Madhubala was my ideal the epitome of beauty and versatility. When I joined the film industry,I wanted to be like Madhubala. Of course that never happened. My journey was quite different. My start was hardly ideal. I started doing bit roles in comedy films. I played the vamp in some films. I was perceived as the girl who acts with Mehmood. I wasnt happy because within me was this need to break out,do a full-fledged role. It was at this juncture that Daraji stepped into my life. He was gracious enough to offer me work in his films.
Daraji was a huge star albeit in films that were perceived as B-grade fantasy films,but he was a huge star. It was the turning point of my career. I was finally a heroine B grade,C grade are only brackets that the industry puts on you. Faulad in 1963 was my first film with Daraji.
We worked in a dozen films together. I came to be known as Dara Singhs stunt heroine. Daraji was a wonderful co-star. He was a quiet person,a gentle giant. He used to sit in a corner,happy to read a book. He never liked to gossip on the sets. But he also liked to keep the atmosphere light. He would not joke around,but if someone told a joke,he would definitely laugh heartily.
He was a huge star. He symbolized an entire genre of action packed films. In his time,he was the highest paid star in the industry. He used to get something like Rs 4 lakh while I used to get close to Rs 2.5 lakh. Mind you,50 years back,that was big money.
I remember my mother used to be a huge fan of Daraji. She used to go and watch his kushti matches. I also went a couple of times but it was only when I started working with him that I came to know him. I learnt to respect him not just because he was so committed to his work but also because he was a great human being. He was very protective about his leading ladies. He respected women. He used to really look after me,especially during outdoor shoots. It is not easy to shoot in front of a crowd,there are always some characters who will say nasty things. Daraji would just need to give them a look and they would shut up. He was Dara Singh after all.
I used to feel so protected when Daraji was around. People like him,Sunil Dutt saab,Feroz Khan,really knew how to take care of their leading ladies. Dutt saab ko toh Nargis aapa mili bhi aise hi jab woh unhe bachaa rahe the. In sab logon ko heroines ko sambhaalna aata tha. I say this because todays generation of heroes should learn something from them,they should learn how to be protective about their leading ladies.
I am extremely proud of my association with Daraji. The films that we did together form an important chapter of my life. He was something else. He would always do his own stunts,never compromise on anything. I never heard him say no to any scene. His zeal to keep it real came at a cost he would keep getting injuries in his back and knees. But he never complained. He was a true He Man.
Our bond grew stronger as my sister,Malka,got married to his brother. Whenever I visited India,I made the effort to meet Daraji. We would all meet up at his bungalow,chit-chat over a glass of beer. I spoke to him over the phone recently to enquire about his health,and he assured me that sab theek hai.
He lived a full life,but his passing is a big loss. It is a loss not just to the film industry but also to humanity because he was a very nice human being. You know,iss duniya mein bahut aate hain,bahut jaate hain par jab achche log jaate hain toh bahut bura lagta hai kyunki achche logon se duniya achchi rehti hai.
(As told to Harneet Singh)