Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Memoriam - A K Hangal

Avtaar Kishan Hangal. Some called him wine, as he got better with age. To some he was Bollywood’s quintessential man with a heart of gold. For some, a common man’s mouthpiece. An adorable father and grandpa figure on screen. And for many his death has left a void, a strange silence in the fluttering industry, a ‘sannata’.

 Introduced to films as a 50 year old, several Indians grew up by seeing A.K.Hangal playing the onscreen father or grandfather of leading actors of his time. His career spanned many superstars and many generations. He was famous for portraying either of the two polar opposites - a man of principles or someone meek and oppressed. With the news of his death, curtains were surely drawn on an era in the world of Indian cinema where an elderly man’s yearnings were sold on the Indian value system.

 Here’s remembering Hangal saab’s 10 most memorable character roles. 

As Guddi’s father in Guddi (1971)
Hangal played a doting father to Jaya Bacchhan. Their relationship created the mood for the movie and was a treat to watch.

As Ramnath Sharma in Bawarchi (1972)
Enacting a family man who is detached and drowns his sorrows in alcohol was indeed a complex role. But for Hangal, it was just another character he left his mark on.

As Sadanand in Abhimaan (1973)
Rated as one of his most poignant performances, Hangal played Jaya Bacchhan’s father, mentor and guru in Abhimaan.

As Rahim chacha in Sholay (1975)
A film where every dialogue became a style statement, even Hangal got his due. Essaying the role of Rahim Chacha, an elderly villager of Ramgadh, his line ‘Itna Sannaata Kyun Hai Bhai’ has echoed successfully over the years. Rahim Chacha also became a phrase associated later on with any helpless old man.

As Ram Shastri in Aaina (1977)
Hangal's portrayal of Ram Shastri, an upper caste Hindu, brought out the diversities of the traditional Indian society in 'Aaina'.  His realistic acting and character portrayal as a Brahmin fetched him accolades.

As Inder Sen in Shaukeen (1982)
After having carved a serious reputation for himself, Hangal redefined his image by playing an old man with young aspirations in Shaukeen. His role involved ogling at a much younger Rati Agnihotri and speaking English in an overtly hilarious accent.

As Advocate Gupta in Meri Jung (1985)
Hangal was the perfect crusader representing the ‘common man’ on screen. As a lawyer, he fought for the rights of the common man in this movie. His verbal battle against Amrish Puri was heart-rending and is still regarded as one of the best confrontations on-screen.

As Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Lord Mountbatten – The last Viceroy (1986)

This was a mini TV series where Hangal acted the role of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Set in pre-independent India, Hangal’s role was found to be historically accurate. His appearance closely resembled Patel, being a perfect reconstruction of the Indian barrister and statesman. Not many know that Hangal was an active participant in the Indian freedom struggle. He moved to Bombay after the Partition of India in 1949 after 3 years in prison in Pakistan.

As Shambhu Kaka in Lagaan (2001)
Playing the role of the eldest villager, it was endearing to watch the veteran actor lip sync the lines ‘Kale Megha, Kale Megha Pani Toh Barsao’. Although a cameo, he left his mark as a character artist and did complete justice to his role in spite of being injured.

As Himself in Madhubala (2012)
His last appearance on screen set the media abuzz. He played himself, a veteran actor who christens the baby Madhubala. Hangal stepped out of his house for the first time in five months for the shooting. But he proved that he may be a bit rusty around the edges at 95, but has not forgotten his art and pulled off his part in a single-take shot. He was, of course, delighted with the applause on the set.

AK Hangal continues to live in or memories. The grand old man leaves behind a legacy that would remain young in our hearts forever. RIP Hangal Saab! 

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