Khali may prove to be an ephemeral pop phenomenon. But Dara Singh will live on forever...
If size is the measure of a man, no one can outclass The Great Khali. Peering into the hysterical crowds of India from his towering height of 7'3'', Khali sure can spot the vain six-footers who're in low spirits ever since the giant touched down. But there's one tall man whose legend will remain intact once the tremors caused by the WWE's moving mountain subside. Dara Singh. True, at a mere 6'2'', Dara Singh is a midget compared to the hulk Khali. And unlike the latter, he is not an international celebrity. But while Khali is a pop cultural phenomenon, and like most pop cultural phenomena runs the risk of being short lived (does anyone remember The Rock's exploits in the WWE ring anymore?), Dara Singh is the stuff of grandma's tales.
He was modern India's first colossus. In the '50s, as the country was still shaking off 200 years of colonial humiliation, Dara Singh was bashing up hefty white men in great wrestling bouts in Bombay. He was a sensation, once twirling a 200kg Australian grappler called King Kong above his head, throwing him out of the ring (King Kong would return such favours in bouts in the West, but then no one knew that these professional wrestling matches were fixed. Even today, many Indians believe Dara Singh was a genuine 'world champion').
Among the victims of Dara's body slams and overhead whirls were such strongmen of eminence as the Canadian Flash Gordon and the American Lou Theze. One incident illustrates the Dara Singh lore. Manmohan Desai, after signing the wrestler for the film Mard, said: "Amitabh is playing the title role... I was wondering who could be his father if Amitabh plays Mard. Mard ka baap to Dara Singh hi ho sakta hai."