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Bollywood Star, Big B As He's Known, Contracts Coronavirus

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One of the most famous actors in India has COVID-19. Big B, as he's called, is Amitabh Bachchan. Bollywood fans are praying for recovery, as NPR's Lauren Frayer reports.

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UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Praying in non-English language).

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: At a Hindu temple in Bhopal, India, the faithful chant prayers for Amitabh Bachchan and his family. The 77-year-old Bollywood icon and his son were both hospitalized over the weekend with COVID-19. His daughter-in-law and granddaughter also tested positive and are isolating at home. The Bachchans are bigger than royalty. There's another Hindu temple dedicated to Amitabh Bachchan in Kolkata, complete with a life-sized idol of the actor on a throne. The sanctuary walls are plastered with movie posters.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: "We're not fans, we're devotees," this man told local TV. "He's like a god for us." People are tweeting video prayers from around the world, including brothers Karvan (ph) and Kabir (ph) from Chicago. With their hands clasped in a namaste pose, they refer to Amitabh Bachchan as dadu, grandfather.

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UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Get well soon, Amitabh Dadu. We are sending prayers for you. (Singing in non-English language).

FRAYER: Bachchan managed to get a hospital bed even though he had only mild symptoms while regular folks in India have struggled to receive treatment. People have even died in hospital parking lots waiting to be admitted. Before he became ill, Bachchan starred in public service announcements about the pandemic. In India, people with the virus have been evicted from apartment buildings and even attacked. His own infection may now help fight that stigma.

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AMITABH BACHCHAN: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: "Don't be afraid of coronavirus patients," Bachchan said in one ad. "Embrace them, and bring them home safe."

Lauren Frayer, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEEPAK RAM'S "RAGA KALAVATI") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.