Wrestler-turned-actor Dara Singh passed away at the age of 83 in a Mumbai hospital on Thursday after a cardiac arrest five days ago. Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, who directed him in his last movie Jab We Met, released in 2007, shares his memories of Dara Singh with HT:
It is difficult to believe that Dara Singh ji is not among us anymore. No one can forget his benevolent smile when he came to the set of Jab We Met. He knew he was very strong. So, that smile was almost like saying ‘Don’t be scared of me’. He was somebody who had a high standard of morality. When he was on the set, nobody would use a vulgar word even from a distance. In his presence, the set would become vegetarian in terms of language.
He was extremely well behaved, so much so that you would become well behaved in his presence. He was the prototype of the benevolent north Indian grandfather who would only have good things to say about people. I don’t think even his son would have ever heard him say anything bad.
When we were shooting in Patiala, there was a dialogue in which he had to say, “Ghar mein aise kapde pehen ke aayi ho toh Mumbai mein to nangi ghoomti hogi (If you’re wearing such clothes at home, you must be roaming around naked in Mumbai)”, and he requested me to change that word.
He said, “Achha nahi lagta. Main aise kaise bol sakta hu kisi ladki ke baare mein (It’s not nice. How can I say something like that about a girl)?” So, even in the film he has said it with a lot of hesitation.
There was one particular incident when we wanted to shoot in a room that was very precious to the landlady and she wasn’t giving us permission to shoot in it.
She was around 80 years old and she finally said she would let us shoot if we introduced her to Dara Singh and let her give him a glass of juice. And he agreed. That room was his room in the movie. Every day, that lady came to the set in her best sari.
He was very health conscious. Every morning, he used to wake up at 6 and walk in the hotel lobby, and this was the time when most people would still be drinking.
I last met him a few months after the release of Jab We Met. I wish I could have met him (before he died) but I didn’t want to be intrusive. I met his son a couple of times and we exchanged regards through him. I hope that he passed away without any pain. He will live on in the industry forever.
As told to Neha Sharma