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Sunday, July 12, 2020

From Ironman to Hanuman


SAIBAL CHATTERJEE | Issue Dated: July 20, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : dara singh death | dara singh profile | hanuman |

Wrestler, Mumbai movie star, film producer, studio owner, Rajya Sabha member and pan-Indian icon Dara Singh was a super-achiever in many domains. But inside the ring, on the screen and in real life, he embodied one overarching trait: benign invincibility.He was a true conqueror of hearts, a gentle giant who spread old-world positivity all around.

Dara Singh wasn’t a proper noun. He was an adjective. He personified the best that a man could be. A true-blue pro, he brought unalloyed simplicity, honesty and serious intent to bear upon whatever he set his sight on.

Dara Singh took pride in letting the world know that, before he entered the ring and the history books as a freestyle wrestler, he was a peasant from Amritsar district’s Dharmuchak village.

His approach to the craft of screen acting was uncomplicated. He had limited ability, delivered his lines with a thick rustic Punjabi accent, and never broke out of the B-grade action film circuit in his prime. But he always went full tilt.   

He was a big man with a generous spirit that rubbed off on everything and everybody he touched. It is rare indeed for a showbiz personality – Dara Singh was one, both as a sportsman and a movie actor – to transcend the boundaries of his chosen calling and mutate into a byword for a specific human attribute. Dara Singh had both inner and outer strength cloaked in humility and humanity.

Scarcely did anyone realise that the man’s fierce aggression was confined only to the wrestling ring and the make-believe world of films that had titles like Samson, Hercules, Veer Bhimsen, Lootera, Sher Dil, Dada and even Dara Singh: Ironman and Rustam-e-Hind.

The heroic feats he pulled off on the screen were no different from what he did in the wrestling ring – lifting opponents bigger and more muscular than him above his head, swirling them around like the fans of a chopper and sending them hurtling to the ground. His infallibility and charisma drew hordes of screaming fans to wrestling arenas and movie halls alike.

Dara Singh burst on the sporting world in his early 20s as a strapping freestyle grappler who quickly assumed mythic proportions. In each one of the six decades since he became the undisputed Indian professional wrestling champion in the early 1950s, his name was associated with values, exploits and personality traits that were his and his alone.

After television’s Ramayan captured the imagination of the nation in the mid 1980s, Dara Singh became the definitive screen Hanuman. About a decade earlier, he had played the monkey god in Bajrang Bali (1976). In 1997, he was back as Hanuman on the big screen in a film titled Lav Kush.

Reality and mythology coalesced seamlessly in Dara Singh. Hanuman, Hercules, Samson, Dara Singh… such was the man’s aura that he will forever sit alongside those whose halo will never dim.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017