Mumbai, July 12 (IBNS): Long before Bollywood heroes made going shirtless and flaunting their pumped up muscles a monotonous norm, a Punjabi wrestler had appeared in the Indian silver screen in his brawny glory effortlessly and won several hearts with his innocence and macho bearing.
He is Dara Singh, the wrestler turned actor or rather a wrestler cum actor, who entertained audience with his acting skills for over nearly five decades and famously played the Hanuman in India's epic teleserial Ramayan.
In India, generations grew up on the films and feats of Dara Singh. He straddled both the world of acting and wrestling in his long career.
So when the end came on Thursday, it was end of an era in Bollywood. The original superman of Bollywood, who starred in numerous entertaining but low-budget action and thrill movies in the 1960s, mostly opposite the sizzling Mumtaz before she went on to become a top heroine, finally called it a day at age 84.
The robust Punjabi, who would often play cameos in later years besides having substantial presence in TV soaps, would be remembered, however, for his impeccable gentleman image.
As choreographer Farah Khan, whose father Kamran worked with Dara Singh as a successful stunt film-maker in over 25 films, says: "He was the gentlest person above the image as he-man."
Tweets Amitabh Bachchan: "A great Indian and one of the finest humans. An entire era of his celebrated presence gone !"
"He truly was the only human being who could not be pulled apart by even airplanes," he said.
And it is not just the world of cinema but also the sports world which mourned his death besides top politicians of India.
Boxer Vijender Singh to wrestler Satpal Singh, all are saddened by his death just like Bollywood stars like Salman Khan who play glowing tributes to the actor.
The end came at home in the wee hours of Thursday after his family decided to take him back from the hospital to his residence.
The actor who made his entry in Bollywood in 1960s was on ventilator for the past days in Mumbai's Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital where he was admitted on July 7 after a cardiac arrest.
Dara Singh played every role from hero to the large-hearted grandfather like in his last film Jab We Met in 2007 starring Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor. He played the grandfather of Kareena in the film.
Father of six, Dara Singh was an iconic figure in Indian celluloid who acted in over 140 films.
However, with the role of Hanuman in Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan, Dara Singh became immensely popular in every household of India and people would eagerly wait to watch him every Sunday playing the mythological character.
Singh, who was born in 1928 in Dharmoochak in Amritsar district of Punjab, was encouraged in wrestling due to his strong physique.
He had a glorious career in professional wrestling besides showcasing his acting talent on the silver screen.
Singh was popular in wrestling tournaments in the country.
He also wrestled on invitation of kings of Indian princely states and wrestled frequently in haats and melas (fairs and carnivals).
Singh successfully competed against some of the greatest names in the world of wrestling and professional wrestlers in the United States.
Dara went to Singapore in 1947 and became the Champion of Malaysia in Indian style wrestling by defeating Tarlok Singh in Kuala Lumpur.
He has toured almost all far-east countries as a Professional Wrestler. Dara Singh returned to India in 1952 and became the Indian Champion in 1954.
The strong wrestler toured all Commonwealth countries and defeated Oriental Champion King Kong, George Gordienko (Canada), John Desilva (New Zealand). Singh became the Commonwealth Champion in 1959.
He defeated Lou Thesz of America and became Champion of the World on May 29, 1968.
He again visited countries world-wide and defended title of the World Champion.
Singh retired from the world of wrestling in 1983 as an undefeated wrestler.
Singh had won the title of 'Rustam-E-Punjab' and 'Rustam-e-Hind' for his wrestling skills.
Interestingly several Indian Prime Ministers including Jawaharlal Nehru, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Morarji Desai, Chandrashekhar, Rajiv Gandhi. visited his fights.
However, Singh not only captivated his fans with his wrestling moves in the arena but also charmed them with his performance as an actor.
Popularly called as Bollywood’s he-man of the 1960s, he acted opposite to yesteryear's actresses like Mumtaz .
He became quite popular as an actor in the 1960s and was seen in films like King Kong, which were inspired by Hollywood movies.
He was nominated member of Rajya Sabha by Bhartiya Janata Party during Aug 2003 – Aug 2009.
Singh had a successful career in television also and was a popular face in many of the TV serials since the 1980s.
His films in the 1960s included titles like Toofan (1969), Jawan Mard (1966), Thakur Jarnail Singh (1966), Boxer (1965), Hum Sab Ustad Hain (1965), Khakaan (1965), Lutera (1965), Mahabharat (1965, played Bheem), Raaka (1965), Rustom-E-Hind (1965), Sher Dil (1965), Sikandar E Azam (1965) , Tarzan and King Kong (1965), Tarzan Comes to Delhi (1965), Teen Sardar (1965), Aandhi Aur Toofan (1964), Aaya Toofan (1964), Badshah (1964), Darasingh: Ironman (1964), Dara Singh Hercules (1964), Samson (1964), Veer Bhimsen (1964), Faulad (1963), Rustom-E-Baghdad (1963) and King Kong (1962).
He also played in critically acclaimed commercial Hindi films like Anand and Mera Naam Joker.
R.I.P Dara Singh!