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Remembering Dara Singh: The wrestling champ who switched careers and excelled at them all

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On his 90th birth anniversary, ThePrint looks back at the phases of the life of the veteran wrestler who later became an actor and a politician.

New Delhi: Long before professional wrestling (the WWE version) was a sports entertainment extravaganza broadcast to millions across the world, long before The Great Khali and Jinder Mahal represented Indian hopes, the country already had a household name in this entertainment industry.

Dara Singh Randhawa, a hulking wrestling champ, made his way from the wrestling mat to the wrestling ring, in the process endearing him to millions across the globe. He also had a successful acting stint — he is widely regarded as India’s first action film hero — and dabbled in politics.

On his 90th birth anniversary, ThePrint traces the various phases of the veteran wrestler turned actor and politician.

As a wrestler

Dara Singh was born on 19 November 1928, to a Jat-Sikh family at Dharmuchak village in Amritsar. His family was engaged in farming.

Very early in life, Singh was pulled out of school to work in farms. He was also reportedly coerced into child marriage with Bachno Kaur, a woman elder to him whom he divorced later and married Surjit Kaur in 1961.

Dara Singh went to Singapore in 1947 where he did petty jobs at a drum manufacturing mill. It was in Singapore that he met Harnam Singh, his mentor, who initiated the 6’2” tall Dara Singh into wrestling.

In 1954, Singh won the Rustam-e-Hind title after defeating Tiger Joginder Singh. He also won the Commonwealth championship in 1959.

Dara Singh then moved onto professional wrestling.  In his around 500 fights career, apart from winning numerous championships, Singh had also defeated many international big names such as the famous Australian wrestler King Kong in 1956 and the world champion American wrestler Lou Thesz in 1968. In 1983, Dara Singh announced his retirement from the wrestling.

Six years after he died of a heart attack in 2012, Dara Singh was also inducted to the World Wrestling Entertainment’s hall of fame in 2018.

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India’s ‘He-Man’

His strong physique helped Dara Singh in portraying the “first-all action hero” and country’s “first He-Man”. Having started his acting career with a supporting role in Dilip Kumar-Madhubala starrer Sangdil (1952), Dara Singh went on to become a category of movies unto himself, starting with King Kong in 1962, which he was allegedly forced to do.

For the first two decades of his career in the film industry, much of Dara Singh’s roles revolved around him playing action heroes — Rustam-E-Baghdad (1963), Faulad (1963), Hercules (1964), Sikander-E-Azam (1965), Rustom-E-Hind (1965), and Boxer (1965) being some of the examples.

Having played the lead in several B-grade movies, Singh attempted to reinvent himself in 1970 when he directed and acted in Nanak Dukhya Sub Sansar, which was based on the partition tragedy.

Singh also acted in TV shows such as Had Kar Di and Kya Hoga Nimmo Ka., but the most famous TV role that he was renowned for was the character of Lord Hanuman in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan, a very popular show aired in 1987-88 on Doordarshan.

Singh also made special appearances in various Bollywood movies. One of his most significant side roles was in Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker (1970) and in Ajooba (1991), Dillagi (1999) and Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003). In his last Bollywood movie, he acted as Kareena Kapoor’s grandfather in the 2006 blockbuster Jab We Met.

Also read: How does Haryana top India’s medal tallies? The answer lies in history and incentives

As a politician

Though he was a wrestler-turned-actor, Dara Singh did participate in politics. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1998. In 2003, he became the first person from the sports category to be nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha. He remained a Rajya Sabha MP till 2009. He had also been the president of the All India Jat Samaj and the Bombay Jat Samaj.

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  1. It is just because liers like you who do not show and research on news. Have you written the count how many times he was defeated.

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