Wrestling champ parlayed fame into film career
Indian wrestling champ-turned-actor Dara Singh, who starred as the monkey god Hanuman in “Ramayana,” died July 12 in Mumbai following a heart attack on July 7. He was 84.The 6-foot tall, muscled Singh was the draw for countless kids who watched Ramanand Sagar’s serialized version of the Hindu epic in 1987-88. Singh frequently played the role of Hanuman starting with “Bajrangbali” in the 1960s. Born Dara Singh Randhwa, he started grappling in the Indian form known as pehlwani in the 1940s. He took part in and won international competitions, including the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship, and parlayed that fame into an acting career that spanned more than 100 films, beginning with a small role in a Sri Lankan pic in 1951 and a bigger one in 1954’s “Pehli jhalak.” He was one of India’s first and leading stuntmen. During the 1960s he helped invigorate box office for religious Hindi films such as “Balram aur Krishna,” “Mahabharat” and “Veer Bhimsen.” He frequently played the strong man in pics such as “King Kong,” “Iron Man” and “Hercules.” His last outing was 2007’s “Jab We Met.” Singh segued to producing and directing in the 1970s with a religious film in which he also starred called “Nanak dukhiya sub sansar,” based on the partition of India in 1947, as well as “Mera desh, mera dharam.” In 1978 he set up Dara Studios, a self-contained production facility in Mohali, Punjab. Survivors include his wife, Surjit Kaur, three sons and two daughters.