Hangal passed away here Sunday following a prolonged illness. He was 97. "It is indeed very sad news. Not only for the world of films but also for the stage. I will always remember Hangal saab's characters' as 'pious, kind-hearted and humble'! His gift for giving a natural performance is unmatched," Gowarikar said in a statement.
"His performances in 'Deewar', 'Sholay' and countless films of the 1970's will make me think of him with reverence - a 'great' actor," he further added. Hangal played Shambu Kaka in "Lagaan". Recalling the experience of working with him, Gowarikar said that he was "amazed to discover that Hangal saab was very close to the characters he played - upright, honest, dedicated and humble."
"On the sets of 'Lagaan', I bonded with him exceptionally well. I saluted him then. I salute him today! And in years to come, he will always be reference point for me when I tell my actors - to perform naturally like the great actor A.K. Hangal," he added.