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‘Rustum-e-Hind’ Dara Singh: The end of the ‘strongman’ saga

Updated: Jul 12, 2012, 08:57 AM IST

Ananya Bhattacharya

Endowed the coveted titles of ‘Rustum-e-Punjab’ and ‘Rustum-e-Hind’, wrestler Dara Singh was one who left no stone unturned in justifying every scintilla of the titles bestowed on him. Since his incipience in wrestling, Dara Singh won almost all of his matches. His stature as a professional wrestler is one that is insurmountable. He still remains the only professional wrestler who had defeated each one of his rivals on their home ground.

Apart from professional wrestling championships, Dara Singh displayed his skills on invitations from princely states and entertained spectators with his wrestling in open haats and melas too. In India and abroad, the champion wrestler had numerous times been pitted against some of the ‘strongest’ names in the history of wrestling, and he came out of the wrestling rings, unscathed, undefeated.

Dara Singh’s enviable career entailed touring all the Commonwealth countries and winning all contests, which left many wondering about the reason behind the man’s immense success. And as they say, sheer hard work was the unadulterated road to the wrestler’s indomitable achievements. Dara Singh defeated Oriental Champion King Kong, George Gordienko of Canada, John Desilva of New Zealand among the more famous names, and many other wrestlers all over the world. May 29, 1968 was the day when Singh was crowned the Champion of the World.

In 1983, ‘Rustum-e-Hind’ announced his retirement from wrestling, and even then, he stood undefeated. His last tournament, where the news of his retirement was broken to the public, saw Rajiv Gandhi inaugurating the event and Dr. Giani Zail Singh presenting him with the trophy of the winner.

Having earned a bevy of titles including that of the ‘Rustum-e-Hind’, Singh was then bequeathed the title of ‘Action King’ when he ventured into the Hindi film industry. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Indian moviegoer was treated to snippets of the actor ‘taking the shirt off’. Dara Singh, the man who was thought to be the engenderer of the trend, found many following in his footsteps once he began taking his shirt off in front of the camera. Many films had him as the lead hero, and veteran actress Mumtaz is one of Singh’s discoveries. Sixteen Hindi films saw Mumtaz being paired across Dara Singh.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the retired wrestler dived into the world of Television. And yet again, the Indian audience was treated to his magnanimity when he donned the garb of Hanuman in the TV Series Ramayana. Till date, he is best known by that phenomenal role of his – till date, he is addressed as the Hanuman of the yesteryears.

Dara Singh’s several decades long career saw an end with his appearance in the 2007 film ‘Jab We Met’, where he essayed the role of the lead lady’s grandfather. He was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996.

He leaves behind a bereaved family and innumerable dejected fans and followers, and an unparalleled collection of films. Dara Singh’s is a legacy that will never be replaced in Indian Cinema.

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