Discipline and a complete dedication to his craft made AK Hangal a theatre actor par excellence
THE year 1969 saw Indian Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA) recreate on stage the last grand mushaira held in the Mughal Court. The court hosted an annual mushaira at Red Fort but in 1857,this tradition faced the threat of being cancelled due to the law-and-order situation at that time. But when it finally took place after much apprehension,it turned out to be one of the best soirees to showcase the richness of Urdu poetry and literature. In keeping with that spirit,the stage version,Aakhri Shama,dramatised by poet Kaifi Azmi,too,turned out to be a treat for Urdu and theatre lovers. The high point of this production was a face-off between Balraj Sahani as Ghalib and AK Hangal as Zauq two stalwarts in the role of two great poets.
Director Ramesh Talwar,who was a part of the plays big cast,remembers Hangal play that role to perfection. Only he could have done that role. He used to liven up the character of Zauq with brilliant performance and an attention to detail,be it in costume or mannerism, says Talwar,who later directed Hangal in plays and films. Hangals dedication to his job,punctuality and humble nature earned him great respect in the theatre community. These very qualities made him popular in the film industry too.
Hangal acted in nearly 50 plays with IPTA. Memorable among them are Babu,Election Ka Ticket,Africa: Jawan Pareshan,Satranj Ke Mohre,Tanhai and Aakhri Sawal. He even directed a couple of plays,including Damru,which featured the late actor Sanjeev Kumar.
Even after he became a popular character actor on the big screen,Hangal continued to act in plays. He was very particular about rehearsing for plays and used to find time for it in between his movie schedules. That apart,he was a very disciplined actor. He used to take the trouble of understanding what the director wanted and perform the roles by adding his own touch to the directors vision, recalls Talwar.
Hangal,who was born in Peshawar,inherited the love for theatre and music from his father. He started learning music and later,acting in plays in Peshawar,the city his forefathers had made their home after migrating from Kashmir several generations ago.
While singing on radio and acting on stage had become his favourite diversions,Hangal adopted tailoring as a profession when he moved to Karachi a few years later. It was after shifting to Bombay after Partition that Hangal became more involved with theatre. He even played an active role in the revival of IPTA. Though Hangal mostly worked with IPTA during his five-decade-long theatre career,he also did plays for other groups like Indian National Theatres Ek Chadar Maili Si.
While developing his acting style,he was influenced by famous Russian theatre director Constantin Stanislavskis theory. Hangals discipline often reflected the integrity and serious endeavour Stanislavski talked about.