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An actor, artiste and activist

A K Hangal saab was not only a good friend of my father Kaifi Azmi, but also a close family friend. Actually, he was often a leading man of my mother Shaukat in many plays during their Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) days. My father used to be the president and Hangal saab was the vice president of IPTA.

A K Hangal, Shabana Azm
Fighting fit: Hangal, a former freedom fighter, did not let his advancing age stop him from protesting against the Gujarat carnage. Here, with fellow crusader Shabana Azmi. Pic/Suresh KK

Hangal saab was of the belief that art should be used for social change. He was a freedom fighter and did many meaningful plays for free. In fact even today IPTA can only pay R30 for transportation costs! He had the same passion for theatre that my parents had.

There is one incident that is etched in my memory. I must have been 10 years old, Hangal saab and my mother were doing a play called Africa Jawan Pareshan. The show was happening in Hyderabad, and due to some miscommunication, only eight people had turned up to see the play. It was being debated whether the money should be reimbursed to the audience members, but finally my mother and Hangal saab decided otherwise.

They believed that the show must go on and performed with complete enthusiasm and it was believed to be one of their nicest performances. It is an incident that has been imprinted in my memory as an actor.

On a lighter note, Hangal saab was a very natty dresser. He was always smartly dressed. Not many know that he was a tailor himself and would stitch his own suits. He was always known to ask too many questions to the director, even if he had to say just a few lines. So it became a running joke in IPTA; whenever anyone asked too many questions, the prompt response would be: ‘Hangla gaye ho kya?’ The last time we met him, he was very ill. We could barely hear his voice. But the members of IPTA were in constant touch with him.

As told to Jigar Shah

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