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Bollywood icon Ashok Kumar dies

NEW DELHI, India -- The Grandfather of Indian cinema, Ashok Kumar, who captivated Bollywood audiences and starred in 250 films, has died after prolonged illness at the age of 90.

Kumar, who was confined to bed for months, succumbed to ailments related to old age on Monday.

Honored with the Dada Saheb Phalke award, Indian cinema's biggest honor, the quintessential actor worked for seven decades in Bombay.

Kumar "had an emotive appeal that transcended all barriers and was a source of inspiration and role model for many generations of aspiring actors," the Associated Press news agency quoted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as saying.

Kumar, whose real name was Kumud Ganguly, was a law graduate. He changed his name after he entered Hindi cinema in 1936 as the male lead opposite Devika Rani, the superstar of her times.

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Though he was admired by Indians as one of the best-looking stars of Hindi cinema, German director Franz Osten once said the actor would never make it in film because of his "tremendous jaw," United News of India reported.

But praise overwhelmed criticism, as Kumar successfully carved a mark in Bollywood films and earn the title of the Grandfather of Indian cinema.

'The invisible man'

"For me, he was the man who could do amazing things ... the invisible man," Mahesh Bhatt, a senior Hindi filmmaker who knew Kumar since his childhood, also told the Associated Press.

"He marks the end of a definitive era," added Bhatt.

Kumar was the eldest of the three Ganguly brothers, all of whom changed their surnames to Kumar and became popular in Hindi cinema.

His brother Kishore was a hugely popular singer and actor, while the youngest brother Anoop also acted in several films.

Chief Minister Vilasraoi Deshmukh, the top elected official of the western Maharashtra state where Bombay is located, said Kumar had touched the hearts of common people in a way few other Indian actors could.

"There is a feeling in each and every household that they have lost an elder in their family," Deshmukh told reporters.

Kumar's funeral was scheduled for later Monday. He is survived by his daughter Preeti Ganguly, the Press Trust of India reported.


• Press Trust of India

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