The year 1970 saw the completion of the magnum opus in the history of Indian cinema by the showman of the industry, Raj Kapoor — Mera Naam Joker.
Back in 1965, actor-director Raj Kapoor had called Dara Singh one evening and said, "You are playing a ring master in my new film, Mera Naam Joker. We start shooting next week."
Dara had replied, "Of course, I am."
No questions were asked thereafter; rather, no questions were expected from either of the men. The reason was the close relationship between the Kapoors and Dara Singh; commercial transactions between them was considered taboo.
Dara rarely attended film parties, and those that he went to, were always with his wife. Surjit, however, was very excited and decided to look her best for the big event. A Raj Kapoor party was something nobody missed, she said to herself. And then there’s that phirangi in the film, who people say is crazy about my husband, she thought.
On the assigned day, she spent hours at a beauty salon getting her hair done in a bouffant, dressed with great care, and with a fully made-up face, emerged from the bedroom. Dara pulled on his coat and turned to his wife, "What are you doing here? Go dress up. We have to leave in ten minutes."
"Dress up? But I am dressed up," Surjit said, startled.
"What! This is dressed up or… over dressed up?" Dara exclaimed looking at his wife’s hair. "That hairstyle is something I am sick of. All day I shoot with the heroines’ sprayed and smelly bouffonts sticking into my face, and now at home too? No way, and while you are at it, get rid of the make-up too. It doesn’t suit you. You look the best without any make-up."
Surjit was in a state of shock. She pulled out the painful pins from her bouffant and with much difficulty plaited her stiff hair into a long braid. She then peered nervously into the mirror — her husband was right, she did look beautiful.
At last, she was happy and accompanied Dara to the party. But after reaching there, and meeting with other guests, Surjit’s tears threatened to make a comeback when she saw her husband dancing a never-ending slow dance with the Russian leading lady. She thought to herself, It’s been 45 minutes and they are still stuck to each other.
Two of the industry’s popular leading men, Joy Mukherjee and Biswajit were seated beside her, but she hardly noticed them. However, sensing her anguish and discomfort, Joy Mukherjee said to her in jest, "Come, Bhabhiji, we too will dance. Let’s show them."
That brought a shy smile to her face but she declined the offer.
1986 was another significant year in Dara Singh’s life. A role in Subhash Ghai’s superhit film, Karma, was followed by his karmic calling — to essay the role of Lord Hanuman in Ramayan, the first mythological series on Indian television.
|Deedara aka Dara Singh, by Seema Sonik Alimchand; Westland; Rs 499.|
Prem Sagar recalls, "In 1942 when my father was 24-year-old, he was thrown out of his affluent family home in Lahore, because he rejected the dowry system. He was reduced to selling newspapers and cleaning trucks, but he also used to write newspaper articles. One day he met a seer and he foretold that dad would become a famous filmmaker and in the 1980s, he’d leave films and make Ramayan. How wondrous is it that in 1940 a sadhu had predicted the making of Ramayan."
Dara Singh got a call one evening, "Dara, you are playing Hanuman in my new TV serial."
"Sagar Saab, I am almost 60, cast a younger guy."
"You are Hanuman. You are the best."
There came a time when Dara Singh’s photograph in his Hanuman avatar was placed in temples across Umargaon, and one even had a Dara idol in it!
(Reprinted with publisher's permission. Courtesy of Mail Today.)