Cinema

The best of Dara Singh

Winsome pair: Dara Singh and Mumtaz worked together in 16 films.

Winsome pair: Dara Singh and Mumtaz worked together in 16 films.  

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At 6’2’’, the dashing Dara Singh, in costumes that matched the grandeur of the subject, was a treat to watch as Alexander

Wrestler, actor, philanthropist, parliamentarian….on the screen, he was Hercules, Tarzan, Samson, a kind-hearted dacoit and mythological figures like Mahadev and Hanuman. He acted in movies and later tuned into a director and producer too. He played the roles, if not always to perfection, to the delight of his legions of fans. Until last breath, Dara Singh remained a personality who lived life on his terms.

No actor could boast of such a wide range of characters that he portrayed on the screen. He was a hugely successful wrestler at heart and an actor who knew his limitations well. He was handsome and he was natural. Some of Dara Singh’s movies featured him in a dubbed voice but he learnt to speak his own dialogues. The rustic diction was pronounced but he commanded a following of his own.

Dara Singh’s movies were a rage with the morning show viewers, mostly students and the working class. They loved his character as Dara Singh the protagonist would conquer whatever he encountered. He had his way of wooing the ladies and it was to his credit that Hindi cinema did not lose Mumtaz. She was encouraged by Dara Singh early in her career and the 16 movies they did together went a long way in helping Mumtaz cement her place in the film industry.

“Faulad” was among his well-known films after a quiet debut in “Sangdil” in 1952. Dara Singh is Amar, who, as an infant, is sent off to safe shores by his mother to escape the wrath of the king. All infants are to be slaughtered by the king to protect his empire but Amar survives and grows up into a handsome youth, who falls in love with a princess. Action abounded in the movie with Dara Singh displaying his well-toned body and pulling off some exciting stunts that held the audience captive. Mumtaz was his heroine in this movie that followed the success of “Jagga Daku”, “King Kong”, “Rustam-E-Baghdad”, “Veer Bhimsen”, “Hercules” and “Samson”.

Among the many historical figures he portrayed, Sikandar (Alexander) stood out. It was not a laudable reflection of the great personality that Alexander was but Dara Singh established himself in that character and stood his own against the versatile Prithviraj Kapoor. The film had Mumtaz as the leading lady and one of Mohammad Rafi’s unforgettable classical offering “Jahaan Daal Daal Par Sone Ki Chidiyaan Karti Hain Basera”. At 6’2’’, the dashing Dara Singh, in costumes that matched the grandeur of the subject, was a treat to watch. The movie featured battle scenes and was shot extensively on locales to narrate history in an entertaining form. Dara Singh could take pride in his performance even though the movie did not get justice for the effort that went into its making.

Years before man landed on moon, Dara Singh made his own trip in a sci-fi thriller that had modest success at the box office. “Trip to Moon” was in keeping with the genre of Dara Singh’s movies. It was full of stunts, music was not its strongest point, but Dara Singh’s imposing presence carried the movie. His voyage to another planet did not alter his image of an action hero who excelled in hand-fights and did not depend on modern gadgets to demolish his challengers. Typical of Dara Singh movies, this one too saw him tackle robots, dinosaurs and rhinos.

“Har Har Mahadev” added to Dara Singh’s repertoire. He was supported by Jayshree Gadkar and Padma Khanna in this mythological hit. Hindi cinema’s original macho man emerged as a successful actor in this movie. It did not fit his image of a stuntman but Dara Singh embraced the role with the versatility that came his way through his spirit of a sportsman. His first love was sports and Dara Singh made his mark as an actor too, thanks, as he would tell his friends, to his association with wrestling. It taught him to take failures into his stride.

He was never said to have been perturbed if the movie bombed at the box office. He was an all-conquering hero and his fans loved him that way.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 9:47:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/the-best-of-dara-singh/article3657692.ece

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