 2012 at his Mumbai home days after suffering a severe heart attack and stroke. He was 84. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi, file)
MUMBAI, India (AP) — Bollywood action hero Dara Singh, best known for his TV portrayal of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman, died at his Mumbai home on Thursday, days after suffering a heart attack. He was 84.
Indian film stars and politicians alike issued messages of praise and condolences, while the prime minister lamented the loss of a "self-educated son of the soil."
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Dara Singh, who has been an inspiration and icon to many generations in our country," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.
Dara Singh was born in 1928 in the Punjabi district of Amritsar and spent his youth competing in professional freestyle wrestling tournaments.
In the 1950s, he began working in Bollywood films and appeared in dozens for which he did his own stunts. The muscular actor is best known, however, for his portrayal of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman in the 1986 Indian TV series "Ramayan."
Later in life, Singh served as a member of India's upper house of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, for the country's Hindu nationalist opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, from 2003 to 2009.
He had been ailing in recent years before suffering a heart attack and being admitted Saturday to the intensive care unit of a Mumbai hospital. After doctors determined he would not regain consciousness, they sent him home, where he was put on a ventilator. His son, actor Vindu Dara Singh, announced his death on Thursday morning.
Dr. R.K. Agarwal of Kokilaben Hospital, where Singh was treated, later said the actor's wishes had been to "be at his home between his family. He passed away at 7.30 a.m."
"A great Indian and one of the finest humans," Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan said in a Twitter message. "An entire era of his celebrated presence gone!"
Actor Shah Rukh Khan posted: "Wrestlers r made of sweat, determination & a hard to find alloy called guts...most apt for Dara Singhji our very own Superman."
Politicians also mourned Singh's death with messages on the social networking site.
"From the ring to screen, he won the hearts of generations!" said BJP's chief minister in Gujarat state, Narendra Modi. The party's parliamentary opposition leader, Sushma Swaraj, also posted a message, saying Singh "was a legend in his life time. Yet he was very simple and humble. May his soul rest in peace."
Thousands of fans, friends and family members followed Singh's body in a procession to his cremation Thursday afternoon.
He is survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters.