Mumbai: From playing the fearless 'Hanuman' on the small screen in the TV adaptation of the Ramayana to playing the tough grandfather on the big screen with films like 'Jab We Met', wrestler turned actor Dara Singh has been a part of over 100 films and numerous TV series. He was even nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2003.
But much before acting, Singh was known for his wrestling. Born on 19 November, 1928, Dara Singh, a Jatt Sikh, from the Dharmuchak village of Amritsar, Punjab, was encouraged to become a wrestler during his youth, owing to his 6 feet 2 inch tall frame and the physique to compliment it.
Barely 18 years of age, Singh travelled to Singapore where he took on different jobs even as he practised wrestling. Eventually, he quit his job to prepare himself as a professional wrestler. In 1954, he became the Indian Wrestling Champion. Commonwealth championship came to him in 1959, and then finally he was pronounced the World Champion in 1968 before retiring from active wrestling in 1983 and till date remains undefeated.
Parallely, Singh transformed his wrestling fame on to the celluloid. 1962's King Kong introduced Singh as an actor to reckon with. It was followed by 'Faulad' in 1963 and then 'Hercules' in 1964. Apart from playing the herculean hero in many Hindi and Punjabi films, Singh is also known to have introduced actress Mumtaz to Bollywood and the two have featured together in about 16 Hindi films.
Singh also went on to produce and direct some films, but is perhaps best remembered for his roles in his later career where he was seen playing the tough Grandfatherly figure with a soft heart.
Dara Singh died at the age of 84 in Mumbai on Thursday. His doctor RK Aggarwal said, "He died due to cardiac respiratory arrest at around 7:30 am."