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Bollywood action star Dara Singh dies at 84

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

Indian film stars and politicians alike issued messages of praise and condolences, while the prime minister lamented the loss of a "self-educated son of the soil." "I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Dara Singh, who has been an inspiration and icon to many generations in our country," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

Dara 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. He is best known, however, for his portrayal of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman in the 1986 Indian TV series "Ramayan." Later, Singh served as a member of India's upper house of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, for the Hindu nationalist opposition, the BJP, from 2003 to 2009.

He had been ailing in recent years before suffering a heart attack and being 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 yesterday morning.

"A great Indian and one of the finest humans," Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan said on Twitter. "An entire era of his celebrated presence gone!"

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 lifetime."

He is survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters.

-- AP

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