In his lifetime, Ambareesh came to be known as 'Kaliyuga Karna' after the famous Mahabharata character for his tendency to be generous to anyone who came to him seeking help. So, it came as no surprise that thousands of fans of the actor-politician stepped out on to the streets of Bengaluru to catch one last glimpse of their favourite hero.
Ambareesh, 66, passed away on Saturday night following a heart attack at a private hospital in the city. His body was kept at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday and the Karnataka government planned to keep the body there until the last rites ceremony at the Dr Rajkumar Smaraka at Kanteerava Studios, a day later. The decision, however, came under fire from fans of the actor from Mandya who were adamant that Ambareesh's body should be cremated in his home district.
After a flurry of discussions on Sunday, a compromise was reached. The body was airlifted to Mandya's Vishweshwaraiah Stadium and was kept for public viewing from 5 pm in the evening on Sunday to 6 am on Monday.
The body, draped in the tri-colour and the famous Mysuru 'peta' (headgear) crowning his head, was then brought back to Bengaluru for the funeral procession.
Funeral procession begins at Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru
The procession in Bengaluru began at 12 pm amid a catalogue of prominent personalities who paid a floral tribute to the star. Kannada actors Darshan, who rushed back from a film shoot in Sweden, and Yash were huddled in a discussion alongside Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. Shivarajkumar, Puneet Rajkumar, Arjun Sarja, Jaggesh, were among the other prominent names at the procession.
Fans outside Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru
His body was placed in a glass casket inside a van decorated with orange, white and green flowers. Inside, his wife Sumalatha and son Abhishek were seated next to the glass casket along with few other relatives. Heavy security personnel including police and members of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) led the way as the van made its way out of the Kanteerava Stadium towards Hudson Circle. In all, around 2,000 police personnel were deployed in and around the stadium, and along the route of the procession.
Rapid Action Force and Police officials accompanying the procession.
Fans of the actor, who had lined up in numbers on either side of the road leading out of the stadium broke into cries of "Ambarishavarige Jai" as the convoy began its 12 km journey to Kanteerava Studios. The van crossed Halasuru Gate Police Station and made its way towards Mysore Bank Circle and eventually towards CID Junction.
All along the way, fans and well-wishers looked on as the colourful convoy passed by. They took their phones out and clicked pictures and began walking with the convoy. There was no untoward incident or anger at the loss of the beloved actor.
Thousands of fans turned up for the procession.
"They probably should not have barred the sale of alcohol if they wanted to honour Ambareesh", quipped a fan as the convoy passed through Racecourse Road. Ambareesh's vices, including his notorious habit for drinking, was well known and accepted by his fans.
Traffic came to a standstill in parts of the city's centre even as the group of people following the convoy continued to grow in number by the time the procession reached Kanteerava Studios four hours later.
Kanteerava Studios, an iconic studio mostly used to make Kannada films was also the place chosen to cremate Rajkumar. Members of the Rajkumar family who attended the funeral procession confirmed that they had raised no objections to the state government's decision. "He was like a father to us. He helped anyone who came to him seeking help which is a rare thing in the industry. We will agree with what the government decides is best," Raghavendra Rajkumar had said when questioned by reporters at Kanteerava Stadium.
It was not just the film industry that was united in his death. Political leaders cutting across political lines waited for the convoy to arrive at the Studios. From Siddaramaiah to Yeddyurappa to Deve Gowda, everyone considered Ambareesh to be one of their own and just like in his lifetime, Ambareesh was the centre of attraction for one last journey.