Thousands pay tribute to Rajesh Khanna

MUMBAI Thu Jul 19, 2012 3:16pm IST

Fans gather outside the residence of Bollywood actor Rajesh Khanna after hearing the news of his death in Mumbai July 18, 2012. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Fans gather outside the residence of Bollywood actor Rajesh Khanna after hearing the news of his death in Mumbai July 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Vivek Prakash

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - Thousands of mourners, including Bollywood stars, gathered on Thursday for the funeral of actor Rajesh Khanna, braving heavy rains and traffic jams in Mumbai.

Known for his shy smile and flamboyant looks, Khanna was often referred to as Bollywood's first real superstar, someone who had a fanatical fan base among women, thanks to the many romantic hits in which he starred during the 1970s.

The 69-year-old actor died of an undisclosed illness on Wednesday, plunging his fans into grief and prompting glowing tributes from the Indian film industry.

His admirers lined up on the streets as a flower-bedecked truck carried the actor's body in a glass casket with white flowers. Khanna's estranged wife Dimple Kapadia, son-in-law Akshay Kumar and grandson Aarav accompanied the body.

People clung to railings, climbed trees and held up his portraits, hoping to catch a last glimpse of ‘Kakaji' as he was affectionately known.

Actor Amitabh Bachchan, his son Abhishek and several other Bollywood celebrities were also present.

Television channels ran special shows on his films and social networking sites like Twitter were full of tributes to Khanna.

"The word 'superstar' was invented for him, and for me it shall ever remain his, and no others," Bachchan wrote on Twitter.

(Additional reporting by Danish Siddiqui; Editing by Tony Tharakan)

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