New Delhi: Actor Dara Singh's name became synonymous with strength. If he wasn't so warm and friendly to those around him, he would be downright scary, towering over everyone else in his 6' 2'' frame. Being compared to Dara Singh became inevitable for anyone aspiring to be a show wrestler.
His face as television's 'Hanuman' peered down at devotees from calendars and posters. He shared wild fame with 'Lord Ram', played by Arun Govil after his television serial Ramayana became a household hit. People on the streets would come and touch his feet. He came from an era in Bollywood that was still grappling with technology.
Television had amateurish stunts and tacky special effects. So it fell entirely upon the able shoulders of Singh to add an extra dimension to his role as Tarzan, Hanuman and Samson.
To today's audience, the mountain moving stunt in Ramayana would have been laughable had it not been for the smiling actor in the prime role. He could move mountains if he wanted to.
There was something so amiable about Singh that he would compel you to root for him in the role of the uncle, father or grandfather. His last film, Jab We Met, had him playing the strict but kindly patriarch 'Daarji' who chastises Kareena Kapoor for running away with a boy.
Few people would have made the transition from the 'akhara' to the showbiz stage with the success of Singh. In his over five-decade long acting journey, he featured in over 140 films, including classics such as 'Anand' and 'Mera Naam Joker'.
His B-grade stint
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.
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.
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.
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.
He became a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from August 2003 to August 2009. 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. Goodbye Dara Singh, Bollywood's loveable giant. (With inputs from IANS)