Obituary: Dara Singh — Bollywood’s original muscle man
Mumbai: Standing tall with rippling muscles, wrestler-actor Dara Singh was a name to reckon with in the world of wrestling who ventured into an unusual territory — films.
The actor will always be remembered for his variety of roles in cinema and on the small screen, the most memorable being that of Hanuman in the iconic show Ramayan. Apart from making a name for himself in professional wrestling, Singh also acted in a number of Punjabi and Hindi films.
Born in a Jat Sikh family to Balwant Kaur and Surat Singh Randhawa in November 1928 in the village Dharmuchak of Amritsar district in Punjab, Singh was trained in an Indian style of wrestling, Pehlwani.
Apart from wrestling in tournaments, he wrestled on invitation of kings of Indian princely states in fairs and carnivals.
In the world of wrestling, he competed against some of the greatest names like King Kong (Australia), George Gordienko (Canada), John Desilva (New Zealand) and others.
Singh won the title of “Rustam-E-Punjab” and “Rustam-e-Hind” for his wrestling prowess. Also, he became the Commonwealth Champion in 1959 and he was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996.
Singh included over 500 professional fights to his credit, all undefeated.
After his retirement from wrestling in 1983, the Commonwealth wrestling champion then turned towards showbiz in 1952 with Sangdil.
He went on to star in many films later on, including King Kong (1962), Faulad (1963), Darasingh: Ironman (1964), Daku Mangal Singh (1966) and Warrant (1975).
Singh also made special appearances in films like Mera Naam Joker (1970), Ajooba (1991), Dillagi (1999) and Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003). He was last seen playing Kareena Kapoor’s grandfather in Jab We Met (2007).
But it was the iconic TV series Ramayan (1986) which made Singh a household name. He worked in some television shows, including Had Kar Di and Kya Hoga Nimmo Ka.
Filmmaker Manmohan Desai paid Singh an unusual compliment when he signed him for Mard.
“Amitabh Bachchan is playing the title role of Mard. I was wondering who could be his father… If Amitabh plays ‘Mard’, then his father can be Dara Singh only. This is why I took Dara Singh in the film,” Desai had said.
One of his notable friends was actress Mumtaz, with whom he starred in 16 Hindi films including Faulad (1963), Veer Bhimsen (1964), Hercules (1964), Aandhi Aur Toofan (1964), Tarzan Comes to Delhi, Tarzan and King Kong (1965), Sikandar-e-Azam (1965), Rustom-E-Hind (1965).
Besides acting, he produced and directed Punjabi films.
He was a member of Rajya Sabha from Bhartiya Janata Party during August 2003 to August 2009.
From his first marriage, he has a son Parduman Singh Randhawa and from his second marriage he has five children — two sons and three daughters including TV and film actor Vidhu Dara Singh.