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'Tom Alter kept performing till the end'

30 September, 2017 10:30 AM
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The versatile actor has played everything from a British officer to Mirza Ghalib and Maulana Azad, and had great command over English, Hindi and Urdu. He was also the first one to interview a young Sachin Tendulkar!

It is a loss to humanity: M Sayeed Alam from Pierrot Troupe (director and playwright of plays like Ghalib and Maulana Azad)

I am stunned at this moment, I have lost a father figure. I am not even talking about the loss to the Indian cinema and theatre but this is a loss to humanity. We had done around 9-10 plays together and there was just play that we wanted to do together which was Gandhi aur Jinnah but he couldn't go through the script of the play because he got sick. He had been performing till the last. Fifteen years ago, a man of his stature said 'yes' to me who nobody knew in the industry. He hated to be called the white-skinned man but I don't think any other Indian could have Maulana Azad or Ghalib like he did. When he acted in Maulana Azad, he acted like Maulana, and when he acted in Ghalib, he would behave like him. He was like a punar janam to Ghalib. He has played the lead actor in nine of my plays, I don't think I can ever fill that place now.

Earlier this year, we started rehearsing for a play called Noor Jahan and I was going to play Noor in that play. He was playing my brother and we had done three rehearsals and readings and he was sick at that time as well. But he did not tell us anything, he said that he had a surgery, and that is the reason why he had a bandage on one of his fingers. We unfortunately couldn't do that play together, and that remains a wish for me. But I have known him because of theatre as well. Anyone who did not know him would think that he is a foreigner but when he would speak fluent Urdu and Hindi, people would get shocked. This is really sad that we have lost a person like him.

I haven't worked with him but I have known him personally. Whenever he would come to Delhi, we would often meet during plays or exhibitions. The best thing about him was that he would always appreciate the younger generation to do plays and take up theatre. Jab koi insan bada ban jata hai, toh woh logon se kat jata hai, par woh itne humble insan the. Through his acting and expressions, he was able to represent the subtext or would make the audience read between the lines. He wasn't an aggressive actor but rather he was an intense and intelligent actor. Films karne ke baad bhi, he was committed to theatre, which is a rare case. This is really a big loss to the Indian theatre and cinema.

I had done a short film, 'Promise Dad' with him in 2015 which was shot in London. He had a great command in languages like Hindi, English and Urdu. Woh angrez dikhte the toh log humesha shocked ho jate the unki Hindi aur Urdu sunke. And this film was in English, I had to speak English in front of him and I was nervous but he helped me and encouraged me to bring out the emotions and expressions while acting. Aise log bohot kam hai industry mein jo apne juniors ki itni help karte hain. Whatever he had done whether it was TV/ theatre or his career as a journalist, he had given his best to all. I remember the clip where he was interviewing Sachin Tendulkar when he was not 'The Sachin Tendulkar' and that represents the man he was. We have lost a great man today.

I have done a few films with Tom Alter, but that was almost two decades back. The recent film which we did together was Sargoshiyan. I remember that we were shooting in Kashmir for the film, and he had bandages on his hand but nobody ever got to know how much pain he was in. It was only a few days back when we got to know about his health. Whatever must be going on in his mind, maybe he didn't want the world to know.I have such good memories of him- he was always full of energy and it was so much joy to be with him."

Tom Alter's sudden demise is very shocking. He was a versatile actor - he has done so many movies and plays. I worked in NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts), Mumbai for 10 years, so I have seen all his productions in Mumbai. He had such good command over Hindi and Urdu. Jab Tom Alter Urdu bolte the toh humein sharm aati thi. He has left his mark not only in theatre but also in the film industry and he will always be fondly remembered.

I knew that Tom Alter and Ruskin Bond were really close friends, so I had cast him as Ruskin Bond in my short film Black Cat. And on the first day of the shoot, Tom took my phone and dialled Ruskin Bond. He asked him what were the songs you used to hum when you were young and we used those songs in the movie.It added so much authenticity to the character. Working with a patron like Tom Alter was a great learning experience. I still can't get over the shock that he is not here anymore.

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