Mourning fans of popular Indian film star Puneeth Rajkumar promise to give up their eyes after the actor’s untimely death brings focus to his post-mortem organ donation.
The “power star” – so named after his exuberant action roles – died last month at the age of 46 in Bangalore of a heart attack.
News reports in the days that followed revealed that Rajkumar had sought the donation of his eyes, which recovered enough eye tissue to restore four people’s eyesight.
The tradition runs in the actor’s family. Both parents made the same promise before they died, and doctors say the example is now being seriously taken up in Bangalore.
“He kind of reminded people to donate eyes … instead of burning them or burying them,” said Rekha Gyanchand, medical director of Lions International Eye Bank.
“We see a lot of people signing up to donate,” she added. “Awareness has really increased.”
At the nearby Narayana Nethralaya Hospital, vinyl posters and brochures featured Rajkumar’s smiling face along with a message urging potential donors to give eyesight.
A queue of young men waited in front of a box to speak to the staff and fill out letters of commitment.
More than 7,000 citizens have committed to post-mortem eye donation since Rajkumar’s death, said the clinic’s executive director, K Bhujang Shetty.
“In the days following Puneeth’s death, 112 eyes were harvested from the recently deceased after relatives agreed to have a transplant,” he added.
“Someone will benefit”
Among the donors was Subramani, a driver who lost his job after his vision deteriorated but only received a transplant two weeks ago. He offered his recently deceased brother’s eyes.
“We didn’t want to waste his eyes and would love to donate 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 later starred in around 30 films, with his debut action comedy flick Appu being one of the biggest hits.
He had established himself as one of the best-known stars of the Kannada-speaking film industry, centered around Bangalore, better known to the world as India’s premier technology center.
News of his death shocked the city as a crowd chased the ambulance that was carrying his body out of the hospital, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the loss as a “gruesome twist”.
Rajkumar leaves behind his wife Ashwini Revanth and two children.
Among his passionate fans is the housewife Uma Aravind Kumar from Bangalore, who has decided to donate her own eyes.
“Following the (example) of Puneeth, our son pawned his eyes without our knowledge,” she said. “I liked it and I wanted to donate too. Someone will benefit from it. “