Doctors say more than 7,000 people have pledged post-mortem eye donations since the Kannada star’s death last month.
Grieving fans of beloved Indian film star Puneeth Rajkumar vow to lower their eyes after the actor’s untimely death sheds light on his postmortem organ donation.
The “Powerstar” – so named for his boisterous action roles – died of a heart attack in Bangalore last month at the age of 46, with thousands of grief-stricken admirers crowding the streets of the city to embrace, cry and empathize.
Reports in the following days revealed that Rajkumar had wanted the donation of his eyes, with enough eye tissue recovered to restore the sight of four people.
Tradition runs in the actor’s family. Both parents made the same pledge before their deaths and medics say the example has now been set in earnest around Bangalore.
“He kind of reminded people that you have to give eyes… instead of burning them or burying them,” said Rekha Gyanchand, medical director of Lions International Eye Bank.
“We see a lot of people coming forward to donate,” she added. “The awareness has really increased. “
At the nearby Narayana Nethralaya Hospital, vinyl posters and brochures showed Rajkumar’s smiling face, along with a message urging potential donors to donate sight.
A line of young men waited at a stage to talk to staff and fill out pledge forms.
More than 7,000 members of the public have pledged to donate post-mortem eyes since Rajkumar’s death, said clinic general manager K Bhujang Shetty.
“In the days following Puneeth’s death, 112 eyes were removed” from people who recently died after relatives accepted the transplants, he added.
“Someone will benefit”
Among the donors was Subramani, a driver who lost his job after his vision deteriorated but received a transplant just two weeks ago. He was offering the eyes of his recently deceased brother.
“We didn’t want to lose his eyes and would like to give them to someone like the person who donated eyes to me,” he said.
Rajkumar first made a name for himself as a child actor and went on to star in around 30 films, with his first action comedy film Appu being one of the biggest hits.
He had established himself as one of the most recognizable stars in the Kannada-language film industry centered in Bangalore, best known to the world as India’s premier technological hub.
News of his death rocked the city, with mobs chasing the ambulance transporting his body from the hospital, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the loss as a “cruel twist of fate”.
Rajkumar is survived by his wife Ashwini Revanth and his two children.
Among her avid fans is Bangalore housewife Uma Aravind Kumar, who decided to donate with her own eyes.
“After the (example) of Puneeth, our son promised his eyes without our knowledge,” she said. “I liked it and wanted to donate as well. Someone will benefit.