A K Hangal

  Hindi Film     Main Lead, Supporting Actor    01 Feb 1914

A.K. Hangal –Indian Cinema’s most versatile character actor 'Itna sannata kyun hai bhai'? This heart rendering dialogue from Amitabh Bachchan’s film Sholay makes eyes moist when the blind old Imaam Sahab utters these emotional words on identifying the death of his young son! The entire theater goes mum and only wishers of emotional pangs can be heard. The trauma and the pathos of a broken father were exceptionally brought on screen by the blind old Imaam Sahab. Wanna know who the blind old Imaam Sahab is? Well he was A.K. Hangal, one of the most proficient character actors of India cinema, who made many movies immortal with his admirable performance. Films like Namak Haram, Kora Kagaz, Shauken and one of his most remarkable film Aamir Khan’s Lagaan, in which he played the village head.   In his career spanning from 1966 to 2005 he did over 200 films and died at the ripe age of 98. It is tragic that despite being such a senior artist; on his death none of the top stars paid him a final adieu!   
Born on   1 February 1914
Screen Name/ Original Name A.    K. Hangal                Avtar Kishan Hangal
Parents   Pandit Hari Kishan Hangal.  Ragia Hundoo.    
Siblings   He had two sisters… Bishan Kishan.    
Spouse   Manorma Dar
Children   On son, Vijay (Retired Bollywood photographer)
Early Life     A true patriot and a freedom fighter   A.K. Hangal spent his childhood and youth in Peshawar. Though his father and grandfather were British government officials, AK Hangal kicked off British job as he was a patriot at heart.   To make a living he did tailoring and by night he performed in plays to fulfill his passion for acting. He was an active artist at Shree Sangeet Priya Mandal, a theatre group in Peshawar during 1936 and continued to act in many plays in undivided India till 1946.   Through his plays he ignited a passion for freedom. However it was his communist ideology that jailed him for three years from 1947 to 1949.   After partition his family moved to Pakistan but Hangal moved to Mumbai and got involved with IPTA. In Mumbai along with other friends like Kaifi Azmi, Balraj Sahani, Chetan Anand, Hangal rented a place where they performed plays.  
Personal Life     He bravely withstood the Shiv Sena attack   In 1993 A.K. Hangal went to Pakistan to see his ancestral house, meet family members and recover material for his autobiography.   The Pakistan government gave him warm welcome and invited him for the Pakistani Day function. Hangal obliged by participating in the function but back home Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray branded him a traitor and boycotted his films and even burnt his effigies but A.K. Hangal stood valiantly against the Sena attack. The entire film industry backed Hangal.   Hangal remembered the episode with pinch of salt. He lamented, “It feels tragic to be called traitor when I was a freedom fighter and served jail terms for India’s freedom movement!”    
Career     Film director Basu Bhattachrya introduced A.K. Hangal in films   Many film celebrities used to throng IPTA and pick up good artists for cinema. Once film director Basu Bhattacharya noticed A.K.Hangal in a play and approached him to play Raj Kapoor’s elder brother in his film Teesri Kasam (1966).   Hangal who was doing good business as a tailor (His clients were rich and famous like Nawab Pataudi and he earned Rs 500 a month) thought for a long time whether  to take risk of acting in film and quit his lucrative job but after pondering a lot he decided to join films.   Though Teesri Kasa was a bitter failure but Hangal’s role was much appreciated and he was flooded with offers. In the late 60’s he did many hit films like Sara Akash, Saat Hindustani, Dharti Kahe Pukarke, Shagird etc.   The 70’s was the peak of A.K.Hangal   A.K.Hangal reached his peak as a character actor and did many hit films like Abhimaan, Deewaar, Sholay, Aandhi, Namak Haraam, Aap Ki Kasam, Mere Apne, Parichay, Daag, Joshila, Heera Panna, Jawani Diwani, Garam Hawa, Bawarchi, Kora Kagaz, Chitchor, Satyam Shivam Sundaram etc the list is long.   A.K. Hangal was a realistic actor   A.K.Hangal’s performance was so realistic that many a times he used go into the skin of the character so pragmatically that he looked absolutely like the real character.  For instance take the scene from the film Deewaar.   In this film he has just a five minute cameo of a deprived municipal school teacher, whose son steals bread from a hotel to feed his starving family and is shot down by the police officer, Shashi Kapoor.   When Shashi Kapoor realizes his folly and goes with some food to feed the family he encounters Hangal, the father of the criminal boy.   The way Hangal reacts to Shashi Kapoor, leaves the audience awestruck by Hangal amazing emotional outburst. Instead of being loud and outrageous, he is composed and the little anger that he displays is through his potent eyes and choked voice! Indeed a natural act!    It is a MUST watch scene for youngsters who are aspiring to become actors!!!   A police officer mistook A.K. Hangal as Union Leader   A.K.Hagal was known for playing his characters so naturally that he would fuse into the character brilliantly.    Among the many roles he has played, he has been best suited in the roles of  upright union leader. The most prominent film was Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan starrer Namak Haraam (1973).   In this film he played the role of a union leader to such perfection that once a police officer mistook him as a Union Leader. Recalling the amusing incident Hangal in a interview said, “One day a Police Officer stopped me on my way and narrated the ordeal of a policemen job. He told me he was thinking of making a union and sought my guidance!”    
Awards   Padma Bhushan in 2016
Other works    
Milestones     Sholay made A.K. Hangal immortal   A.K. Hangal’s most powerful role of Imaam Sahab, the old blind man, in ‘Sholay’ was just fantastic.   His brief cameo of a grieving aged father, who despite losing his young son, urge the village men to fight Gabbar Singh advocating that life of courage is better than coward added much emotional impetus to the film, which basically is packed with action in content.   Recalling about the role, A.K. Hangal said, “I am happy that from all my roles, my role in Sholay is remembered by people.”   He informs, “To get into the skin of the character I had attempted the Russian craft in acting called Psycho- technique. The idea worked and I got immortal in the annals of Indian Cinema.”   Few would know that Danny was offered the role of Gabbar Singh but he had to abandon the film as he was busy shooting for Feroz Khan’s Dharmatama in Afganistan.   Likewise A.K.Hangal was shooting in Nepal for Dev Anand’s film Isaq Isaq Isaq. But Dev insisted to have only Hangal in his film.  Hence Dev Anand had arranged a special helicopter for him.   Hangal recalls, “The 70’s was a hectic year and I did many shifts in a day. But I am lucky, filmmaker respected me. When I was shooting for Sholay in Bangalore, simultaneously I was also shooting for Dev Anand’s Ishq Ishq Ishq at Nepal. But I must thanks Dev  Sahab, as he arranged a helicopter for me. I used to finish my work for Sholay and fly back to Nepal”.   Death He died on 26 August 2012 at the ripe age of 98.