Famous for playing either the father or uncle of a more famous name, character actor AK Hangal is best remembered by his line from Sholay (1975): Itna sannaata kyun hai bhai (Why is it so quiet?). With those words, he beautifully punctuated the grief-stricken silence that had enveloped a terrorised village grieving over a boy killed by dacoits.
After developing several complications following a fracture, Hangal (95) passed away at the Asha Parekh hospital in Santacruz West. The funeral was held at 1 pm at the Pawan Hans crematorium in Vile Parle.
Hangal entered Bollywood in his late ’40s and acted in over 200 films, including 16 starring the late Rajesh Khanna. His most memorable roles were as Inder Sen in Shaukeen (1981), Rahim Chacha in Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975), Ram Shastri in Aaina (1977), Bipinlal Pandey in Namak Haraam (1981) and the negative character in Prem Bandhan (1979).
Veteran producer director J Om Prakash remembers that he was in New Delhi with Hangal when the latter was awarded the Padma Bhushan. “Many of his friends went with him and we all spoke about his long and fulfilling career. He was a delight to work with. He worked hard on his scenes and got under the skin of the character. Hangal was a warm-hearted person and emotional scenes were his forte.”
Veteran actor Kanwarjit Paintal, who worked with Hangal in many movies including Chala Murari Hero Banane (1977) and Bawarchi (1972), adds, “It’s a loss for Hindi films. There can be no other Hangal. He was a good man with great focus and devotion towards his work. He would etch out the details of the character well on-screen.”
AK Hangal’s last outing as an actor was a cameo appearance on Saurabh Tiwary’s TV show Madhubala. Tiwary says, “It was a pleasure to have him on our show. When I met him at his house, he was weak and frail, so I had second thoughts about casting him. But he was very keen on doing the role and excited about facing the camera after eight years. We didn’t want to trouble him much, so we didn’t give him lines but he asked for them. It was an emotional moment when he gave the perfect shot in two takes.”