At a "grand old age" of 84, Dara Singh "used to stride down Juhu beach, body erect, smile on his face at a pace faster than 20-year-olds," filmmaker Shekhar Kapur recalled. But a cardiac problem led to his hospitalisation July 7 at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. Thereafter, he suffered a kidney malfunction and was put on dialysis, which led to brain damage.
His family wanted him to spend the last stages of his life at home, so he was shifted to his Juhu residence Wednesday night. He breathed his last at 7.30 a.m. Dara Singh is survived by his wife and six children - three sons and three daughters. One of his sons, Vindu Dara Singh, is a known name in showbiz.
"Angel now gone to shine like a star up above," Vindu told IANS after the death of his father, who was known as Bollywood's first macho man. Celebrities including Manoj Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan, Tabu, Rajpal Yadav and Anu Malik visited Dara Singh's residence to pay condolences to the family.
His funeral at the Ville Parle Crematorium here Thursday afternoon also saw an overwhelming turn out of people with moist eyes. Dara Singh's last journey seemed to be a celebration of the great and genuine man that he was - his body was taken to the funeral spot in a mini truck decked up with colourful flowers. Actors like Raza Murad, Rishi Kapoor, Fardeen Khan and Dolly Bindra attended his last rites.
Top national leaders, including Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed deep grief over the death of the former Rajya Sabha member. Several Bollywood stars, including veteran actors Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar, took to micro-blogging site Twitter to pay tribute to the actor, who first tasted success as a wrestling hero before moving into showbiz.
"Dara was a gem of a man, earthy and robust, with a heart of gold. I pray for his soul and for the family to bear the loss with fortitude," tweeted Dilip Kumar. Amitabh remembered Dara Singh as "one of the finest humans" and Anupam Kher said he was "The strongest and the humblest. A hero all the way." In his over five-decade long acting journey, Dara Singh featured in over 140 films, including "Anand" and "Mera Naam Joker".
The 'pehelwan', who had won the title of "Rustam-e-Hind" for his wrestling prowess, appeared in TV serials too. Best known for his portrayal of Hanuman in Ramanand Sagar's "Ramayan" and in B.R. Chopra's "Mahabharat", for fans across the country Dara Singh was the face of Lord Hanuman. "The warmth in his eyes when he smiled as Hanumanji connected me to him the very first time as someone so good hearted," tweeted Divya Dutta.
He was last seen in the 2007 release "Jab We Met", in the role of an affable grandfather - an image that will perhaps stay as a happy memory in the hearts of fans, who adored this man of steel.