indian cinema heritage foundation

"Zara Dekhiye Meri Saadgi" - Dara Singh

02 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Dara Singh. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Till the age of 5-7, ‘Dara Singh’ used to be an adjective for us. During fights we used to tell each other, ‘Are you a big Dara Singh?’ or ‘Don’t try to act like Dara Singh!’ At that time, we did not know what or who is Dara Singh. For us it meant that don’t show too much attitude. When we grew up, we understood the reality of the words ‘Dara Singh’ and understood why the name was used as an adjective. With time after hearing stories related to Dara Singh, we had a larger than life image of his in our minds. When I took membership of Cine and TV Artists Association (CINTAA) after coming to Mumbai then during the Association’s General Body Meeting I saw him sitting on the stage for the first time. After that I met him on one or two occasions in CINTA’s office but these meetings were mere exchange of pleasantries. And then one fine day I was sitting beside him at his house at Juhu’s A.B. Nair Road interviewing him for my Hindi weekly Sahara Samay’s column Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karoon

Dara Sing belonged to a farmer’s family from Dharmuchak Village in Amritsar District. He was born at his maternal home on 19 November 1928 in Ratangarh. He was the elder among two brothers. According to him, due to the dwindling shares over generations, not much land was left with the family and as a result his father and paternal uncle used to often go to Singapore to make a living. Till the age of 18, Dara Singh remained in the village to carry out farming activities along with being an amateur wrestler. In 1947 he went to Singapore along with his uncle. His real name was Deedar Singh Randhawa. En route to Singapore, at Madras (Chennai) port, his name was simplified to Dara Singh in the documentation. He was to become famous with this name later. 
 

Dara Singh. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
In 1947 he went to Singapore along with his uncle. His real name was Deedar Singh Randhawa. En route to Singapore, at Madras (Chennai) port, his name was simplified to Dara Singh in the documentation. He was to become famous with this name later. 
Dara Singh recalled, ‘The sport of wrestling was much loved in Singapore. There were two famous Akharas (wrestling clubs) named Happy World and Great World there. Seeing my height and build and inclination towards wrestling, people encouraged me to become a professional wrestler. I worked as a masseuse for a Ustad ji at Happy World for six months but did not get any wrestling opportunities at all. Then one-day Ustad Harnam Singh ji of the Great World Akhara accepted me as his disciple. I was unable to arrange the required diet on my own but this issue also got sorted out, thanks to the Punjabis staying in Singapore.’ 
 
Dara Singh. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

After three years of hard work Dara Singh first won the Malaysian Championship in 1950 followed by wrestling in Indonesia and Burma. Real fame came to him when he defeated famous Hungarian wrestler King Kong in Sri Lanka in 1951. He became the Indian Champion in 1953 after defeating Tiger Joginder in the finals of the championship which had featured bouts between 150 wrestlers which went on for nearly 3 years continuously. After that he won the Commonwealth Championship and in 1968, after defeating an American wrestler, he became the World Champion. Before this, the only Indian wrestler to win this award was wrestler Gama Pehelwan. Dara Singh retired from wrestling in 1983. He had held the title of world champion till then.
 
Pehli Jhalak (1954). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Dara Singh’s entry into films was sudden and unplanned. In Pehli Jhalak (1954), there was a scene in which Om Prakash dreams of wrestling with Dara Singh. Dara Singh neither had to act nor speak any dialogues. As a result, the scene was okayed without any difficulties. Nearly six years later, for film Bhaktraj (1960), He got an offer to wrestle with Dada Bhagwan. However, this time he had 4-5 small dialogues to speak. 

Dara Singh told me, ‘I was not able to speak the dialogues resulting into repeated retakes. Finally, the director told me, you just wrestle and speak the dialogues as correctly as possible, we will get it dubbed by someone else. I did not know what doing dubbing meant. My co-wrestler told me, as I didn’t want to become a Hero, I should just do my work and forget it. After that I forgot everything and focused my attentions totally towards wrestling.’
Dara Singh’s film career started in true spirits in the 1960s when producer Devi Sharma approached him for his movie being made on wrestling.
Dara Singh’s film career started in true spirits in the 1960s when producer Devi Sharma approached him for his movie being made on wrestling. Dara Singh reminisced, ‘I told Devi Sharma that acting was not my cup of tea. He asked me to just agree to sign up and it was Devi’s job to make him act. I was afraid of being made fun of as a wrestler trying to become a Hero. As it is, seeing movies was banned for wrestlers. Our Ustad used to say that it was a work of showmen. On the other hand, we had the example of wrestler Gama Pehelwan whose old age was spent in a very shabby condition. Kolhapur’s famous wrestler Bullet Pehelwan also was forced to ride a tonga during his last days. With this fear in mind that since I had not made any arrangements for my old age and I should not suffer like the other wrestlers later I assented to Sharmaji’s request. This 1962 movie, King Kong proved to be a superhit and producer-directors started queueing up with offers for me to act in their films.’
 
Faulaad (1963). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
The producer-director wanted to sign a big heroine for his 1963 movie Faulaad but no heroine agreed to be cast opposite Dara Singh. Reluctantly they signed a new girl Mumtaz whose career was limited to minor characters till then. Film Faulaad proved to be a hit just like its lead pair of Dara Singh and Mumtaz.
The producer-director wanted to sign a big heroine for his 1963 movie Faulaad but no heroine agreed to be cast opposite Dara Singh. Reluctantly they signed a new girl Mumtaz whose career was limited to minor characters till then. Film Faulaad proved to be a hit just like its lead pair of Dara Singh and Mumtaz. This lead pair went on to star in over a dozen films after that. His pairing with actress Nishi was also loved by the audience. 
 
Rustom (1982). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Dara Singh played lead roles in nearly 80 films including King Kong, Samson (1964), Mahabharat (1965), Sherdil (1965), Lootera (1965), Thakur Jarnail Singh (1966), Sangdil (1967), Nasihat (1967), Balram Shrikrishna (1968), The Killers (1969), Tulsi Vivah (1971), Har Har Mahadev (1974), Jai Bolo Chakradhari (1977) and Haridarshan (1972). Most of these were stunt films and a few were religious movies. Rustom (1982) was Dara Singhs last film as a lead actor after which he transitioned to character roles. 
 
Dara Singh with his family. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Dara Singh married twice. His first marriage took place at the age of just 9 years in 1937. However, he later got divorced from his first wife. His son Pradyuman Singh from that marriage was born in 1945. Pradyuman started his acting career with Ramanand Sagar's film Aankhen with a character named Akram. He played the lead role with the stage name of Shailendra opposite Sonia Sawhney in the movie Bandish (1969). This was the debut film for singer Jaspal Singh who later became famous for his songs of the movie Geet Gata Chal (1975). Pradyuman had also played a role in Ganga Tera Paani Amrit (1971). He now lives in Meerut where he owns a farmhouse. 
 
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Dara Singh’s second marriage took place in May 1961 with Surjit Kaur Aulakh of Amritsar. He had three daughters Kamal, Loveleen and Deepa as well as two sons Virender Singh and Amreek Singh from this marriage. Virender Singh is also an actor and is famous as Vindu. 
 
Dara Singh. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Dara Singh’s younger brother Sardara Singh also entered films after gaining fame as a wrestler. He was known by the stage name Randhawa. He was married to Mallika, the younger sister of actress Mumtaz. Randhawa and Mallika’s actor son Shaad Randhawa appeared in a few films including Woh Lamhe, Aawarapan, Aashiqui 2 and Mastizaade

Dara Singh also produced nearly a dozen Hindi and Punjabi films including Nasihat (1967), Nanak Dukhiya Sab Sansar (1970), Mera Desh Mera Dharm (1973), Kisaan Aur Bhagwan (1974), Dhanna Jatt (1974), Karan (1994) and Rustom. He appeared as a character artist in over 50 films including Mahaveera (1988), Elaan-e-Jung (1989), Ajooba (1991), Anmol (1993), Dillagi (1999), Kehar, Kal Ho Na Ho and Jab We Met. His last movie Ata Pata Lapata released in 2012. Dara Singh also served for many years as the Chairman of Cine and TV Artist Association(CINTA). 

Dara Singh passed away on 12 July 2012 in Mumbai. 

Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series



 

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