MUMBAI – He wrestled his way from the ring to the big screen and the small one to enormous success. Dara Singh went from muscle man to hero and then uncle, father and friend in numerous character roles that endeared him to generations of fans.
Few people would have made the transition from the ‘akhara’ to the showbiz stage with the success of Dara Singh, who passed away at his home in Mumbai Thursday morning at the age of 84 after a brief illness.
A wrestling hero to some and a much loved cine artist to others, it was a long and eventful life that triumphed many odds.
In his over five-decade long acting journey, he featured in over 140 films, including classics such as “Anand” and “Mera Naam Joker”.
It was a many splendoured life.
There was Dara Singh the wrestler, Dara Singh, the hero of ‘B’ category action films such as “Tarzan Comes to Delhi” and “Samson” in the 1950s and 1960s, Dara Singh, the friendly ‘pehelwan’ in “Anand”, and then Dara Singh who played Hanuman with great effect in the TV blockbusters “Ramayan” and “Mahabharat”.
He was last seen in the Kareena Kapoor-Shahid Kapoor starrer “Jab We Met” as the stern, lovable ‘Daarji’ who ruled over a noisy, close-knit Sikh family. Quite like the real life man, who intimidated people with his 6′ 2″ frame but soon won them over with outgoing nature and warmth.
Born to Balwant Kaur and Surat Singh Randhawa Nov 19, 1928 in a village in Amritsar, Punjab, Dara Singh was encouraged to take up wrestling due to his imposing physique and trained in ‘pehelwani’, an Indian style of wrestling.
He became a star wrestler – and not just on Indian turf.
Dara Singh took on international wrestlers like Lou Thesz and Stanislaus Zbyszko, and had over 500 professional fights to his credit – all undefeated.
He won the Professional Indian Wrestling Championship in 1953, and took away the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship trophy in 1959 by defeating Canadian champion George Godianko.
A recipient of titles like Rustam-E-Punjab (1966) and Rustam-E-Hind (1978), Dara Singh retired from active wrestling in 1983.
In 1989, he published his autobiography “Meri Atmakatha” in Punjabi, and seven years later was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.
And while he was wrestling, he was making a name in cinema – both Hindi and Punjabi.
His first release was the 1952 “Sangdil” and then came a succession of films like “King Kong”, “Faulad”, “Sher-e-Watan” that earned him the name of Bollywood’s action king.
During his hey day as a hero, he teamed up with Mumtaz in 16 Hindi films, including “Jawan Mard”, “Raaka”, “Aandhi Aur Toofan”, “Daku Mangal Singh”, “Boxer” and “Veer Bhimsen”.
Another successful phase in Dara Singh’s acting career came when he bagged the role of Hanuman in Ramanand Sagar’s epochal TV series “Ramayan” in 1986. People liked him so much that B.R. Chopra roped him in to play the same role in “Mahabharat”.
Dara Singh gave viewers a glimpse of his humorous side through shows like “Hadd Kar Di” and “Kya Hoga Nimmo Ka”.
He became a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from August 2003 to August 2009.
Dara Singh also took on the role of a writer, director and producer. In 1978, he launched Dara Studio, a self-contained mini-city with all facilities within the compound, in Punjab’s Mohali district.
Dara Singh, who was widowed and got married for the second time, leaves behind his wife, six children – three sons and three daughters. And legions of fans of a man who defined machismo.