Playwrights, artists recall Tom Alter’s acting skills, love for language

Bhopal: Tom Alter may have walked off the stage forever but he has left a permanent imprint on it. The actor who died from skin cancer on Friday night had an emotional connection with Bhopal.  City’s Urdu playwrights, film and theatre artists describe him as the person who lived beyond time, age and place. In Bhopal, he acted in plays like ‘Maulana Azad,’ ‘Mirza Ghalib,’ ‘ Lal Quile Ka Aakhiri Mushaira,’ ‘ Big B,’ ‘ K L Sehgal,’ ‘Ghalib Ke Khat,’ and ‘Azadi Ki Ladayi’ and won applause from local audience. These plays were staged at Bharat Bhawan and Ravindra Bhawan. His last performance in Bhopal was dance drama ‘Bagheswari,’ held at Ravindra Bhawan on December 21, 2016.

Rajeev Verma, film and theatre actor said Tom Alter was his very good friend. “Many years ago, we worked together in a serial in which he played the role of my brother-in-law. The show used to be aired on Zee TV channel. We used to share same room. By his look, most of people used to think of him as an Englishman. He was very sensitive about languages.”

According to Verma, Tom Alter used to travel by taxi. He didn’t purchase a car. He was also fond of sports and that’s why he was popular among youth. “I saw his plays in Bhopal. He was great actor. I am shocked to hear news of his sudden demise. We will really miss him,” Verma said.

Urdu Academy secretary Nusrat Mehdi said he met him for the first time in Kuwait in a programme. “He was lover of Urdu. When I asked him whether he will come if our academy invited him, he replied, Beshaq, if I can come to Kuwait then why not to Bhopal.”

Mehdi said he performed one-and-an-half hour long monologue ‘Maulana Azad,’ during Urdu Drama Festival at Ravindra Bhawan in 2015.  The show was houseful and he got great appreciation from audience,” Mehdi said.

Speaking further, Mehdi recalled how Tom Alter got angry due to disturbances that occurred during a performance. “For this, we got good scolding from him and we had to say sorry many times. There are some artists who never compromise with their work and he was one of them,” she said. Hameedullah Khan ‘Mamu’, theatre actor and secretary of Iftekar Cricket Academy, said, “I didn’t get chance to work with him but I watched all the plays he staged. He has staged three plays including ‘Maulana Azad,’ ‘Mirza Ghalib,’ and ‘ K L Sehgal,’ in Iftekar Drama Festival. We felicitated him with ‘Habib Tanveer Kala Samman’.” Khan said Tom Alter was fond of tea and loved Bharat Bhawan. He was very knowledgeable person.

Urdu playwright Rafi Sabbir said, “We met him for the first time in 2006 during an interview for a magazine. There have been very few people in theatre and acting world who had good command over Hindi, Urdu and English, he was one of them. He knew Urdu very well. He was very down to earth. I wrote a play ‘Mukhtar Begum,’ and he was about to act in it.”

Theatre actor and programme executive in Doordarshan, Bhopal, Mohan Dwivedi said Tom Alter became very happy to know that I do the theatre and work in Doordarshan also. He said to me Doordashan mein bahut shakti hai… If you utilise its power correctly, then you can change world. I also got name and fame from TV shows.”

Sanjay Yadav, director of Swaraj Sansthan says, “We got chance to meet him twice during ‘Aadi Vidrohi drama festival,’ organised by Swaraj Sansthan every year. He was very humble and a good human being.”

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