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Dara Singh

Dara Singh : Blending tradition and modernity, Dara Singh represented the nation's collective consciousness

Dara Singh was more than a film star. He was a piece of folklore and he became a sociological phenomenon. He cannot be seen merely as a fact of autobiography, a curriculum vitae of achievements, a composite of 148 films and some legendary TV performances. He has to be seen as a hybrid of myth and folklore, of archetype and stereotype. He was an individual who stoked a collective consciousness, as a larger than life evocation of the desi hero.

He represented the Indian idea of masculinity - the mard. He was the He-man as a gentle giant, the Punjab da puttar who was authentic desi, a product of local soul and local foods. He had physical prowess but none of the aggressive machismo we see today. He evoked security, gentleness, the right kind of patriarchy; his body rippled with the indigenous values. Even a Ramdev could salute him. He was proud to be Jat, content to be Indian.

He was a creature of the akhada, a pahalwan trained in an Indian style of wrestling. The akhada of that time was an embedded part of culture, a blend of the traditional body and Indian values, a theory of health and vitality. It was not the annexe to electoral politics it became later.

Dara's triumph over King Kong and George Zybisco made him a legend. For a culture used to defeat in the 1960s, Dara Singh provided a new sense of a collective identity. He was an undefeated hero. He embodied a folk notion of victory which travelled from the world of kushti to the annals of film.

He was an Indian wrestler-turned-actor. He started acting in 1952 and was the first sportsman to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha (upper house) of India. He worked as Hindi and Punjabi film producer, director and writer, and he acted on film and television.