Mumbai: With prayers on their lips, friends and family members bid a tearful adieu to distinguished character actor A. K. Hangal at his funeral here.
Incidentally, none of the prominent Bollywood personalities attended Hangal`s last rites, performed by his son Vijay at the Pawan Hans crematorium in Vile Parle, Mumbai, at around 1 PM.
"It`s a great loss... I am saddened by his demise. He was very happy and lively about his work and life. I can`t talk much now," Hangal`s son Vijay told PTI.
Character artists including Rakesh Bedi, Raza Murad, Avatar Gill, singer-actress Ila Arun and a few others were seen at the crematorium uniting in grief at the demise of the man who played the role of grandfather, father, uncle or friend to various actors.
Hangal passed away early this morning due to brief illness aggravated by a fracture in his thigh bone at Asha Parekh Hospital in suburban Mumbai. He was 98.
"Though he was out of sight as he was not working in movies, he was not out of mind. He was my guru... He was an institution... I have learnt a lot from him," Raza Murad said.
"He has worked with all superstars but it is sad that no big star from the industry came here today," he said.
"He lived like a king. He was very active. He was never disheartened when he was out of work and money. He was not only an actor... He was a freedom fighter. It`s a great loss," Ila Arun said.
Hangal is survived by his 74-year-old son Vijay as his wife Manorama predeceased him.
The family was living in penury before several celebrities from the film industry chipped in with funds after news of the veteran actor`s failing health broke out last year.
Hangal is remembered for some of the most heart-rending performances in `Sholay`, `Shaukeen`, `Namak Haram`, `Guddi`, `Bawarchi`, `Lagaan` and others.
He received the prestigious Padma Bhushan award for his contribution to Hindi Cinema in 2006.
Hangal`s journey to filmdom was not a cake walk. He had heard of Indian People`s Theatre Association (IPTA) while he was in Pakistan and was quite impressed by their work of spreading social messages through plays.
After the partition, Hangal chose to stay back in Pakistan but he was arrested because of his communist ideologies. He even spent two years in jail, later he was asked to go to India.
At the age of 21, he came to the city of dreams, Mumbai, with Rs 20 in his pocket.
Later he started doing plays with Indian People`s Theatre Association (IPTA).
It was Balraj Sahni and Chetan Anand, who saw his stage work and encouraged him to join Hindi cinema.
Hangal was not interested in movies, but destiny had already planned a filmi journey of his life.
When he was in his 40s, director Basu Chatterjee offered him to play Raj Kapoor`s brother in `Teesri Kasam` (1966). Though he was not keen on doing the film but then too he shot, later only to find out that the scene was chopped.
But after that there was no looking back as he played the doting father, uncle and friend to actors like Rajesh Khanna, Jaya Bachchan, Hema Malini, Rekha, Sunny Deol and others. He recently shot for TV Series `Madhubala`.