Former Delhi cop Sangram Singh is an inspirational figure for turning weaknesses into his greatest strengths. The Wrestler-turned-actor has an enviable ability to re-invent himself
Sangram Singh was a constable in Delhi Police less than 10 years ago. He was grateful for his job but not satisfied —never is, never will be. He always wants more from life than he has achieved, and is ready to do whatever it takes. And he has not shed his rural persona, which he wears with pride, setting him apart from ‘sophisticates’ with whom he rubs shoulders with ease.
A member of Delhi’s elite India International Centre, he’s a known name in the Hindi film fraternity, he has an earnest approach and a matter-of-fact way of speaking. It’s only when you probe beneath the surface that you realise how his appetite for risk has transformed his life. He now lives in Mumbai with his partner Payal Rohatgi, an actress of a certain fame.
Singh has come a long way, given he was born into a poor agrarian joint family in Haryana’s Rohtak. Tragically, he was afflicted by debilitating arthritis and was confined to a wheelchair as a child. This condition “robbed me of my childhood” and he learned to fight adversity from an early age. He was not ready to give up: He forced himself to stand as long as his shaky legs could support him, as a matter of protest.
With practice and time, he could stand longer, strength was growing in his limbs, also his capacity to bear pain. The next stage was to stand holding a bucket full of water. Perseverance and sheer grit changed his reality.
Astonishingly, after such an unpromising start, in his late teens the boy became an accomplished wrestler who went on to win many medals for the country and India’s first wrestling reality show. He tasted success as a world-class wrestler in July 2015, making the country proud by defeating Canada’s Joe Legend to win the WWP Commonwealth Championship.
Before that, we saw him in September 2013 in the TV reality show Big Boss season 7, charming all the inmates with his rustic persona and ready wit. In the intervening years, he lost a lot of weight, and looked slim and toned. His diction has also changed considerably and he is one of the leading motivational speakers invited by reputed institutions of learning.
He was adjudicated PETA’s sexiest man alive in June 2013 when he posed for a picture with just a fig-leaf to cover his herculean body in support of animal rights and vegetarianism. Nor was this social cause just a chance happening. He has also pledged to donate his organs after death.
It’s clear that Singh never stops trying, and always aims big. When the dice is loaded against him, he considers it a sign of a greater opportunity. Clearly, his victory over his debilitating condition during childhood gave him an important lesson in life: Anything and everything is possible if one puts heart and soul to the task. That’s what he tells young impressionist minds in his motivational speeches at various schools, colleges and professional institutes like IIMs and IITs.
Delhi is the city that shaped him. He would roam around in his Wagon R car, meeting people for collaborations, marketing his plans. Sangram promised himself a life of certain comfort. Earlier on in his career as a wrestler, he would often fight for money in rural wrestling competitions, popularly known as mitti ka dangal. The winner could make anything from `2,000 to `20,000 per fight depending on the ferocity of the opponent. There were occasions when he fought couple of times a day, and on another occasion didn’t have money to treat the injuries he sustained while fighting.
“I fought for money. It was like practice sessions for which I’d be paid in cash,” he recollects with a sense of nostalgia and pride.
He supports the fitness challenge by the Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, and believes that a robust sports culture is a must for a healthy nation. He wants to serve the world of sports in his own unique way, by employing his talent and entrepreneurial skills. He has initiated his own version, ‘Fit Rahe Hindustan’ where people from various walks of life will pledge to exercise every day. The initiative will provide forums to discuss a host of issues that concern general health of the nation, lifestyle issues, and to create fitness programmes conducive with the fast-paced life of a metropolis.
Last year, Singh acquired the rights to make the film on Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav — the first Indian to win an individual medal at Helsinki Olympics in 1952. Sangram himself will play the lead role and the film will be directed by legendary Shyam Benegal. “Benegal taught me why ‘not’ to learn acting, as the best actors don’t ‘act’, they just be themselves,” Sangram Singh famously said about Benegal’s influence on his acting chops.
Constantly trying new things, he will host a talk show, Hausalon ki Udan Sangram Singh ke Saath here sporting prodigies who have done India proud like Mary Kom, Deepa Karmakar, Sakshi Malik, will talk about their tryst with destiny.
The wrestler-turned-actor also tried his luck in the world of music. He appeared in a music video, the song will have four versions in Hindi, English, Russian and Spanish. “I learned to play the guitar in flat two days for the video. I had never held a guitar in my hand before that,” he says triumphantly.
Dream big and work hard to realise it, is his message to all, young and old.