When Dara Singh tied himself in knots
Deedara by Seema Sonik Alimchand is a tribute to Bollywood’s original Superman. Excerpts from the book:
Dara Singh lifitng the legendary actor-director, Raj Kapoor in his famous aeroplane spin. Pics/personal album of Virender Singh Randhawa (aka Vindu)
Dara Singh's tryst with cinema began way back in 1952 with a film called, The World, in which he played the role of a wrestler. Also in the same year, he was offered a role in a Dilip Kumar-Madhubala starrer called Sangdil. Then in Pehli Jhalak, which had the singer-actor Kishore Kumar as a hero, Dara once again essayed the role of a wrestler in a dream sequence with the comedian, Om Prakash. Pehli Jhalak released in 1955, the year Dara Singh Randhawa turned twenty-seven.
By the year 1956, Dara had already done more than four films, but had it easy so far. He was cast in films because of his superb physique and standing as the world champion — Rustam-E- Hind. But cinema was and continues to be a serious business, with its own pitfalls. Dara had his first brush with the challenges involving a performance in 1956, when faced with the legendary comedian, Bhagwan Dada. It happened like this — in the film, Dara had a one-line dialogue and on the day of the shoot, the wrestler was all perked up and ready to face the camera, when the director called out, 'And action!'
Dara Singh in a promotional photo-op, prior to a wrestling tour in Europe, 1957-58
'Chhod do! Jeh kya kar rahe ho?' (Let go! What are you doing?) Dara had indeed delivered a Hindi dialogue, but in a thick Punjabi accent!
The director screamed, 'Cut!' and after hollering several times in the same fashion, he gave up and moved on to the next scene, saying that they'd get him to dub the line later. Thereafter the canning of the wrestling scene had proceeded apace, and was completed on the same day.
But Dara lost his sleep that night. He couldn't fathom where he'd gone wrong. Going over the day's events, he said to Ajit Singh, his friend and fellow-wrestler, 'I spoke the line correctly. Then why did the director not okay the take?'
Dara Singh and actress Mumtaz in a publicity still of Rustom-E-Hind
Ajit let out a long yawn and replied, 'Dara, go to sleep. We are wrestlers and we don't care about diction and dialogues.'
The next day while dubbing, Dara discovered what the problem was. That simple, one-line dialogue was not so simple after all. Dara in his Punjabi-trained tongue had repeatedly enunciated the 'yeh' as 'jeh'.
Dara Singh greeting Jawaharlal Nehru, at the Commonwealth championships, Delhi
Dara, not one to give up on anything so easily, began rehearsing the line and kept repeating, 'Yeh kya kar rahe ho? Yeh kya kar rahe ho…' umpteen times, and then said confidently, 'Okay, I got it. Let's record.'
Dara Singh greets boxer Mohammed Ali on his visit to India
The recordist asked him to begin, and an enthusiastic Dara faced the mike. 'Chhod do! Jeh kya kar rahe ho?'
Oh no! He thought. Why can't I get it right in the final take.
This went on repeatedly, until finally Dara just gave up thinking, Who cares? Acting is not my profession, nor do I want to become a famous actor. Finally, a dubbing artist was called to dub his 'troublesome' one liner!
Extracted with permission from Deedara aka Dara Singh! (Westland) by Seema Sonik Alimchand.
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli