AK Hangal was the quintessential father figure in Hindi cinema: A look at his most memorable roles
After the classic era of Hindi films (1940s through 1960s), the film industry witnessed a tectonic shift that spanned through film genres, stories, characterisations, filmmaking techniques and music.In the 1970s, along with a range of stars — who commanded fan following in their respective genres — it was also the era of character artists who, with their nuanced performances, left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of cinegoers.
One of these character artists happens to be the late veteran actor AK Hangal who was seen in numerous films — Sholay, Bawarchi, Abhimaan, Shaukeen and later in Arjun and Lagaan to name a few. He embodied the role of the doting father who is affable and often understanding in nature. If not father, he was the quintessential oldie in the film who was really close to the central characters.
Sadly, the veteran actor passed away on 26 August, 2012 in utter penury without any proper medical treatment or care. Point to be noted: Hangal was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2006 for his contribution to Indian cinema.
That also opened up the whole debate whether the once famous industry veterans (the ones who weren't stars) get their dues during their non-prime years.
Today, on his 104th birth anniversary, here's a look at some of his most memorable roles in Hindi films.
When it's Sholay, everything seems to be special; the 1975 Ramesh Sippy directorial is considered to be a milestone in Indian cinema. Even after four decades, the film still remains as refreshing and entertaining. While Gabbar (Amjad Khan), Jai (Amitabh Bachchan), Veeru (Dharmendra), Basanti (Hema Malini) or Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar) remain the more famous of the lot, Hangal's Imaam Saab act touches a chord even now. Be it the endearing voice of Rahim Chacha or the emotional void that he experiences after his son Ahmed (Sachin Pilgaonkar) is brutally killed by the dacoits — audiences connect to the character from the get go.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee's 1972 family comedy-drama is one of the most-complete family entertainers in the Hindi cinema. Beaded with Mukherjee's classic no-profanity, high on middle-class family values, come-one-come-all formula, Bawarchi remains a favourite for many cinegoers. Hangal essays the role of the candid elder son of the joint family, who works as a clerk in a government office and after returning home, drinks local Indian liquor in solitude (without any trace of melancholy).
One of the most striking qualities of Hangal's performance was the way he used to blend into an ensemble cast and yet shine throughout the film.
In this hilarious Basu Chatterjee film that released in 1982, Hangal shared the screen with Ashok Kumar and Utpal Dutt. As the widowed sexagenarian, Inder Sen, he infuses life into the character and contributes to the collective joie de vivre that the film stands for. Even though the trio played lecherous old men, they never crossed the line — a signifier of what good acting can achieve.
His comic timing in the film is impeccable, often matching pretty close to comedy and theatre veteran Utpal Dutt. Filled with laugh-riots, Shaukeen is an all-time watch (serious recommendation, if one hasn't watched the film).
His stint as the old man was not limited to commercial films like Namak Haraam, Abhimaan or Sholay where he is seen as a family man. But in this 1981 Shyam Benegal directorial — loosely based on the Indian epic Mahabharata — Hangal essayed the role of a life-long bachelor Bhisham Chand (referring to Bheeshma from the epic tale).
He brings up the two sons of his brother after the latter's untimely demise and builds a business empire for them only to take a backseat once the children are grown up enough to take charge. The scene with Shashi Kapoor in the film, towards the end, has Hangal enter an argument with Kapoor which makes for a riveting watch.
Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan, released in 2001, was yet another landmark film in the history of Indian cinema. Even though he did not have an etched out role in the film, his act as (probably) one the oldest resident of the village near Champaner is still etched in our minds.
In the latter half of his career, Hangal appeared in films like Shararat and even tried his hands in television; he was seen on the Colors show Madhubala.
Updated Date: Feb 01, 2018 20:37 PM