Millennium Post

As Sikander, he crossed swords with Prithviraj

As Sikander, he crossed swords with Prithviraj
Prithviraj Kapoor, the doyen of Indian film industry, is best remembered for his role in Mughal-e-Azam as emperor Akbar. The exchange of dialogues between Akbar and his rebellious son Prince Salim,  enacted by inimitable Dilip Kumar, remains a benchmark for classical histrionics more than half-a-century after K Asif's magnum opus was released in 1960. Some years later, Kapoor was again to win accolades for depiction of the character of ancient Indian king Porus in Kedar Kapoor's 1965 flick Sikander-e-Azam.

While it was not easy for Dilip Kumar to hold his own with Kapoor in Mughal-e-Azam, a wrestler-turned-actor refused to let it go easily in
. Deedar Singh Randhawa aka Dara Singh made a most robust and debonair Sikander, the Macedonian king who arrived in India after conquering Persia and crossing Karakoram ranges. Dressed as a Roman, a chariot-riding Dara Singh created great impact as an action hero, the first in the Indian film industry. Singh just had Mary Ann Evans aka Hunterwali Nadia, the action heroine of the 1940s, before him.

Dara Singh, who passed away in Mumbai on Thursday at a ripe age of 84, was a natural entertainer. Whether it was in the wrestling rings or on the silver screen, he held attention of spectators and audience alike. Much before Khali crossed seven seas to make a name for himself in WWF title clashes, Dara Singh had become a popular name in South-East Asia and Canada on the professional wrestling circuit. He started wrestling under the patronage of the princely states of undivided Punjab like Patiala and Kapurthala before traveling to Singapore in 1948 for his first bout abroad.

Dara Singh made debut in Mumbai in 1952 with Sangdil, however, it was the 1960s that he came into his own, doing no less than 16 films with future star Mumtaz. They together did absolute action thrillers like Faulad (1963), Veer Bhimsen (1964), Hercules (1964), Aandhi Aur Toofan (1964), Tarzan Comes to Delhi, Tarzan and King Kong (1965), Sikandar-e-Azam (1965), and Rustom-E-Hind (1965). Mumtaz with Rajesh Khanna was later to become part of one of the most romantic and successful pairs of Bollywood.

Dara Singh's flagging acting career was revived in 1980s when Ramanand Sagar cast him as Hanuman in his epochal television serial
. Philip Lutgendorf, a scholar of Ramayana traditions, commenting on size, response, and nature of the television show’s audience said, 'Never before had such a large percentage of South Asia’s population been united in a single activity; never before had a single message instantaneously reached so enormous a regional audience.'

BJP rightly rewarded him with a Rajya Sabha seat in 2003 as the serial indeed gave an impetus to the right-wing party's Hinduvta agenda. Ramayana also gave him the opportunity to graduate into playing the family elder with a golden heart, the last of which was as Kareena Kapoor's grandfather in
Jab We Met
in 2007.


Bollywood stars mourned the death of Dara Singh as a great Indian and the finest human being. Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt called him his childhood hero. Actor Anupam Kher admired his quality of being humble despite the larger-than-life aura. For Manoj Bajpayi, Singh stood tall as an epitome of strength.

Singh passed away on Thursday at the age of 84 away post a cardiac arrest and multi-organ failure. Here’s what B-town said:

Amitabh Bachchan: Dara Singhji passed away this morning. A great Indian and one of the finest humans. An entire era of his celebrated presence gone.

Mahesh Bhatt: Dara Singh passes away. Memories of this warm ‘pehlwan’-turned-actor flicker in my memory. When childhood heroes die the world looks desolate.

Anupam Kher: Dara Singhji was larger than life but never made anyone feel dwarfed with his presence. The strongest and the humblest. A hero all the way.

Shah Rukh Khan: Wrestlers are made of sweat, determination and a hard to find alloy called guts. Most apt for Dara Singhji, our very own Superman. Will miss you sir.

Madhur Bhandarkar
: RIP Rustam-e-hind. The strong man of india will be missed dearly.

Shekhar Kapur: RIP dara Singh. At grand old age he used to stride down Juhu beach, body erect, smile on his face at a pace faster than 20 year olds.

Vishal Dadlani: Dara Singh Saab, RIP. Your name came to mean strength. Anyone attempting a feat of strength will forever be asked “Oye, Dara Singh hai kya?”

Abhishek Bachchan: Daraji passes away. Had the honour of working with him in ‘Shararat’. The most gentle and kind man. Really looked up to him. Will miss him.

Ayushmann Khurrana: My first internship was at Dara Studios, Mohali for Zee Punjabi during my Panjab University days. The man was full of life. RIP dara Singhji.

Neha Dhupia: RIP Dara Singhji. Our ‘asli’ he-man. My condolences to the family.
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