New Delhi, Sept 30: Tom Alter, the veteran theater and film personality, died on Friday at his residence in Mumbai after losing the battle against skin cancer. He was 67 years old. The thespian believed that the theme of any play should be strong enough to make people absorb and listen, and that it should not be done for a message. The actor was born in Landour in Uttarakhand in an American family. His grandparents moved to India from Ohio, US, in 1910. (ALSO READ – Rajesh Khanna’s ‘Aradhana’ Inspired Tom Alter to be an Actor; a Profile)
I got a chance of interviewing him in 2013 during the Mussoorie Winterline Carnival where the 2008 Padma Shri awardee opened up about his aspirations of getting a chance to play the roles of two staunch supporters of Partition, Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He had a flourishing career on stage and having played many characters, he also wished to enact the role of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan aka ‘Frontier Gandhi’, who had strongly opposed the All-India Muslim League’s demand for the partition of India, during the 15-minute long interview.
My interaction with the actor was short-lived but, it is etched in my memory forever. It was more than enough to understand how strongly he was attached to the traditions and the culture of India, or in his words-Hindustan. His down-to-earth nature showed the respect he had for others. I feel lucky to have met him and to encounter his politeness which makes me admire him even more. His loss has certainly left a vacuum in the entertainment industry, which is irreplaceable.
The actor was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai early in September and returned home on Thursday. He breathed his last on Friday. A statement released on behalf of his family, said: “It is with sadness we announce the death of Tom Alter, actor, writer, director, Padma Shri, and our dear husband and father. Tom passed away on Friday night at home with his family and close family members in attendance. We ask for their privacy to be respected at this time.” The last rites of the actor, who is survived by wife Carol, son Jamie and daughter Afshaan, were performed on Saturday at Worli Crematorium.
He debuted on the big screen with ‘Charas’ and since then, he has played pivotal roles in successful films like ‘Gandhi’, ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari’, ‘Kranti’, ‘Aashiqui’ and ‘Parinda’. On small screen, the actor is well-known for his roles in ‘Shaktiman’, ‘Captain Vyom’, ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’, ‘Junoon’, ‘Zabaan Sambhalke’ and ‘Betaal Pachisi’. He has also directed a serial for DD Urdu, ‘Ek Fursat-e-Gunah’.
On the big screen, he last featured in ‘Sargoshiyan’ and was last seen in the television show ‘Rishton Ka Chakravyuh’. He even featured as author Ruskin Bond in a short film ‘The Black Cat’.