On morning of 25 Aug, 2012, I read about A K Hangal’s hospitalization in newspaper, I called up his son Vijay. He said some details about the fracture were reported wrongly – the fall had resulted in a hip bone fracture and not femur. I reached Asha Parekh hospital at 10.30am.
Mr. Hangal was in the ICU. They let me in after the doctor attending him finished the checkup. First I saw him from a distance and couldn’t believe my eyes, how frail he looked. He was covered up with a sheet but was without a shirt. I went close to him and stood right in front of him. His face was propped up by titled bed. There was oxygen mask and he was breathing very heavily. I said ‘hello’ to him and touched his forehead. He reacted with a little movement of his eyes. I said, “so when are you coming home? I hope it will be next week. Then I will drop in and we will have a long chat session.” His did some eye movements to acknowledge me. I spoke some more generally about the fracture, Vijay, home… then attendant approached to inform me that my time was over. I said,”Hangal saab I will see you soon at home. You should let your fracture heal at home.”
A drop of tear trickled out and settled in the inner corner of his right eye. He knew this time going home will be very difficult… at 9 am (26 Aug 2012), approximately 22 hours after I left his side; he had slipped into the next level of life…
Earlier to all this; Mr Hangal had been keeping ill health for many years. At that time Mr. Amitabh Bachchan had appealed to friends, saying Mr. Hangal does not need financial help or sympathy, he needs company. He needs friends to visit him, talk to him and spend time with him.
So, I decided to meet him. In fact I decided to take it up as a project. Anyways I knew him very well. I had worked with him in not less than 6 to 7 films plus a TV show. So, in Feb 2010, I started the project ‘Entertaining A K Hangal’. One afternoon after fixing time with his son Vijay, I reached his ground floor house in Santacruz East. But I was in big shock to realize that he had lost his memory to quite an extent. He vaguely found me familiar and did not remember anything, I was talking about. I knew it then, I will need to work systematically and diligently to revive his memory. He did have some fixed strong memories of certain projects, like Sholay. He also liked to share and show his collection of paper clips to guests. To my utter good luck he showed me one clip of a film we did together! From there I got an entry into his mental space; people, locations, other actors. Over many visits to his house, I managed to open many of his foggy mental chapters to a large extent. After that it got much easier and next two years I had a lot of fun entertaining him. He remembered a TV show we did together, called ‘Bawa ji ka Baiscope’. It was one the earliest shows on DD, that had him and Satyan Kappu in lead roles. Luckily I had a DVD of that. He was so excited watching a much younger himself from beginning 80s. Watching his look and energy, he commented ‘bravo’ for himself!
I could not go for his cremation as I was working. But that is fine. Death does not move me, life does. I had started a FB page ‘Say Hello to A K Hangal’. It was quite popular. I asked members to keep this group ‘alive’ with snippets of their own memories and experiences that they may have shared with our friend, A K Hangal.