Man who added a fourth dimension to acting

Man who added a fourth dimension to acting

The lovable old man of Hindi cinema Avtar Kishan Hangal aka AK Hangal, who passed away at the age of 95, was an actor who made the audience and the cinema watching world take cognisance of soft and gentle but refractory individuals making up the masses in society as important characters on the stage.

A late bloomer by cinema conventions, A K Hangal, an ardent Marxist, entered the world of screen at an unconventional age of 50, after doing stage since freedom struggle movement.

And within a short span of time, Hangal's performances in films despite having small roles, became signposts for future actors to emulate. The characters he portrayed in films were Gogolian characters-people who always remain invisible to the powers that govern
the society.

As a man of intense principles, he never gave in to sleazy charms of Bollywood.

Be it in “Chit Chor,” or satirical “Shaukeen” or the intense “Namak Haram,” Hangal with his theatrical genesis in the eclectic Indian People's Theatre Association ( IPTA) and on the roiling streets of pre-1947 India, managed to give a paradoxical interpretation to his roles.

Hangal rarely got roles which from screenplay point of view could be considered as pivotal; but there are very few films wherein he failed leave indelible engraving in the minds of audience. In “Namak Haram,” the role which the actor loved to reminiscence in his later years, hardly occupies screen space.

Hangal plays the role of a retired man who takes up trade union activities when his son-in-law, a union leader is killed by goons hired by an industrialist. The role was that of an ordinary reluctant man who does not pick up the gun, but in every frame he makes the common man breathe the air that oxygenates silent rebels.

It is an odyssey of a common man who refuses to get grinded as an individual to the industrial machine, keeps on nursing and nurturing to the last of his strength- beliefs, principles and illusions by constantly returning to one's own ghosts haunting the vaults of memories.

Most of his roles Hangal played became a softly lit frescoed lampposts in the long line of his over 200 films. It was his interpretation of the characters who despite living in a sluggish pond of convention encompassing experiential realities of millions of Indians, find radiant meanings in the horrors of existence.

Possibly, his refusal to accept any class biases throughout his life and interact across the cultural class spectrum without any intellectual or moral biases, enriched his performances that ranged from the shattered blind father in the cult Indian cowboy spaghetti “Sholay'' to wolfish old man trying to seduce a girl quarter his age in “Shaukeen.”

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