To Bolly-fans of my generation, Dara Singh Randhawa is synonymous with Hanuman. So much so, that when his own son, Vindu Dara Singh, tried to take over the mantle and played the role of Hanuman, audiences simply would not accept him!
Dara Singh Randhawa was the original strong-man of Indian cinema. This huge, muscular Jat from Amritsar district was a natural choice for roles that involved serious fight scenes. No stunt men were necessary for Dara Singh, and there were no stunt men with a comparable physique anyway. In his prime, Dara Singh stood six feet two inches tall, and weighed well over a hundred and thirty kilos, and all of it was solid muscle.
Dara Singh was Indian cinema’s first hero to take his shirt off, and a man who could easily carry off the bare-chested look on-screen. No other leading man of his generation would dare take his shirt off!
Dara Singh was India’s most successful professional wrestler. He defeated every major heavyweight wrestler in the world, during the 1950’s and ’60’s, and remained undefeated in more than 500 wrestling matches. His favorite move was to twirl much heavier wrestlers above his head and throw them out of the ring. He did this to King Kong, his most famous rival. At a massive 180 kg, King Kong was fully 50 kg heavier than Dara Singh. Yet, in one bout, Dara Singh hefted King Kong, twirled him around and flung him out of the ring.
Funnily enough, Dara Singh’s first successful lead role was in a movie called ‘King Kong’, released in 1962. Prior to King Kong, he appeared in brief cameos in a few other movies, starting with Sangdil in 1952. King Kong made a cult-hero out of Dara Singh. Through the 1960’s, he was cast as an action hero in B-stunt movies with odd titles like Samson, Rustom-e-Rome, Tarzan Dilli mein, Boxer and the like. One of those movies was actually called Trip to Moon!
Dara Singh formed a hit pair with Mumtaz, and they co-starred in sixteen movies together. Her stint with Dara Singh launched Mumu’s career and she went on to become the top heroine of her time, and Dara Singh became a film maker in his own right. Mumu and Dara Singh remained good life-long friends.
When Ramanand Sagar made his TV version of Ramayan, who else but Dara Singh could play the role of Hanuman? Dara Singh did the role so well, that he became the ‘official’ face of Hanuman.
Whether he was wooing Mumtaz on screen or twirling wrestlers in the ring, Dara Singh always conducted himself with dignity. He was known for his gentle manner and courteous behaviour, even to his nastiest opponents. And, he had charisma, on screen or off. Wherever he went, he would invariably attract crowds. He was the typical jolly giant, always popular with kids.
Alas, the man who was undefeated in 500 wrestling bouts finally lost his battle with Father Time today. My mind just cannot absorb the fact that Rustom-e-Hind is no more. I was quite convinced that he would win this bout too.
Ramayan will never be the same again.