'Before funds get exhausted, Hangal should go'
After working in over a 100 movies -- some of them as beautiful like Guddi, Bawarchi, Sholay and Lagaan -- A K Hangal should have retired into a life of happiness.
Unfortunately, the actor is fighting hard to make his ends meet, even as his medical expenses shoot up.
Hangal, 95, lives with his only son Vijay, 74, in a one-room-kitchen apartment in Santa Cruz (a western suburb of Mumbai). His son has another one-room-kitchen apartment on the same floor.
Ever since news reports highlighted Hangal's sad plight, his house has been buzzing with mediapersons, and film personalities.
When we met up with him, Hangal seemed tired from giving interviews the whole day. Even in the middle of a live telecast, the actor couldn't help nodding off. The actor is on strong medication to treat him from age-related problems. He also got a rash all over his body, which got aggravated due to the winter season, a kidney infection and asthma.
Hangal stopped working in films eight years ago. His last films were Lagaan, Dil Maange More and Paheli. His son Vijay has not had a full-time job since the last 10 years. Earlier, he would take up small jobs but now, he can't do that either because of a back problem. So income stopped coming into the house from all quarters.
Image: A K Hangal with his son Vijay
Video: NV Reuben
'If someone helps us with medical bills, it will be of great help'
To take care of the rising expenses, the father-son duo has sold a few items like Vijay's studio (Vijay was a photographer), gold and silver, and a car.
"Now, we have some money in the bank because we sold these things," Vijay says. "I hope before these funds get exhausted, he should go. I will take care of myself. I will start doing a job after that. Or maybe I will not live that long."
Hangal is not bed-ridden; he can move about. He can walk with the help of his walking stick, bathes by himself every morning and feeds himself.
Hangal's monthly medical bills come up to 15,000 on an average. Food and other expenses come to another 15,000 per month.
"I can't ask for other expenses. But if someone helps us with his medical bills only, it will be of great help," Vijay says.
Doctors have asked Vijay to get his back problem fixed with a surgery. But he's scared to go through with it. "I am 74. If something goes wrong, I will be bed-ridden."
Image: A K Hangal's son Vijay speaks about his father's plight
'There is only one reason why I'm taking care of him'
The only support the Hangals had so far were people from his theatre group and IPTA (Indian People's Theatre Association). Some friends helped them out as well.
Two years ago, Hangal was hospitalised for a month. When he got discharged, some of his friends suggested that they ask the government for help. They did, and got a cheque of 51,000.
Later, the CINTAA (Cine and TV Artists Association) gave them a cheque of 50,000, and 1 lakh from the Asha Parekh Hospital Trust.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Chitrapat Kamgar Sena gave them 50,000. In fact, this was the reason why their predicament was highlighted.
"I don't know how they (Maharashtra Navnirman Chitrapat Kamgar Sena) learnt about our problem. We had no connection with them. Even our ideologies are not the same," Vijay says. "But after that came in the newspaper, people came to know and now they're helping us," Vijay says.
Quite a few people came forward to help like Salman Khan's assistant Manoj Chaturvedi, Ramesh Taurani of Tips and Ratan Jain of Venus.
"My father is a good man. He took care of a lot of people but in the process, forgot to take care of some family members. There is only one reason why I'm taking care of him: My mother did everything for him, and took care of him. If I don't take care of him, I would not be sincere to my mother. I am doing everything for my mother. But things are very personal," Vijay says.
If you'd like to help the actor, please send your cheques to A K Hangal's bank account.
Bank account number: 010810002666
Bank Name: Dena Bank
Branch: Santa Cruz (East), Mumbai
Image: A K Hangal and Hema Malini in Sholay