The Perfectionist

The Perfectionist

Discipline and complete dedication to his craft made A K Hangal a theatre actor par excellence.

Discipline and complete dedication to his craft made

A K Hangal a theatre actor par excellence

THE year 1969 saw Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) recreate on stage the last grand Mushaira held in the Mughal Court. The court had a tradition of hosting an annual Mushaira at the Red Fort and in 1857,it 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. True to that,the stage version,Aakhri Shama,dramatised by poet Kaifi Azmi,too turned out to be a treat for Urdu and theatre lovers. And the high point of this epic production was the face-off between Balraj Sahani as Ghalib and AK Hangal as Zauq — two stalwart actors in the role of two great poets.

Director Ramesh Talwar,who was part of its big cast,remembers Hangal play that role with perfection. “Only he could have done that role. He used to liven up the character of Zauq with a brilliant performance and his attention to details,be it his costume or mannerisms,” says Talwar,who later on directed Hangal in both plays and films. Hangal’s dedication to his job,punctuality and humble nature earned him respect in theatre. These very qualities made his popular in the film industry. He 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,he continued acting 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 touch to the director’s vision,” recalls Talwar.


Hangal,who was born in Peshawar in 1917,inherited the love for theatre and music from his father. He started learning music and later on 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 become a favourite diversion,he adopted tailoring as a profession when he moved to Karachi later on. It’s after shifting to Bombay post Partition that he became a lot 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 theatre career,he also did some plays for other groups. Prominent among them is Indian National Theatre’s Ek Chadar Maili Si.

While developing his acting style,he was known to be influenced by famous Russian theatre director Constantin Stanislavski’s theory. Hangal’s discipline and dedication to his stage craft often reflected the integrity and serious endeavour Stanislavski talked about.