indian cinema heritage foundation

A K Hangal

  • Real Name: Avatar Kishan Hangal
  • Born: 01 February 1914 (Peshawar, Pakistan)
  • Died: 26 August 2012
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Parents: Pandit Hari Kishan Hangal
  • Children: Vijay

Ye itna sannata kyun hai bhai?” (why is there such a silence?)
A.K. Hangal’s dialogue as the beloved Imaam Saheb in Sholay (1975) still resonates in the memory of many, even though he has long been laid to rest. Born in Peshawar on 1 February 1914, Avatar Kishan Hangal was better known as A.K. Hangal in the film industry. Hangal’s father was a theatre enthusiast, and often took his young son with him to the theatre, where Hangal quickly picked up on the nuances of theatre acting. When his family moved to Karachi, Hangal started working as a tailor, though he continued acting in theatre alongside. He was also a prolific writer, and around this time, he penned the play Julm-E-Kans. 
An active member of the struggle for independence, Hangal was also arrested and detained for some amount of time. Following Partition, he continued to live in Karachi and fight for workers’ rights as part of some leftist organizations. In 1949, he came to Mumbai and joined the Indian People’s Theatre Association or IPTA as a director, writer and actor. 
In 1966, he received the opportunity to work in films for the first time, with the Basu Bhattacharya directed Raj Kapoor starrer, Teesri Kasam (1966). At the time, he was 50 years old. He continued to appear in films in similar roles over the next two decades: a loving father, compassionate neighbor, a servant with integrity or a close member of the family. He played character roles in renowned films like Guddi (1971), Bawarchi (1972), Shaukeen (1982), Chitchor (1976), Meri Jung (1985), Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985), Sholay (1975), Avtaar (1983), Naram Garam (1981), Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), Kora Kagaz (1974) and Judaai (1980), among others. 
Unwilling to compromise on his communist ideals, in the nineties, Hangal was accused of having sympathies with Pakistan, and offers for roles stopped trickling in. 
Around the 2000s, Hangal started keeping unwell, but he continued to work in films. Confined to a wheelchair for the last few years of his life, he was still driven to work by his passion for acting and the need to earn a livelihood. He appeared in a role in Madhubala: Ek Ishq Ek Junoon, a Hindi-language television series. At the advanced age of 96, he even participated in a fashion show. By this time, his son, an erstwhile photographer, had also retired from working full-time. Battling illness with the same spirit he had shown throughout his life, the prolific actor—he appeared in over 200 films in his brief stint in Bollywood—passed away in a hospital in Mumbai on 26 August 2012.

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