In 1965, in Tarzan Comes to Delhi, Hindi cinema’s most famous strongman, Dara Singh, got a shot to play the king of the jungle, though most of the action took place in a city. Hence the title. Shekar, a guide, leads Rekha and her professor father into the jungle only to steal a valuable necklace from a giant tribal idol. The tribesmen blame the theft on the interlopers and threaten the life of the professor until it is returned. It is up to Tarzan and Rekha to save the day, traveling to Delhi to retrieve the gem.
The entire film can be viewed online at
The film’s trailer proclaimed Dara Singh was playing Tarzan for the only time. Later he played in Tarzan and King Kong, but his younger brother played Tarzan. Mumtaz had the female lead in both films. With the beautiful Mumtaz by his side, Singh’s Tarzan dances alongside Helen and Bhagwan, and defeats a parade of evildoers as they threaten him and his friends. Tarzan Comes to Delhi was produced by Surinder Kapoor (father of Boney and Anil Kapoor) and directed by Kedar Kapoor. If it sounds like it was all in the family – it was.
Dara Singh Randhawa, November 19, 1928 – July 12, 2012) was an Indian professional wrestler, actor and politician. He started acting in 1952 and was the first sportsman to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha (upper house) of India. He worked as Hindi and Punjabi film producer, director and writer, and he acted in films and television. He is known for his role of Hanuman in film Bajrangi.
Dara Singh was born on 19 November 1928 in the village of Dharmuchak, which was then a part of British Punjab and is now in the Amritsar district of the Majha region of Punjab, India. He went to Singapore in 1947, where he worked in a drum-manufacturing mill and began his wrestling training under Harnam Singh.
Because of his size and strength, he took up pehlwani, an Indian style of wrestling. After switching to professional wrestling, he competed around the world with opponents such as Bill Verna, Firpo Zbyszko, John Da Silva, Rikidzan, Danny Lynch, and Ski Hi Lee etc., his act of flooring King Kong is always remembered. Three of the photos are from that fight.
In 1954, Dara competed in the Rustam-e-Hind (Champion of India) tournament where he won the final by defeating Tiger Joginder Singh. In 1959, he won the Commonwealth Championship by defeating George Gordienko at Calcutta. In 1968 in Bombay, his victory over Lou Thesz earned him the World championship. In 1996 he was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame. In 2018, WWE inducted him in WWE Hall of Fame Legacy class of 2018.
He began acting in 1952. He was a stunt film actor for many years and played his first lead role in Babubhai Mistry's film King Kong in 1962. From around 1963 he partnered often with Mumtaz, with whom he performed in 16 Hindi films. The couple became the highest-paid B-grade actors, with Singh receiving nearly four lakh rupees per film or over $500,000 dollars.
He then went on to do television in the late 1980s, where he played the role of Hanuman in the television adaptation of the Hindu epic Ramayan. He also had roles in numerous films, such as Veer Bheem Sen and Ramayan, and in other television serials. His last Hindi movie was Jab We Met and the last Punjabi movie released before his illness was Dil Apna Punjabi.
Mumtaz Askari was born to Abdul Saleem Askari and Shadi Habib Agha in 1947. Her younger sister is actor Mallika who was married to wrestler and Indian actor Randhawa - younger brother of wrestler and actor Dara Singh. The man even had his own comic book. How cool is that.
Mumtaz plays Rekha in this film. She began her career as a child actress in Sone Ki Chidiya (1958). As a teenager she acted as an extra in Vallah Kya Baat Hai, Stree, and Sehra in the early 1960s. As an adult, her first role in A-grade films was that of the role of the sister of the hero in O. P. Ralhan's Gehra Daag. She got small roles in successful films such as Mujhe Jeene Do. Later, she got the role of the main lead heroine in 16 action films, including Faulad, Veer Bhimsen, Tarzan Comes to Delhi, Sikandar-E-Azam, Rustom-E-Hind, Raaka, and Daku Mangal Singh, with freestyle wrestler Dara Singh, and was labelled as a stunt-film heroine.
In the films that Dara Singh and Mumtaz did together, Dara's remuneration was INR 450,000 per film, and Mumtaz's salary was INR 250,000 per film.
It took Raj Khosla's blockbuster Do Raaste (1969), starring Rajesh Khanna, to finally make Mumtaz a full-fledged star. Although Mumtaz had a minor role, director Khosla filmed four songs with her. In 1969, her films Do Raaste and Bandhan, with Rajesh Khanna, became top grossers of the year, earning around 65 million and 28 million respectively. Dara Singh gave her the 'Stunt Princess' name and he also agreed to be paired opposite to her in several B-grade movies.
Bhagwan Abhaji Palav, aka Bhagwan Dada, Bhagwan, and Master Bhagwan, was an Indian actor and film director who worked in Hindi cinema. He is best known for his social film Albela (1951) and the song "Shola Jo Bhadke". He made his debut in the silent era with the film Criminal.
He co-directed his first film, Bahadur Kisan, in 1938. From 1938 to 1949 he directed a string of low-budget stunt and action films that were popular with the working classes. He usually played a naive simpleton. One of the notable films that he made during this period was the Tamil film Vana Mohini (1941) that starred M. K. Radha and Sri Lankan actress Thavamani Devi.
He turned producer in 1942 with Jagruti Pictures, purchased some land and set up Jagriti Studios in Chembur in 1947. On advice from Raj Kapoor, he made a film called Albela, starring Bhagwan and Geeta Bali, and featuring music by his friend Chitalkar, or C. Ramchandra. The songs of the film, in particular "Shola Jo Bhadke" are still remembered. Albela was a huge hit. After Albela, Bhagwan got C. Ramchandra and Geeta Bali together again in Jhamela (1953), where he tried to recreate the formulaic success of Albela with little success. He also directed and acted in Bhagam Bhag in 1956.
After that, Bhagwan did not have any more hits and gave up producing and directing films. He was forced to sell his 25-room waterfront bungalow in Juhu and his fleet of seven cars (one for each day of the week). He took whatever roles he could get, but apart from Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje and Chori Chori, none were significant, and he eventually played only bit parts in which he did his famous dance (made even more famous by Amitabh Bachchan using it as his default dance step). The dance is in Tarzan Comes to Delhi.
Bhagwan died of a massive heart attack at his residence in Dadar on 4 February 2002.
The first photo is from Tarzan Comes to Delhi:
Siddhu, aka Sidhu, played Shekar, the guide. He started his career as an unpaid actor, going regularly to acting school and hoping like so many others hoping to be discovered. He was offered a role in S. Mukerji's "Dil Deke Dekho," starring Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh. He played the villain. Searches for more details were unrewarding. The internet is jammed by results from a modern day cricket player turned actor and an even younger heartthrob. I located one photograph.
Helen Richardson Khan, stage name Helen, is a Burma-born Indian film actress and dancer, worked in Hindi films, including Tarzan Comes to Delhi. A detailed biography appeared in a previous article in this series, Tarzan and Gorilla. She has received two Filmfare awards and has appeared in over 700 films. Think about it, 700 FILMS. She was considered the most popular nautch dancer, an Indian style of dance. Nauch literally translates as dance. She is the second wife of veteran writer-producer Salim Khan. Remember, that’s how it worked.
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