- Associated Press - Thursday, July 12, 2012

MUMBAI, INDIA (AP) - Bollywood action hero Dara Singh, best known for his TV portrayal of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman, died at his Mumbai home on Thursday, days after suffering a heart attack. He was 84.

Indian film stars and politicians alike issued messages of praise and condolences, while the government said it was “deeply saddened” by the news.

Singh “will always have a special place in our hearts for his immense contribution to the Indian film industry,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said in a statement.

Singh was born in 1928 in the Punjabi district of Amritsar and spent his youth competing in professional freestyle wrestling tournaments.

In the 1950s, he began working in Bollywood films and appeared in dozens for which he did his own stunts. The muscular actor is best known, however, for his portrayal of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman in the 1986 Indian TV series “Ramayan.”

Later in life, Singh served as a member of India’s upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha, for the country’s Hindu nationalist opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, from 2003-2009.

His health had been ailing in recent years before he suffered a heart attack and was admitted Saturday to the intensive care unit of a Mumbai hospital. After doctors determined he would not regain consciousness, they sent him home where he was put on a ventilator. His son, actor Vindu Dara Singh, announced his death on Thursday morning.

Dr. R.K. Agarwal of Kokilaben Hospital, where Singh was treated, later said the actor’s wishes had been to “be at his home between his family. He passed away at 7.30 a.m.”

“A great Indian and one of the finest humans,” Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan said in a Twitter message. “An entire era of his celebrated presence gone!”

Actor Shah Rukh Khan posted: “Wrestlers r made of sweat, determination & a hard to find alloy called guts…most apt for Dara Singhji our very own Superman.”

Politicians also mourned Singh’s death with messages on the social networking site.

“From the ring to screen, he won the hearts of generations!” said BJP’s chief minister in Gujarat state, Narendra Modi. The party’s parliamentary opposition leader, Sushma Swaraj, also posted a message, saying Singh “was a legend in his life time. Yet he was very simple and humble. May his soul rest in peace.”

The family planned a funeral service for Thursday afternoon.



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