|Accomplished actor: Artist Ho Kieng in his small house in 2009. He wore a frame without glasses, saying it made it easier for him to act. — VNS Photo Van Dat
HCM CITY (VNS)— Meritorious Artist Ho Kieng, an actor, poet and composer, passed away on Wednesday evening in HCM City. He was 88.
Kieng had been rushed to hospital after suffering a fall at home that relatives suspect was caused by his heart condition.
The indefatigable and indomitable artist had stuck to a busy schedule with a pacemaker that was installed to prod his weak heart in 2004.
Four years ago, he told Viet Nam News that he would die if he stopped acting, but the thespian passed away in harness.
He was playing a Chinese-Vietnamese wealthy man in the film Mua He Lanh (Cold Summer) that is still shooting.
Kieng, a Ben Tre Province native, lived in a small room meant for security guards in an old apartment building in HCM City's Cao Thang Street. His room was barely enough for a bed, which served as his study as well as his dining table.
He wrote poems and composed music for vong co songs when he was not acting.
Kieng, who spent his entire life playing supporting roles, acted in more than 200 films in a career that began in 1959. Many of the films he acted in are considered classics today.
The most important moment in his life happened after he played a role in Chung Mot Dong Song (Sharing the Same River) in 1959, the first ever of Vietnamese revolutionary cinema industry.
After the film was completed, President Ho Chi Minh called on the crew and enquired who among them were from the south. Kieng was one of two artists from the south performing in the film.
When Presidnet Ho went up to him and embraced Kieng, he felt like he was "flying in the sky".
"I burst into tears then," he told Viet Nam News four years ago, overcome with emotion even as he recalled the incident.
For his tireless contributions, he was awarded the title Meritorious Artist in 1997. He was being considered for the People's Artist title at the time of his passing.
In the previous meeting with Viet Nam News, the octogenarian showed a diary in which he had penned a poem called Tu Ky Mon Tu (Four Visits from Death) based on the close encounters he'd had.
In 1966, he survived after having to have three vertebrae replaced following a fall from a horse as he acted in Rung Xa Nu (Xa Nu Forest) in Cao Bang Province.
The next near-death experience was a copperhead bite after which he lay unconscious for three days. His family was preparing for his funeral when he woke up suddenly.
At the age of 63, Kieng suffered a serious head injury while acting in Canh Sat Hinh Su (Crime Police). The actor had to have two perforations made in his skull without being anaesthetised.
The fourth close encounter with death was a massive heart attack that happened while he was acting in 2004. — VNS