I last met comrade A.K. Hangal at his residence in Bandra in the last week of April this year. I had gone to brief him on the decisions of the 21st Congress of the CPI held in March. Actually, in February 2012, when I along with the then Party General secretary A.B. Bardhan met him, he was confined to bed and regretted that he will not be able to come to Patna but asked me to brief on deliberations of the Party Congress as soon as possible.
In April, the first thing he told me was that he has sent the renewal of Party membership through his son Vijay and asked me to check whether it had reached to the Mumbai Party secretary or not. He was very particular in renewing his party membership and attending the party meetings as and when he was asked to do so. He had a fad for reaching in time. This created problems several times as the meetings normally got delayed by half an hour and he would curse those who failed to inform the correct time. His fad for reaching on dot made him to wait at a distance from the venue several times for long. He would enter the venue only at the fixed time. This he observed in reaching a friend’s house or for shooting of a film as well. After hearing the report on the Party Congress and knowing that Sudhakar Reddy has replaced A.B. Bardhan as general secretary, he expressed desire to meet the new general secretary. He said, ‘I have met all general secretaries of the party since pre-independence days. I want to meet Sudhakar who may be the last general secretary during my life’. On this, I reminded him that he had promised to celebrate his 100th birthday at Delhi. He smiled and said, ‘It does not look as if I will be able to keep that promise’. (I came back and reported the conversation to Sudhakar Reddy and requested him to meet him when he goes for the Party Rally in May. Sudhakar did meet him.)
My interaction with comrade Hangal began when I started dabbling in cultural affairs of the party. He had succeeded Kaifi Azmi as national president of the Indian People’s Theater Association (IPTA). He used to take keen interest in the affairs of the Party. Every time we met, he will point out what he liked and what he did not in NEW AGE and HAYAT. He was regular subscriber of both the journals and used to send his subscription well in advance. He never refused to attend a party meeting and even toured distant place to participate in the election campaign of the Party. To satisfy the audience he would accede to the demand and deliver the film dialogues from his films, particularly from Sholey in which he played the epic role of Rahim Chacha. (Personally, I liked his roles more in flims like Garam Hawa, Shauqeen and Bawarchi).
He was very sensitive about adverse publicity for the party. Two years back, when he was facing the financial difficulties, some newspapers reported that his party is not looking after him, and it was not true. He got annoyed and issued a rebuttal saying that these people do not know what the party is doing for me. When I met him, he abused his son for hinting such a thing that caused adverse comment about the party. In that meeting he told me, ‘Tell the party that several film personalities have contributed a lot and that will suffice for medical treatment and for survival till last’. He was very simple but straight forward. He lived in a single room accommodation. On the other side, used to live his son Vijay. He used to say, ‘We, two old people, give company to each other. Tell party people to meet me more often.’ He used to telephone regularly and will seek explanation on latest political developments. Before the Bhilai National Conference of IPTA, due to ill health, he wanted to step down from the post of National President of the organization. We differed and he was reelected to the post in his absence in December 2012.
He used to tell everybody that he did not come to Mumbai on his own. He was ready to work in Karachi along with Sobho Gyanchandani in the party. He was persuaded by the then general secretary of the Communist Party of Pakistan, Sajjad Zaheer to move to Mumbai where he had better avenues to work in IPTA. (Incidentally Sobho Gyanchandani remained in Pakistan. Once during a trial in Karachi after formation of Pakistan, court offered him transportation to India. Sobho’s reply was: ‘Keep me in jail as long as you want but the jail should be in the province of Sindh). After coming from Karachi, he lived in a chawl in Parel for over a decade and worked as a tailor for livelihood. He plunged in the activities of IPTA as well as party and continued with it till his health permitted.
Till April, he was very optimistic and talked about recovering from the ailment to become active once again. But in April, he said the loneliness and lying whole day on the bed is killing me. He wanted me to meet him more frequently. Unfortunately I could not make it. Of course, in his death the country has lost a versatile film and theater artiste. We in the Communist movement have lost a devoted Communist who was ready to sacrifice anything for the people and the party.
By Shameem Faizee