It was early 2000-2003 and 2004 when veteran film actor AK Hangal visited Bhopal and Indore.
Not to promote any of his films as many film stars are doing now, but to participate in social programmes. Bollywood's 'grand old man' died on Sunday following a brief illness. He was cremated in Mumbai.
Hangal was one of those rare actors who never allowed the politician within him to die -- a politician genuinely concerned about the poor, creeping discrepancies in society, and also the Indo-Pak or Indo-US relationships.
The news of his demise on Sunday revived memories of his last visit to the two cities.
Those who knew him talked to HT about the late thespian and one of the founder-members of the Indian Peoples' Theatre Association (IPTA).
MP Drama School director Sanjay Upadhyay remembered him as a gentleman who always kept a low profile. Upadhyay said, "I had met him a couple of times in Delhi and Mumbai. He was so down-to-earth that he became a misfit in the current film and theatre scene. No doubt he was an excellent actor and preferred stage to cinema."
IPTA (Bhopal) secretary Dinesh Nair said, "We instantly decided to organise a drama festival some time in November.
Remembering his visit to Bhopal, Dinesh said when Hangal ji came to Bhopal in November 2003, he was not young but was worried about the creeping disparity in society and was talking about the need of a new movement to address the situation."
Ram Prakash Tripathi, a senior theatre person, said that Hangal during his visit to Bhopal gave acting tips to many budding artistes.
His simple way of teaching the art of theatre had impressed everyone. He also took a meeting of the executive of IPTA then.
Vineet Tiwari, a national executive member of IPTA from Indore, was in Mumbai recently when Hangal was undergoing treatment at a hospital. "I couldn't meet him then. I met his son. We used to talk over phone.
Hangal was very active and a knowledgeable person. He would keep himself abreast of current affairs and would speak on an issue with authority," Tiwari told HT.
Economist Jaya Mehta had met Hangal with other two invitees during the Indore meet of the Indian Progressive Writers' Association, for which Hangal had come down to the city. They included late Habib Tanvir and Randhir Singh, a former political science professor of Delhi University.
"All three belonged to the same era and shared a good rapport among them. They used to discuss various issues and often talked about their generation," Mehta told HT.
"But he was unhappy with the way Bollywood had undergone a change, with no respect left for actors and materialism creeping in. He was spirited towards theatre and encouraged the youth. He was a great actor but that didn't affect him. He was humble and never behaved like a star," Mehta added.
Himanshu Rai, IPTA state president, had met Hangal a year back at his Mumbai home.
"He was very disciplined. There have been many actors in the Indian cinema, but none else gained popularity as an actor and as a political person at the same time. His dedication towards his work is commendable. Not many people had the guts to speak against Bal Thackeray but he did it because of his firm convictions," Rai said.