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Sunday, August 26, 2012

AK Hangal: Bollywood Movie Grandfather Passes Away!


A tremendous feature about him that always struck me was he looked the same since he made his first silver screen appearance in 1966. The reason could be that he started his acting quite late after attaining the age of fifty. He had always been the amiable, smiling, melancholic, incorrigibly pious and utterly homely uncle, father and grandfather of Bollywood movies for nearly five decades. And, he was always the balding, pale and thin man in mostly traditional costumes and surroundings. He had been like a beloved and respected member of our own family…and today we lost him.
Avtar Kishen Hangal popularly known as AK Hangal, a veteran character actor of over 225 Hindi or Bolllywood movies, passed away this morning at a Mumbai hospital. He was 95. For the past week he had been on life support system and was not responding to medical treatment. The grand old actor had a fall in his bathroom on August 14, 2012 and fractured a hip bone. Old age problems combined with longstanding lung and kidney ailments caused deterioration in his health and therefore he was admitted in ICU on August 16. He left a son behind, his wife having predeceased him. The last rites are being scheduled this evening in Mumbai. 
AK Hangal began his acting career in 1966 and last acted in movie in 2008. He had been portraying pivotal character roles of the quintessentially trouble-torn head of family in mostly rural poor households and in struggling middle class families, his strong characters never allowing any option to go the wrong way. An uncle or a father or a grandfather or a village elder or a musician or a teacher…piety, honesty and kindness setting his roles apart supported as always by his powerful yet endearing performance. Some of the movies that come to the mind include Parichay, Bawarchi, Abhimaan, Sholay, Lagaan and naturally many more. AK Hangal excelled in comedy too like in Shaukeen, Shararat and in many other serious roles where comedy was integral. He mustered the art of bringing out tears of joy in his spellbound viewers. 

AK Hangal also had the distinction of acting in most of Rajesh Khanna movies—as if the two great actors matched sweetness for sweetness, emotion for emotion, melancholy for melancholy. 
Bawarchi (The Chef), one of such memorable movies, comes to my mind again and again. The movie shows a typically struggling middle-class joint family torn by petty rivalries and jealousies. A mysterious chef looking for jobs suddenly lands in the family and through a web of sweet suspense unites the family. The eldest brother played by AK Hangal erupts in joy rediscovering the small pleasures of life. The delightful movie has stood the test of time for over 40 years.
The last memorable performance of AK Hangal was in Shararat in 2002.  His last public appearance was for a television serial in 2012. As is common in India, great movies are remembered but not the great actors. AK Hangal was living in penury a few years back, and when the news came into public domain several film personalities including Amitabh Bachchan organized financial help to bail out the legendary character artiste. The government and the people should take enough care to prevent this unfortunate trend and support all the great artistes of yore.

We pray for the eternal bliss of the noble soul of AK Hangal and gratefully cherish the fact that he will continue to lighten up the silver screens and to live in our hearts.  
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