(Eds: Updates with cremation) Chennai, Apr 17 (PTI) Popular Tamil comedian Vivekh who won the hearts of millions of people by his sharp wit and noted for his social work, promoting environmental protection died here on Saturday.
The 59-year-old comedian died in the early hours at a private hospital here and he was cremated following a 24-gun salute by Tamil Nadu police while his fans and people bid him tearful adieu.
The government said the honour was in recognition of his contribution to the film world and his social services.
The actor is survived by wife and two daughters.
Vivekh's teenage son had died years ago.
On Friday, the actor suffered cardiac arrest due to acute coronary syndrome and he was treated for it and put on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation support, a heart-lung assistance machine. Vivekh had been brought to the hospital in an unconscious state by his family.
The actor had got administered COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin at a government facility on Thursday here to allay the fears of the public on the vaccine. According to authorities, the cardiac arrest Vivekh suffered was not due to the vaccination.
Chennai Corporation Commissioner K Prakash, quoting medical records, said the cardiac event faced by the actor was independent of the vaccination.
The comedian has performed in more than 500 films and planted 33.23 lakh saplings according to his verified twitter handle and his social work earned him praise from his fans, the people and the government for collaborating with it for public cause.
After people, fans and film actors paid floral tributes and laid wreaths, his body was taken from his residence to a crematorium in a flower decked van while public lined up on both sides of the streets.
The funeral procession teemed with people and several of the actor's fans could be seen holding saplings as a mark of respect. Following a gun salute and playing of last post by a police band, one of the actor's daughters performed the last rites.
Vivekh's dialogues in movies, including 'Saamy', couched in social messages like ones against caste discrimination earned him the sobriquet of 'Chinna Kalaivanar.' Yesteryear versatile comedian N S Krishnan was praised as 'Kalaivanar' for his commitment to an egalitarian society which reflected in his films too. 'Kalai' denotes arts and 'vaanan' refers to an expert in a given field while 'Chinna Kalaivanar' means 'Junior Kalaivaanar.' A Padma Shree recipient, Vivekh acted with top Tamil heroes, including Rajinikanth, Vijay and Ajith Kumar and has performed in lead roles in 'Palakkadu Madhavan,' 'Nan Dhaan Bala,' and 'Vellai Pookal.' The 2020 comedy movie 'Dharala Prabhu' was his last movie.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit condoled his death. Chief Minister K Palaniswami, DMK president M K Stalin, actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan were among leaders who expressed grief over his death and conveyed their condolences to the bereaved.
In his condolence message, Modi said, 'The untimely demise of noted actor Vivek has left many saddened. His comic timing and intelligent dialogues entertained people.' 'Both in his films and his life, his concern for the environment and society shone through. Condolences to his family, friends and admirers. Om Shanti,' the prime minister tweeted.
Palaniswami hailed the actor as a man who lived his personal life too with a commitment to social welfare.
'He is a role model to youngsters,' the Chief Minister said and recalled the actor's support to the government in areas including protecting environment, planting saplings and avoiding (use and throw) plastic.
An admirer of late president APJ Abdul Kalam, 'through his Green Kalam initiative he was actively engaged in planting one crore tree saplings,' the CM said.
A simple and pleasing man, he was honoured not only by the Centre with 'Padma Shree' but also by the Tamil Nadu government with Kalaivanar Award and he also bagged numerous other best comedy actor awards, Palaniswami said in a statement.
Vivekh's death was an 'irreparable loss' for society, people and the film world, he said.
After a while in government service at the Secretariat, Vivekh debuted in ace director K Balachander's 'Manadhil Urudhi Vendum' (1987), the CM said and listed movies including 'Dhool' 'Vedi' 'Poovellam Un Vaasam,' 'Anniyan,' and 'Singham' for not only making people have a hearty laugh but also to reflect and think.
Stalin, in a tweet, praised the actor for his environmental protection work and expressed grief on 'nature taking away the talented star so soon.' Rajinikanth described Vivekh as his close friend and recalled the movie 'Shivaji' in which they had starred together.
Haasan said the comedian's death is a huge loss to Tamil society and praised the actor for his work to pay back to the people who nurtured his talent.
Tamil Nadu Congress Committee chief K S Alagiri and BJP state unit president L Murugan condoled the death.
Information Minister Kadambur K Raju said Vivekh had planted 10 lakh tree saplings in Kovilpatti, the actor's native place and the Assembly constituency he represented.
Health Secretary Radhakrishnan had said nearly 23,000 people were administered Covaxin at a state-run hospital here and 5.68 lakh throughout Tamil Nadu, so far.
'There has been no adverse reaction anywhere,' the secretary had said.
Following his admission to the SIMS hospital here, an emergency and cardiac team resuscitated him. The actor then underwent emergency coronary angiogram and it was followed by angioplasty. PTI VGN BN BN