He played onscreen father, grandfather, great-grandfather and uncle to many top notch Bollywood actors, but today 95-year-old A.K. Hangal - the famous 'Rahim Chacha' of Sholay- lies on a cot, struggling to be alive as his source of income has dried up and there is hardly any money for food or medicine.
Hangal, a professional tailor-turned-actor, lives a life of penury and is unable to afford his mounting medical bills while suffering from old age related problems. Tending to him is his son, Vijay, 75, a former Bollywood still photographer, who had to give up his work due to a severe back ailment.
The duo together have a medical bill of over Rs.15,000 per month and now have to practically choose between spending on food and medication. So far nobody from Bollywood has thought it fit to enquire after the health of Hangal.
Moved by Hangal's plight, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Cine Workers' Association chief Ameya Khopkar Wednesday gave a cheque of Rs 51,000 to the duo.
Khopkar lamented that though Hangal is a legend and helped boost the careers of many a Bollywood star, nobody has even bothered to make a phone call and find out whether he is alive or not.
"It is really sad how such a senior and great actor like Hangal is ignored by his own fraternity. Many of the stars have made billions, but are not sparing a thought or a penny for one of their distinguished fraternity members who worked in more than 200 movies in the past 50 years," Khopkar told IANS.
Hangal's modest groundfloor flat in Saraswati Apartments, Santacruz East is lined with several trophies and awards - the pride of place occupied by the Padma Bhushan he got in 2006 at the hands of former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam - but his bank balance has come to nil.
The former tailor, who worked on a salary of Rs.500 per month in Churchgate and travelled by local trains to and from Santacruz, started his movie career at the age of 50.
He acted in over 200 movies, including the blind Muslim priest in Sholay, the naughty flirting senior citizen in Shaukeen, besides Bawarchi, Lagaan, Namak Haram, and many more.