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A K Hangal in Shaukeen A K Hangal in Shaukeen

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A K Hangal: “People Believed  Jaya  Bhaduri & I  Were Really Father & Daughter,”

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I met  the wonderful Avtar Kishan  Gill in Patna sometime in  the 1980s .He was here to perform  in a play, and we met in  the evening after his performance.  He was very tired and  not in the  mood to talk to  a journalist, and  that too one who was  only  starting  out in  his career.

“Would you mind if I lie down and talk you?”

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He conducted  the entire interview in the supine  position ,sometimes  dozing off as he spoke about his  early days and his  very successful stint as a  character  actor in  Hindi cinema.

“I  come from a family where tailoring  is the main profession. I only  played  the  father or the uncle  and  that  too the kind  sort. I was 52  when I did  my first  role,a brief part in Basu  Bhattacharya’s Teesri Kasam.  I was  already bald and looked much older ,so getting patriarchal  parts was easy. Every  film has to have fathers  or uncles to the  hero and heroine. I  was happy to play the roles that came  my way. It  kept  my kitchen  fires burning,” Hangal Saab  reminisced, making sure that  I got the  dates and places right.

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His  face lit up when he spoke  about Jaya Bachchan. “I played her father in so many films that  people actually  believed that I was  her father. She  would tell me that fans  would fondly ask her how her  father was, meaning me.  I was  asked  about my daughter  by strangers.  After a while  I’d just  smile and say she was fine: no one wanted to  believe  that we were  not related, so  I let it be. After all cinema is all  about illusion.”

Among the many films that Hangal Saab did as  Jaya Bhaduri’s father  his favourite  was Anil  Ganguly’s Kora Kagaz.

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“I played this  quiet  professor dominated by my wife(Achala Sachdev). Jaya and I had a memorable   sequence  where she breaks down and I console her. There were  no words exchanged.   It is  one  of my  favourite scenes,”  Hangal Saab mumbled.

Another  favourite  was  Basu Chatterjee’s Shaukeen. “Along with  Ashok Kumar and Utpal Dutt I  played a ladies’ man. It is  unusual for actors  to be shown  interested   in sex after a certain age.”

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Hangal’s best  known  sequence is in Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay where  he played a  blind Muslim father  whose  only son is gunned down by dacoits.

Speaking  about that beloved sequence  Sholay’s  leading man  Dharmendra  says, “To this day  there is not a dry eye  in the theatre when Hangal Saab says, ‘Jaante ho duniya main sabse bada bojh kya hota hai? Baap ke kandhe par bete ka janaza.’ I break down  every time I watch  Hangal Saab in that scene. Hangal Saab showed  us  that the length  of the role  didn’t matter. Even in  a  5-minute  appearance one can leave  a  lasting  impression.”

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Shabana Azmi  recalls A K Hangal with much fondness.“He was a very close friend of my family. He costarred with my mother in several plays by IPTA. He was committed to using art as an instrument of social change and was in the forefront of all demonstrations and protests held on social issues. He used to be a tailor, and till the very end dressed nattily and stitched his own suits. He played a wily godman in Shatranj Ke Mohre to perfection, as also a film producer in Sagar Sarhadi’s Tanhai opposite my mum (Shaukat Azmi). I’d rate Sholay, Deewar and Arjun among his most memorable roles. He was a perfectionist and would ask so many questions about his character that all at IPTA would tease me if I asked too many questions and say, ‘Hangal ho gayi ho kya?’. He was a progressive liberal and a secular individual.”

Filmmaker  Saurabh Tiwari  in whose television production Madhubala Hangal  did  his final acting stint in  2012, remembers, “I was amazed by Hangal saab’s resilience. When I went to meet him I was shocked by how frail he was. I quietly made up my mind not to cast him. When I was leaving Hangal saab mumbled, ‘ Pehle scene to suna ke jao.’ I narrated the scene and wondered how he would manage in his condition. On the day of the shooting when he came in a wheelchair, my heart sank. But the minute the camera rolled Hangal saab was a changed man. We tried to make it as easy for him as possible, asking the other actors in the scene to support Hangal Saab. He was alert enough to see through our efforts. ‘ Mere dialogues tum doosron ko kyon de rahe ho?” he asked me. We all burst into spontaneous applause after he finished. While leaving Hangal saab said to me, ‘Bhoolchuk maaf karna.’”

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Ashutosh Gowariker   has  many  wonderful  memories  of  Hangal, “In my growing up years, I remember several films that had Hangal saab in pivotal roles. And he always left a mark on me. Till date, I have not seen anyone play a blind man the way he did in Sholay. Years later, on the sets of Lagaan, I marveled at his artistry and craft, his creative inputs towards his character and his spirit to perform. For him acting was not a job but a real attempt to explore the nuances of the character he was portraying. His dedication was so intense that once during Lagaan when he had a back injury, instead of taking the option of going back to Mumbai he stayed on in Bhuj and shot for the film, despite all his pain and discomfort so that the film would not suffer. I saluted him then. I salute him today. I will remain forever indebted to this great actor called A. K. Hangal.”

In actor-director  Anant Mahadevan’s   directorial Dil Maange More, Hangal did an interesting cameo of a music connoisseur who visits a music store and insists a Mukesh number is sung by K L Saigal . “He kept saying ‘Planetarium’ instead of ‘Planet M’. But he corrected himself in the final take. Hangal saab was a real trouper. And full of amazing anecdotes from the time of India’s freedom struggle, and his stint in prison for raising his voice against the British Raj. His experiences were truly inspiring. Although he came from theatre he did the silent grief in Sholay so effectively… It still evokes a gasp of appreciation. But I’m sure he’d be remembered for more than just that scene in Sholay, much more.”

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At the  end of our  interview as  I  got up to leave Hangal saab solicitously asked, “Beta, have  you got everything that  you want? Yes? Because  otherwise  I have a lot more to say.”

Never short  of  surprises, A K Hangal started  late  but  succeeded in tailoring a career that is  remembered  to this  day.

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Aamir Khan’s Sister Plays Shah Rukh’s Mother In Pathaan

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Aamir Khan’s Sister Plays Shah Rukh’s Mother

Ever  since Pathaan released on Wednesday, audiences  have been  curious to know who  is the woman who plays Shah Rukh Khan’s adoptive mother in Afghanistan. The stately lady  with  royal looks is none  other than the late producer  Tahir Hussain’s daughter and  Aamir Khan’s elder  sister Nikhat Khan.

 Nikhat has been  closely  associated with the  film industry  and has helped her father in the production of his  films like Dulha Bikta Hai and  Tum Mere  Ho.

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Nikhat has  acted earlier in the Akshay Kumar starrer Mission Mangal ,  Ajay Devgan’s Tanhaji and  in Sandh Ki Aankh(as a Maharani).

For Pathaan, it was Shah Rukh Khan who suggested Nikhat Khan should play his foster-mother in  Afghanistan who names him ‘Pathaan’. It proved to be  an inspired  piece of casting, as  audience have  loved Nikhat  Khan’s cameo.

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It is  heartwarming that  all three Khan superstars  are  associated with Pathaan in one  way  or the other.

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Anurag Kashyap’s New Film Is About Love Jihad

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Love Jihad, whatever  that means, is  the theme  of  Anurag Kashyap’s new film Almost Pyaar  With D  J Mohabbat.

Debutant Karan  Mehta plays a Muslim boy  in an intense relationship with  Alaya F who plays  a Hindu  girl.Kashyap has spared the  audience none of the ugliness that  such a relationship generates  among  social-media  bouncers, the self-styled  guardian of morality .

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In the hardhitting powerful and pertinent film  a  bigot is heard commenting snidely, “These people first talk about Mohabbat. Then  they talk about Mohammed.”

Happily and  surprisingly,  the Central Board Of Film Certification gave the  film a ‘UA’ certificate  with no  cuts: a  rare non-‘A’ film of Kashyap.

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So far  Kashyap and his  team have kept the Love Jihad part  of  the plot  out of all media interaction.

But the  cat is  now  out of the bag.

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Samantha Ruth Prabhu to Star Alongside Varun Dhawan in Prime Video’s Indian Original Series , Samantha Speaks

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Samantha Ruth Prabhu

Samantha Ruth Prabhu will be starring alongside Varun Dhawan in the Indian installment of the Citadel universe, the global-event series from Prime Video and the Russo Brothers’ AGBO. The untitled Citadel series based out of India is being helmed by renowned creator duo Raj & DK (Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK), who are the showrunners and directors.

 The local installment is written by Sita R. Menon, along with Raj & DK. The streaming service also confirmed that the production is currently underway in Mumbai. After this, the unit will head  to North India and then onwards to international locales like Serbia and South Africa.

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  Richard Madden (Bodyguard) and Priyanka Chopra Jonas will star in the first-to-launch series within the Citadel universe, which comes from the Russo Brothers’ AGBO along with David Weil (Hunters) and is set to premiere in 2023. Alongside Madden and Chopra Jonas, the first-to-launch Citadel series will also feature Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games saga). Additional local-language Citadel productions are also in the works, including an Italian Original series starring Matilda De Angelis (The Undoing).

  Speaking on  her participation in  The Citadel  franchise for  the  first time,Samantha says, “When Prime Video and Raj & DK approached me with this project, I decided to take it up in a heartbeat! After working with this team on The Family Man, it is homecoming for me.The Citadel universe, the interconnected storylines between the productions across the globe, and most importantly, the script of the Indian installment really excited me.”

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   Samantha  says she is  looking forward  to working with Varun Dhawan  .  “I am thrilled to be a part of this brilliant universe conceptualised by the Russo Brothers. I am also looking forward to be working with Varun for the first time, on this project. He is someone who is full of life and cheer when you’re around him.”

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Bollywood’s Achche Din Have Come

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 Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar

All you doomsday  prophets, the  booms-day  profits  are here.  Pathaan  has  opened the floodgates again for Bollywood’s  bumper  bonanza at the  boxoffice.And now there is  only the achche din ahead  for  Hindi  cinema.

In the  next   two months there are  three sureshot  blockbusters coming up, beginning with Shehzada.  An astute devilishly impish  adaptation  of  Allu Arjun’s  2020 Telugu   blockbuster  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo.The super-popular Kartik  Aaryan gives  his own  spin to the  character. This  performance will take   Kartik to the  next level of stardom. Kartik’s version of  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is  radically different  from  its Telugu  version. Shehzada  takes  the core idea of  the Telugu original  and turns it into a  something  completely different. Kartik’s  co-star in Shehzada  is  Kriti  Sanon with whom he earlier shared superhit space in Lukka Chuppi.

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 Then there  is Luv Ranjan’s ravishing rom-com   Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar. The director’s   male viewpoint on the chaos  of love relationships  crests to a comic  high in his latest. Ranjan  for  the first time, collaborates with Ranbir Kapoor for the  first time  collaborates with Shraddha  Kapoor  who badly needs a hit.This film should do the  trick. The winsome  lead pair tries  to do one  another  in a  game of Luv This is Luv Ranjan’s Hum…Aapke Hain Con. Ranjan  has in the past used  the romcom  space to  entertain his audience  to the hilt, he  says this  time the stakes are different. It is  not something we’ve seen before.

 Finally  it is   Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.  Karan  Johar’s first directorial in six years(not counting the one segment each  in Ghost Stories and  Lust Stories). This time he has assembled a dream star-cast  of Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Ranveer Singh and  the  boxoffice darling(s) Alia Bhatt.  But trust me, this one is  not about assembling stars  into a complacent plot. The writing in this  zany Romeo & Juliet is so crisp  and engrossing, the experience  is  likely to be   the visual version of a multi-flavour icrecream cone. Colour, choler and karma collide in this tragic-comic love story . Let the  box office dhamaka  begin  from the house  of Dharma.

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