MUMBAI, India (AP) — Thousands of grieving fans gathered in Mumbai on Wednesday to pay respects to Sridevi, the iconic Bollywood actress who drowned accidentally in a Dubai hotel bathtub over the weekend.
Sridevi's body was flown home late Tuesday night in a private plane owned by Anil Ambani, a Mumbai industrialist and entertainment baron.
By early Wednesday morning, people had begun lining up along a security fence outside the private club near Sridevi's home where the body had been laid out. A string of Mercedes and Audis ferried family members, Bollywood stars and VIPs in through another gate, with squadrons of private guards ensuring things stayed under control.
One mourner, a man who gave his name only as Prashant, arrived at about 7 a.m., hours before anyone was to be allowed in.
"No matter how long I have to wait, I will wait," he said, clutching a small bouquet of flowers. "I'll wait until I'm able to pay my respects."
"I saw all her movies," he said, grief clearly visible on his face.
Inside the club the actress's body was placed on a raised platform in a hall decorated with flowers. Her extended family, including her husband, producer Boney Kapoor, and her two daughters, stood by the platform as fans and colleagues walked past in respect.
By late afternoon her body, wrapped in a magenta and gold sari and an Indian flag, began its journey from the club to the crematorium where her funeral is to take place according to Hindu customs. The body was carried in a truck decorated with flowers and a giant poster of the actress.
Sridevi, 54, was in Dubai for a wedding in her extended family when she died Saturday. Investigators in Dubai closed their case Tuesday and handed the body to her family.
Condolences have poured in since the death of the actress who redefined the importance of the female lead in India's largely male-dominated film industry.
Sridevi, who used only one name onscreen, began her film career as a child actress and went on to star in regional films in southern India before making her Bollywood debut in the late 1970s.
By the late 1980s, she was a name to reckon with in mainstream Hindi-language films and was able to command top billing and dominate screen space in a film industry in which the heroine's role was largely relegated to a few songs and a handful of romantic scenes as the leading man's love interest.