That life is unpredictable and the riches only temporary is a sad state of reality masquerading as a universal truth. Finding oneself fall to this folly of living can be everyone and anyone, from the common human to celebrated personalities and especially the latter. One does not even need to explore further this fact, for closer to home it has been also the much glittering facade of Bollywood that has seen destinies undergo total upheaval for many of its once prominent presences to be decimated by pain and penury. Here’s how many special names of showbiz were reduced to being only faint shadows of their formerly imposing self-
A. K. Hangal
As the man who delivered one of Sholay’s iconic dialogues of Itna Sannata Kyu Hai, A. K. Hangal is an immortal indeed name of the Hindi film industry. Identifying as a character actor in Bollywood, in which capacity he received also the Padma Bhusan award in 2006 had been this man donning many hats even outside his acting reputation.
Hangal had also been a freedom fighter from 1929 to 1947 while still continuing to be a stage actor and setting out therefore to take over the silver as well as the small screen. With an almost five decade old career in films during which he starred in well over 200 projects, Hangal had managed to establish his prowess of acting with numerous memorable roles. And while he managed to assert still his presence on screen till the last years of his life, the veteran actor however could not avert the tragic turn of fate.
The health issues that A. K. Hangal experienced in old age hampered considderably his stints in acting and spiraled him into poverty. He battled with multiple diseases and was crippled in bearing the expenses of treatment. He ultimately passed away at the age of 97 in 2012, still ailing and penniless and forgotten in his very living with no Bollywood presence at his funeral.
Vimi might have started her career as one of the leads in the National Award winning film Humraaz but it was her immense beauty that led her to grab all attention. In fact she never possessed the acting chops that would have established her as a ruling lady of the film industry. And while it is only obvious that she would fizzle out after only a couple of projects, the turn of fate that undid the reasonably well placed life she led even before courting brief stardom is sad indeed.
It was this abrupt chance at Bollywood that marked the death knell for Vimi. Stepping into Bollywood as a married mother of two after she managed to capture the fancy of director B. R. Chopra, it would be unprecedented almost a shot at fame that Vini would enjoy despite her debut as a married woman. But her conservative family as well as her in-laws did not approve of her decision and they lost out on all family wealth. An abusive and alcoholic husband did not help her cause either, nor did her excess reliance on her looks to find success. She ultimately took resort in alcohol, specifically cheap country made liquor as the only thing she could afford, even when lending herself to being exploited by men, all in the hope of earning a livelihood.
By her early thirties, Vimi had already slipped into oblivion- both in identity as well as in living. She died due to a liver disease that developed out of her alcohol addiction and that had seen her spending her last days at the general ward of a hospital. The misery of her living followed Vimi even in death, as her dead body was wrapped in a soiled cloth and taken in a thela for cremation.
He has often been called the first dancing superstar of India but the acting credibility of Bhagwan Dada tends to be as legit as well. He also dabbled as producer and director and even set up the Jagriti Studio in Mumbai. His life journey was a true rags to riches story- starting out as a textile mill worker to find his foothold as a stuntman in films before identifying in pretty much every aspect of a cinema artiste whether in front of or behind the camera. But this meteoric rise to fame would be all offset by as dramatic a fall from grace- the latter state being his doomed existence for nearly half a century until his death.
Shola Jo Bharke in particular is one of the most popular songs through which Bhagwan Dada established further his dancing expertise- one so notable that even had the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Mithun emulate his moves. The picturisation of this song as part of the 1951 hit film Albela that he produced and directed and also acted in would be then one of the highpoints of his career in which he found fame mostly as a comic actor. Ironically however, it also was the last of his successes as soon after, Bhagwan Dada found himself wrestling with the reins of complete ruin.
After the huge success of Albela, the actor cum director cum producer acquired for himself a fleet of seven cars, one for each day of the week. The luxuriousness of his lifestyle also expressed through a lavish 25 roomed seaside bungalow. But the filmy failure that Bhagwan Dada faced thereafter and the addiction to gambling and horse racing took it all away from him. Having sold all assets including his wife’s jewelry after going bankrupt, the one time Bollywood biggie found his home in a Mumbai chawl where he lived the remainder of his life in rags once again.
He had been one of the highest paid actors as well as one of the wealthiest Bollywood personalities of his time but Bharat Bhusan’s revered image as one of the greatest stars and legends of Hindi cinema cannot mask the tragic reality through which he lived his later years. Immensely talented and as good looking as well, with even a good taste in music, Bhusan’s claim to success wasn’t one instant availing. In fact he had to struggle for an entire decade before attaining celebrity status with Baiju Bawra which along with Barsaat Ki Raat would be among his most defining works.
But things went downhill for Bhusan once he turned producer at the behest of his brother. A Filmfare Award winner for Best Actor, the by then established actor acquired many bungalows and cars, all of which had to be sold off along with also his fine collection of books. So dire was the financial condition of Bhusan that he was forced to take up small, supporting roles or star instead as a junior artiste or an extra. He even worked as a watchman in a film studio to support himself and somehow managed to outlive the financial crisis when he passed away in 1992 on his way to the hospital on an autorickshaw, even the fare of which was paid for by a passerby.
One of the most successful regional film actors of all time, so much so that he is referred to as the Amitabh Bachchan of Punjabi Cinema, Satish Kaul had also played various roles in many Bollywood movies as well as in television shows. Lord Indra was his most notable identity that he assumed as part of his role in the TV series Mahabharata. But despite many decades of recognition as a versatile actor, Kaul’s encounter with misery has been no less poignant than any of the others in this list.
Afflicted by a range of health issues that considerably drained off his wealth as well as a failed attempt at starting an acting school meant that Satish Kaul’s long list of filmography would not stand up to him in need. Divorced and desolate, Kaul died after contracting the COVID 19 virus prior to which he had reached out for help to fulfill even his basic needs of grocery and medicines.
A model, trained dancer and martial artist before finding villainous representation in Bollywood, Mahesh Anand’s personal life though had always been a case in loneliness. The later years of his career also brought upon him a professionally depressive experience as he was out of both work and money. So desperate was he for work that he would have accepted any thing that came his way but Anand still never sought financial help from anyone. He was more of a recluse, perhaps living in and by himself due to a string of failed marriages, from one of which he also had a son. He died in 2019 in his Mumbai apartment, still alone and unattended to much like the major part of his muscular but miserable living. His body would not be discovered till at least a couple of days it had decomposed since death.