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'Why did Tom Alter have to go?'

By Subhash K Jha
October 01, 2017 17:38 IST
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'If he was unwell in May, he gave no indication of it at all.'

'Tom was his usual cheerful, helpful, kind and generous self.'

Tom Alter in Sardar

Theatre personality and film actor Shenaz Patel has worked with Tom Alter, who succumbed to skin cancer on September 29, on many occasions.

She looks back at the time she spent with him and tells Subhash K Jha why she will miss Alter very much.

I have lost a dear friend.

 

We worked together in plays like Larins Sahib and Arms And The Man in the past.

Then, for many years, we did not connect at all.

All of a sudden, this May, we shot for a short film -- Bhargava Saikia’s The Black Cat -- in Bhimtal near Nainita and re-connected again.

The loss is therefore much more intense.  

The Black Cat is based on Ruskin Bond’s short story and Tom, who is a very dear friend of Ruskin Bond, played him while I played an evil witch.

If he was unwell in May, he gave no indication of it at all.

Tom was his usual cheerful, helpful, kind and generous self.

IMAGE: When theatre personality and film actor Shenaz Patel reconnected with Tom Alter earlier this year, she had no idea he was suffering from cancer.

I knew Tom from the time he worked with Motley, the theatre group spearheaded by my friends Naseeruddin Shah, Benjamin Gilani and of course, Tom.

Tom was always a learned theatre enthusiast and a lot of other things.

His interest lay not only in cinema and theatre, he was a huge cricket enthusiast as well. Lately, he was also the head of the acting department at the FTII (Films and Television Institute of India).

He spoke such fluent Urdu!

Imagine an Englishman with such great command over the Urdu language!

While we were shooting the short film in May, he would keep reciting Urdu couplets that flowed out of him effortlessly. I had to ask him to translate many of them for me (laughs).

It angers me that Tom had to go so quickly.

He had so much to do and he was so useful to so many different sections of people.

He was so sporty and healthy.

He lived a disciplined healthy life and had no vices.

Why did he have to go so painfully?

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