Mumbai, Aug. 26: In death, Avtar Kishan (A.K.) Hangal confirmed that Bollywood needs Twitter — and Twitter alone — to shed a tear.
The micro-blogging site heaved with cliché-ridden tributes to whom many referred to as Rahim Chacha, a role Hangal played in Sholay.
However, few big stars were seen at the last rites of the actor who passed away aged 98 in a Mumbai hospital on Sunday.
Raza Murad, who attended Hangal’s cremation along with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) members Ila Arun, Rakesh Bedi and Avatar Gill, said it was sad no big star from the industry came for the funeral.
Industry sources said Hangal was not “on the radar” of the younger generation, which usually takes the initiative in pulling seniors out of homes to funerals and other such sombre occasions.
However, they pointed out that many stars had helped out Hangal when word spread last year about his inability to meet medical expenses. The Bachchans had taken the lead then — their help continued till Hangal breathed his last —along with actors like Mithun Chakraborty and others.
On Twitter, Hangal’s 200-film career was sought to be captured through a dialogue Hangal delivered in Sholay: “Itna sannata kyu hai bhai (why is it so deathly quiet)?”
“AK Hangal passes away this morning. A veteran, a gentleman, a congenial co artist and a master at his work,” tweeted Amitabh Bachchan.
Among those who paid tribute was a voice that usually does not associate itself with Bollywood actors but whose words underscored the political leanings of Hangal.
The CPI termed Hangal a “committed social and political activist”. “Comrade Hangal was a committed social and political activist who withstood the onslaught of the Shiv Sena for his political and social views. The Shiv Sena had attempted to impose a ban on his film career. Though it affected his earnings and living, he did not compromise,” it said in a condolence message.
Born in Pakistan’s Sialkot, Hangal had participated in the Indian freedom struggle and served time in prison. He moved to Mumbai after Independence and being keenly interested in theatre, joined the IPTA. He debuted in the Hindi film industry at the age of 50 with Basu Bhattacharya’s Teesri Kasam.
The actor was seen in various films including Sholay, Namak Haram, Shaukeen and more recently in Lagaan and the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Paheli.
“He lived his life fully without any regrets. He had complications owing to old age but it did not deter him. He was happy that people still appreciated and loved him,” his son Vijay said.
Hangal was last seen in a cameo role in the Hindi television serial, Madhubala, a few months ago. He also made a ramp appearance last year as showstopper for designer Riyaz Gangji in a wheelchair.
“He had child-like excitement when he faced the camera for the TV show. His natural flair for acting gave him fame surpassed by any character actor, especially his role as Rahim Chacha in Sholay,” said actor Murad.
Singer Arun, who had attended his birthday on August 15 this year, said she had hoped the actor would complete 100 years. “He had told me that he would complete a 100 years,” Arun told reporters outside the hospital, where he was admitted with a fractured femur.
The IPTA has organised a programme in Hangal’s memory at Prithvi theatre on Monday, Shabana Azmi said.