'Itna sanata kyun hai bhai' - this was one of Hindi cinema's best remembered dialogues from the 1975 blockbuster film Sholay, delivered by one of Bollywood's favourite character actors Avtar Kishen Hangal.
A tailor by profession, A K Hangal was an active participant in the freedom struggle and spent three years in prison in his native Pakistan. Moving to Mumbai soon after Partition, he joined Indian People's Theatre Association along with Balraj Sahni and Kaifi Azmi.
But Mr Hangal came to movies rather late. As a 50-year old, he was introduced to Bollywood in Basu Bhattacharya's Teesri Kasam and in 1966's Shagird. Through the 60's to the 80's, he was seen in hits such as Sholay, Aandhi, Kora Kagaz, Bawarchi, Guddi, playing the role of father or uncle to the leading actor, portraying either of two polar opposites - a man of principles or someone meek and oppressed.
He was a part of many films starring the late superstar Rajesh Khanna, from Aap Ki Kasam to Thodisi Bewafai. The 1982 comedy,Shaukeen, directed by Basu Bhattacharya was one of his best roles. Mr Hangal received the Padma Bhushan in 2006.
Mr Hangal's last major films were Aamir Khan's Lagaan in 2002 and Amol Palekar's Paheli in 2005. The wheelchair-bound actor also appeared in this year's TV serial Madhubala, seven years after he last faced the camera. But despite a career spanning five decades and over 200 films to his credit, A K Hangal's twilight years were spent in financial penury, unable to make ends meet including his medical expenses.
Bollywood stepped up to help when Mr Hangal's reduced circumstances were highlighted in 2011. The Bachchans, Salman Khan, several film artistes' associations and the Maharashtra government pledged financial help.
A K Hangal is survived by one son, a photographer.
Story first published:
August 26, 2012 09:52 IST