The legendary Dara Singh’s son Vindu Dara Singh tells an interesting story on how his father became the screen-face of Lord Hanuman.
“It didn’t start with Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan. That came much later. In 1976 the very reputed director Chandrakant made a feature film called Bajrang Bali where he cast my father as Hanuman. The film was a blockbuster, something as big as Jai Santoshi Maa, and my father became a household name as Pavan Putra Hanuman.”
11 years later Ramayan happened. “Papaji, as we all called the kind Ramanand Sagarji decided to make the Ramayan. Though Dipika Chikhalia was the first choice for Sita, Arun Govil was not the original choice for Rama. Papaji had someone else in mind for Rama. Arun Govilji was supposed to play some other role. But he insisted he would play Rama. Papaji had a dream one night where he saw my father as Hanuman. Dad was summoned and offered the role. Of course, he had no choice. No one said no to Papaji. And of course, Dad was still fit enough to play Hanuman. But he was 60 and after years of wrestling, his knees and shoulders had begun to trouble him. But Papaji insisted and my father had no choice but to play Hanuman.”
Ramayan made Dara Singh the face of Hanuman.
Recalls Vindu, “It was my father until he was alive and then it was me. I was first offered the role of Hanuman in the serial Jai Veer Hanuman in 1996. I was hesitant about slipping into a role patented by my father. But I took up the challenge. Now I am invited to the Ram Leela in Delhi every year to play Hanuman. My most memorable moment on stage as Hanuman was when PM Modiji put a tikka on my head before my performance. My best stint as Hanuman was in a Telugu film directed by the legendary Bapu.”
More than anything, Vindu is happy for the Sagars that Ramayan worked so well. “I remember as a child I’d go to visit one of Papaji (Ramanand Sagar)’s grandchildren Jyoti. They had fallen on bad days after some of their feature films like Romance and Bhagavat flopped. Ramayan put the Sagars back on the map. Everyone connected with the serial became successful. Ramayan was blessed. My father later played Hanuman just one more time in B R Chopra’s Mahabharat. But very briefly.”