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    Feb 2010


    Default Film folks pay homage to A K Hangal

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    Hangal Saab was a frail man. But he had a strong heart that kept him going until the ripe old age of 94.

    Says Asha Parekh in whose hospital the veteran actor breathed his last on Sunday morning, “I went to visit him at our hospital on Saturday afternoon at around 4 pm. He was extremely critical. We wanted to put him on a ventilator. But Hangal saab’s son Vijayji didn’t want to prolong his father’s agony. He refused to sign papers for ventilator support without which we thought Hangal saab wouldn’t last beyond the evening. But he struggled through the night. He had a very strong heart.”

    In director Anant Mahadevan’s Shahid Kapoor starrer Dil Maange More, Hangal saab did an interesting cameo as a music connosieur who visits a music store Planet M and insists a Mukesh number is sung by K L Saigal. Recalls Anant affectionately, “He kept saying ‘Planetarium’ instead of ‘Planet M’. But he corrected himself in the final take. Before I directed Hangal saab in Dil Maange More I worked with him as a co-actor in films and on television.

    He was a real trouper. And full of amazing anecdotes from the time of India’s Freedom struggle , and his stints in prison for raising his voice against the British Raj. He was also part of the great Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) before joining movies. His experiences were truly inspiring. Although he came from theatre he did the silent grief in Sholay so effectively…It still evokes a gasp of appreciation. But I’m sure he’d be remembered for more than just that scene in Sholay , much more.”

    Ashutosh Gowarikar in whose film Lagaan, Hangal was vividly etched in a small role, thinks the going of this seasoned trouper is a sad day for both cinema and theatre. “In my growing years, I remember several films that had Hangal saab in very pivotal roles. And he always left a mark on me like he did on millions of others. If the hero was the son of this man, then I always felt assured that the hero will never do any wrong and if he did, then he will be corrected by this pious, good-natured and humble man. Till date,

    I have not seen anyone play a blind man the way he did in Sholay. He reveals much more of the character than has been written in the script, which I think is a rare talent. This is best observed in his one scene in Deewaar, where as a father who has lost his son the tragedy of the situation can be felt tremendously on his face. Hangal saab can truly be referred to as a great actor. Years later, on the sets of Lagaan I marveled at his artistry and craft, his creative inputs towards his character and his spirit to perform. For him acting was not a job but a real attempt to explore the nuances of the character he was portraying. I was amazed to discover that Hangal saab was very similar to the characters he played.

    He was upright, honest, dedicated and humble. He was extremely spirited. His dedication was so intense that once during Lagaan when he had a back injury, instead of taking the option of going back to Mumbai he stayed on in Bhuj and shot for the film, despite all his pain and discomfort so that the film would not suffer. I saluted him then. I salute him today. I would say that I’m one of the fortunate few for whom he consented to play the role in Lagaan which did not have the length and range like his films in the 70’s. But he enriched the village Champaner in Lagaan by his sheer presence. He brought a lot of credibility to all the other characters in the film. And for that, I will remain forever indebted to this great actor called A. K. Hangal.”

    Adds Shabana Azmi, “He was a very close friend of my family. He costarred with my mother in several plays by IPTA. He was committed to using art as an instrument of social change and was in the forefront of all demonstrations and protests held on social issues. He used to be a tailor, and till the very end dressed nattily and stitched his own suits. He played a wily godman in Shatranj Ke Mohre to perfection, as also a film producer in Sagar Sarhadi's Tanhai opposite my mum (Shaukat Azmi).

    I’d rate Sholay, Deewar and Arjun among his most memorable roles. He was a perfectionist and would ask so many questions about his character that all at IPTA would tease me if I asked too many questions and say, ‘Hangal ho gayi ho kya?!!’. He was a progressive liberal and a secular individual. We will all miss him.”

    Raza Murad, a self-proclaimed fan of A K Hangal’s talents is deeply disappointed by the poor turn-out at the deceased actor’s funeral. “It was disappointing. The man gave 50 years of his life to this film industry. I feel the busy stars could have spared at least 50 minutes of their time to pay their final respects.

    "And to think that the crematorium in Vile Parle is not too far off from these stars’ bungalows. In fact many cops were deployed in anticipation of a huge turn-out. I have to admit with a heavy heart that it’s a cruel world. They didn’t consider this departed soul important enough to be given an honourable send-off. God bless.”



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