Thesp won Filmare award seven times

Vishnuvardhan, a star of Southern Indian cinema, died of a heart attack in Mysore, Karnataka in the early hours of Wednesday. He was 59.

The state government declared theaters, studios and schools closed for the day as a mark of respect for the actor, who was cremated with state honors.

Born Sampath Kumar in Mysore in 1950, he changed his name to Vishnuvardhan on the suggestion of Puttanna Kanagal, who directed his debut film “Nagarahavu” in 1972. Vishnuvardhan went on to act in 199 films, including memorable roles in “Muthina Haara,” “Hombisilu,” “Sahasa Simha,” “Bandhana” and “Apthamitra.”

His 200th film “Aptha Rakshaka,” the sequel to “Apthamitra,” is due to open next year.

After the late Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan was considered the most popular actor in the history of Kannada-language cinema with a large fan following.

The news of his death led to sporadic violence across the state of Karnataka amongst aggrieved fans, culminating in more than 50 vehicles being damaged near the university in Bangalore where his body lay in state.

Vishnuvardhan won the South Indian Filmare award and the Karnataka state award for best actor seven times each in his career. In 2004, he was awarded the Filmfare lifetime achievement award and in 2005, he was accorded an honorary doctorate by Bangalore University.

He is survived by his wife, the actress Bharathi, and daughters Keerthi and Chandana.

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