Tributes pour in for Bollywood veteran Dilip Kumar

New Delhi (AFP) –


Tributes poured in Wednesday from actors, politicians, sports stars and even an animal rights group after much-loved Bollywood veteran Dilip Kumar died aged 98.

Born Mohammed Yusuf Khan in Peshawar -- now part of Pakistan -- in 1922, Kumar became a major star in Indian cinema's golden age between the 1940s and 1960s, starring in nearly 60 films in a career spanning 50 years.

He died in a Mumbai hospital early on Wednesday.

"Dilip Kumar... will be remembered as a cinematic legend," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.

"He was blessed with unparalleled brilliance, due to which audiences across generations were enthralled. His passing away is a loss to our cultural world."

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said: "Dilip Kumar summarised in himself a history of emerging India. The thespian's charm transcended all boundaries, and he was loved across the subcontinent. With his demise, an era ends."

The young Kumar was spotted selling fruit at his father's stall in Bombay -- now Mumbai -- by actress Devika Rani, who convinced him to try acting.

Changing his name to hide his profession from his disapproving father, he went on to become a beloved household name who transcended generations, as well as India's social and religious divides.

Amitabh Bachchan, Bollywood's biggest star, called Kumar his "idol" and said on Twitter: "An epic era has drawn curtains... Never to happen again."

"An institution has gone. Whenever the history of Indian cinema will be written, it shall always be 'before Dilip Kumar, and after Dilip Kumar'," Bachchan added.

Akshay Kumar, another of modern Bollywood's biggest luminaries, said: "To us actors, he was The Hero. #DilipKumar Sir has taken an entire era of Indian cinema away with him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Several Indian cricket stars, like Sachin Tendulkar and current national team captain Virat Kohli also paid tributes to the veteran actor.

"Today, an icon who was loved by generations passes away. Rest in peace Dilip ji. My condolences to the family," Kohli tweeted.

-Ancestral home-

The veteran actor enjoyed a huge fan following across the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Pakistan, where Indian actors and Bollywood's popularity remains unrivalled despite decades of political acrimony between the two nations.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was "saddened" by the news, and praised Kumar's charity work while President Arif Alvi called him "an outstanding actor, a humble man, and a dignified personality."

Soon after the news of his death, dozens of locals organised funeral prayers in absentia for Kumar and lit candles outside his ancestral home in Peshawar's Khudadad street, an AFP reporter said.

Kumar's more than 100-year-old dilapidated ancestral home in the heart of the historic walled city was purchased by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa state government and is being turned into a museum.

A poster was displayed outside the house, saying: "Offer tribute to Dilip Kumar for the 98-year era (11-12-1922 to 7-7-2021).

"Residents of Peshawar will always remember Bollywood star for the love and affection he had for Peshawar in his heart," a provincial spokesman said while paying tributes to the legend.

Former Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi said his death was a "huge loss" for his fans in Pakistan "and across the globe".

"He lives on in our hearts," Afridi added.

-Animal lover-

Animal rights group PETA India offered its condolences too, saying "animals everywhere have lost a great friend".

The organisation said Kumar had helped it enact a ban on the entry of elephants into Mumbai, "sparing them violence and cruelty and ensuring the safety of Mumbai's human residents".

In Mumbai, the centre of India's film industry, fans joined in the tributes.

"All the Bollywood greats like Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and others -- all of them learned from him and progressed in their careers. He was a superstar," Nurul Amin Siddique told AFP.

"He was my favourite hero."

And Manoj Waghmare said: "In the coming 100 years of Bollywood, it is impossible to have another gentleman actor like him, maybe even for the next 200 years."