Millennium Post

When Hangal called for the make up man

He faced the cameras first when he was 50. At 96, he took to the fashion runway on a wheelchair. At 97, he gave a voice-over for an animated film and did a TV show. Age was clearly never a bar for A K Hangal. He lived with an undying passion for his craft almost till his last breath, even when a financial crisis took a heavy toll.

Hangal, who epitomised the phrase ‘once an actor always an actor’, passed away on Sunday following a prolonged illness. He was 97.

‘I believe there is no age limit to work,’ Singhal said back in May when he gave a nod for a cameo in a TV show Madhubala. He was ill by then but he wasn’t willing to give up. After featuring in over 200 films in an over four-decade career, Hangal was living a life of penury – a fact which came to light in 2011. He had no income and his only son Vijay, who is 70-plus, had to give up his job due to a severe back ailment. The result was their inability to afford mounting medical bills. But even then Hangal didn’t give up or sought financial aid. Born in Sialkot, now in Pakistan, Hangal spent most of his childhood in Peshawar. He grew up to be a tailor but quenched his thirst for acting through theatre.

Post-partition, he is said to have moved to Mumbai in 1949. He was with the Left-leaning Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), which also attracted Balraj Sahni, Utpal Dutt, Kaifi Azmi and many others.

He stepped into the Hindi film industry in 1966-1967. His initial films included Teesri Kasam and Shagird.

As an actor, who began his tryst with cinema at age 50, he had little options in terms of the variety in his roles. But he gladly and responsibly played an uncle, father and grandfather to heroes and heroines starting from the 1970s.

Known as a character artist, he is remembered for playing Rahim Chacha in Sholay. Some of his other memorable movies include Namak Haraam, Bawarchi, Chupa Rustam, Abhimaan and Guddi.

A man with a never say no attitude, he maintained his enthusiasm to wear the grease paint when he entered the sets of TV serial Madhubala. He reached the sets, looked around, and just as he must have done in his prime, he called out: ‘Make up man!’
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