Indian actress Sridevi Kapoor was cremated on Wednesday in Mumbai as tears flowed and emotional fans queued for hours outside the crematorium to bid a final goodbye to a much loved Bollywood star.
Draped in a red and gold sari, Sridevi’s body was covered with the Indian tri-colour flag and the funeral was accorded state honours.
A truck swathed with white mogra or jasmine flowers and a large portrait of the brown-eyed Sridevi transported the actress's body to the cremation site in Mumbai’s Vile Parle area.
Inside the truck, her husband, movie producer Boney Kapoor, protectively placed his hands on the glass-encased coffin in which her body was placed.
The outpouring of grief spilled onto the streets of Mumbai for the national icon, born Shree Amma Yanger Ayappan in southern Tamil Nadu state, who began her acting career at the age of four.
For many, it was the first time they caught a glimpse of their favourite star, as they bid farewell to her body.
Police struggled to control the crowds that swelled around the truck and the convoy of cars that followed.
Traffic came to a standstill in the suburban Mumbai neighbourhood and police officials pushed back crowds with batons when they tried to get too close to the truck.
Officials cordoned off areas as thousands shoved the barriers near the crematorium attempting to edge closer to watch the procession and to spot the movie stars who streamed in to pay their respects.
Before the funeral procession set out to the cremation ground on Wednesday afternoon, fans placed roses and wreaths near her body inside the Celebration Sports Club in Andheri, a Mumbai suburb.
White flowers also filled the large hall where Sridevi’s body was surrounded by weeping relatives, according to people who joined in with the family to pray for the star.
Fans held up photographs with imprinted messages such as: "We miss you," and, “My friend, why don’t you return? Without you life is empty."
Sheelalata Shivalkar, 65, travelled to Mumbai from Pune to pay her respects to the Bollywood actress outside the crematorium.
"I just want to sing a song for her, so she'll be in peace," she said, and then burst into song with a rendition Chandni O Meri Chandni from one of Sridevi's movies. Applause broke out from the other fans gathered around her.
Preeti Doshi, an events planner from Mumbai, said she was saddened by the death of the actress and felt compelled to take time off work to grieve her death as she tried to catch a glimpse of the cortage.
“It was very shocking for an icon like her to just go away like this,” she said. “I don't think she can be replaced. I doubt the industry will ever get an actress like this again.”
Ms Doshi also expressed concerns about the circumstances of the death.
“Some things are not matching up, but we just hope it was a natural death.”
Sridevi was cremated in a private Hindu ceremony at the Vile Parle Seva Samaj Crematorium and Hindu Cemetery in Mumbai.
There was a very large police presence outside the crematorium. Roads were closed off and police with batons were deployed to keep the large crowds in check.
The 54-year-old actress died in a hotel room in Dubai on Saturday when she lost consciousness and 'accidentally drowned' in a bathtub, according to a police report.
Ruling out foul play and following a “comprehensive investigation into the circumstances of her death," the Dubai Public Prosecution confirmed the death as accidental and released the body to the family.
She had been in the UAE with family to celebrate the wedding of her nephew. Her body was flown to Mumbai from India on Tuesday evening.
Among the actors who paid their respects to the star on Wednesday were Bollywood’s Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Aishwarya Rai, Jaya Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Kajol, Ajay Devgan, Hema Malini, Tabu, choreographer Farah Khan and movie makers Karan Johar and Subhash Ghai.
Veteran actress Hema Malini said the film industry was trying to come to terms with losing Sridevi.
“Goodbye dear friend,” she tweeted.
“Paid my last respects to Sridevi. The entire industry was there grieving, some on the verge of breakdown. Such was her aura and magic in films. She lay there, beautiful in a red saree, serene in death and totally at peace.”
People said they had come to Mumbai to witness the funeral from states across the country such as northwestern Rajasthan and southern Tamil Nadu, Sridevi’s hometown.
Shopkeepers, street vendors, students, housewives and groups of retired people had queued outside the club. Some had camped near the venue overnight.
Metal barricades were put up by police to control crowds and traffic in the area.
Fans interviewed by Indian television stations spoke of the strong connection they felt with their idol and the characters she portrayed on screen.
"My parents did not know English when they moved as migrants to the UK. When I saw her movie English Vinglish I completely related with it, with her, and understood what my parents had been through," said a young fan visiting from Britain.
After starring in some 300 movies, Sridevi took a break from films after she married movie producer Boney Kapoor in 1996. In her comeback movie English Vinglish in 2012, she played a housewife who signs up for an English-speaking course to impress her family who are embarrassed by her broken English.
Sridevi was awarded the Padma Shri, a high civilian award, for services to the movie industry.
She left a mark with blockbuster hits such as Mr India, Chandni or Moonlight, Sadma or Shock and Chaalbaaz or Racketeer.
Before her Bollywood debut in 1979, Sridevi worked in regional Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu-language movies.
Credited with breaking through a male-dominated industry with lead character roles, she captured the hearts of millions in India and overseas.
Over fifty years, her work covered the romantic, drama and comic genres. The most recent film was Mom last year.
The Kapoor family had issued a statement on Tuesday with the information that the doors would be open for the public.
“We thank the film fraternity, media, fans of late Sridevi Kapoor and all the well-wishers for their prayers, support and sensitivity during our moment of immense grief. We request you to kindly join us in paying our last respect to a remarkable actor, beloved wife and loving mother,” the statement from the family read.
Additional reporting Rebecca Bundhon