Praveen Kumar Sobti, champion athlete and Bhim of ‘Mahabharat’, passes away at 74

It was the punch he landed on Praveen Kumar Sobti that made Amitabh Bachchan’s character deliver the famous dialogue from Tinnu Anand’s super-hit movie ‘Shahenshah’: “Rishte mein toh hum tumhare baap hote hain, naam hai Shahenshah! (Yes, I am your father. I am Shahenshah)”

But Sobti, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 74 in New Delhi, became briefly famous when he played the Pandava strongman Bhim in B.R. Chopra’s iconic television serial ‘Mahabharat’.

Before that, Sobti, who started his working life with the Border Security Force and towered at 6 feet 5 inches, earned laurels for India in discus throw and hammer throw, winning medals in three editions of the Asian Game — a gold and a bronze in the 1966 Bangkok Asian Games, another gold in the 1970 Asiad, which was also held in Bangkok, and a silver at the 1974 Tehran Asiad

Sobti also won a silver at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica, and represented the country at the Olympics in 1968 and 1972. He will, however, be remembered for his on-television characters — Bhim in ‘Mahabarat’ and Saboo in the Raghubir Yadav-starrer ‘Chacha Chaudhary’, based on Pran Kumar Sharma’s hugely popular comic-book series in Hindi.

Interestingly, his Chacha Chaudhary character was a giant alien from Jupiter, who provides protection to the elderly Chacha.

Sobti’s large frame made him just right for thuggish roles in Hindi and he got his first break in Hindi cinema in action sequences against Jeetendra in ‘Meri Awaz Suno’ (1981).

Soon thereafter, he appeared in the action thriller, ‘Raksha’, which was a remake of a Telugu film inspired by the James Bond movie, ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. The strong man, pitched against Jeetendra yet again, reprised the role of ‘Jaws’ in the Bond movie.

Apart from having a busy film and television career, Sobti also dabbled in politics — he stood in the 2013 Municipal Corporation of Delhi (2013) elections and subsequently joined the BJP.

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