MUMBAI: Thousands of heartbroken fans and Bollywood actors paid their last respects to Indian superstar Sridevi Kapoor Wednesday following her shock death from accidental drowning in a Dubai hotel bathtub aged just 54.
Huge crowds of mourners – some carrying roses, others holding photos of the late actress – lined Mumbai’s streets to see their beloved idol embark on her last journey.
At one point police had to use batons to force back those unable to get into the hall where her body was laid out, wrapped in the Indian flag.
“It’s a shock to believe that she is no more. We want to pay her one last visit today and thank her for all her wonderful performances,” 32-year-old teacher Nandini Rao told AFP as she queued at the condolence event.
After a public service, Sridevi’s flower-bedecked funeral cortege made its way slowly to a crematorium where her family said their final goodbyes.
She was cremated with full state honours at a private Hindu ceremony late in the afternoon after her husband, film producer Boney Kapoor, performed the last rites.
Bollywood stars, including actresses Aishwarya Rai and Kajol, were among the mourners at the Celebration Sports Club in the Andheri West area of Mumbai – the home of the Hindi film industry.
Several tearful fans chanted prayers as Sridevi´s body was brought the short distance from her home to the club at 9:00 am (0330 GMT).
“I’m an avid Sridevi fan. I loved her smiling personality. She had such a commanding presence in the Indian film industry. Her death was so sudden and I feel terrible,” 45-year-old Kuldeep Singh told AFP.
Heavy security was in force along the streets to control the crowds, which included people who had travelled hundreds of kilometres to be there.
Sridevi was considered one of the most influential Bollywood actresses of all time and her sudden death at the weekend sparked an outpouring of grief in India.
Tributes poured in from fans and fellow actors as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Life in the spotlight
The star of hit films such as “Chandni” and “Mr India” drowned in her bathtub after losing consciousness late Saturday in a hotel in Dubai, where she was attending a wedding.
Police in the emirate said a post-mortem examination found that she had drowned after losing consciousness. On Tuesday they ruled out any foul play and released the body to Sridevi’s family.
It arrived in Mumbai on a private jet on Tuesday evening, accompanied by her husband and her stepson, actor Arjun Kapoor.
Sridevi, born Shree Amma Yanger Ayappan in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, appeared in around 300 films and was awarded the Padma Shri, India´s fourth highest civilian award, for services to the movie industry.
She made her acting debut at the age of four and her career spanned more than four decades.
Sridevi worked in India’s regional Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam-language films before making her Bollywood debut in 1979.
She became a national sensation with a string of blockbuster films including “Mawali” and “Tohfa”.
Sridevi took a 15-year break from the silver screen after marrying Kapoor but returned in the 2012 hit comedy-drama “English Vinglish”. Her most recent film was last year´s “Mom”.
Sridevi was set to see Jhanvi, the elder of her two daughters, make her Bollywood debut in a movie scheduled for release later this year.