Remembering Tom Beach Alter by Rimli Bhattacharya
A personal story about Tom Alter. Overlooking the sea, we spoke over a cup of coffee when he said “You can be an actress”
“Really, I don’t know acting but I do pretend” I laughed I was a rookie back then
“You don’t need a God father for you, you are yourself” he broke in a chuckle
I listened but something deep in me triggered and what was that – Thomas Beach Alter the Indian actor of American descent known for his contributions in Hindi motion pictures and Indian theatre.
I was a little girl when I watched the movie of Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj ke Khiladi. “How boring” I thought, I didn’t understand the movie, I was a only a fun loving teen.
It was in the 90’s when he caught my eyes in Mahesh Bhatt’s movie Aashiqui, he played the role of an antagonist Arnie Campbell.
A stage actor who along with veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah and Benjamin Gilani formed a theatre group called Motley Productions. Their first play was Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, which was staged at Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, way back on 29th July 1979.
Alter has authored books including The Longest Race, Rerun at Rialto, and The Best in the World.
Not only he is known as an actor but he was also a sports journalist with a special interest in cricket, a game on which he has written extensively in publications such as Sportsweek, Outlook, Cricket Talk, Sunday Observer and Debonair.
Bollywood is also much known for the cricket matches where he was a batsman as well. People may not be aware he conducted cricket commentary in Hindi, for Indian viewers, on the sports TV channel, ESPN.
Being a polyglot he also featured in several regional movies. He trained at the FTII, graduating in 1974, an oddity in an industry that sought out chocolate-faced heroes and then, angry young men. He was obviously neither. After the initial days of struggle and hard work the major breakthrough happened in Ray’s Satranj Ke Khiladi. Though he played the role of an English officer many of these roles demanded he spoke pidgin Hindi. Thereafter his career took an upward spin and he catapulted high enough to reach out to the audiences both in India and overseas.
A Padma Shri award winner by Government of India he was diagnosed by the deadly disease Cancer and left the theatre of life at sixty seven.
When our heroes go away, they leave us in a sad dark place with just one question: WHY. But if we are inspired enough, they find a way to live through us. They shine their light in miraculous ways to make the darkness go away. He may choose to leave early, but can’t. Because his fans will hold on. Sometimes forevermore. Happy resurrection Thomas Beach Alter.
It was you who taught me to see the sunshine; you have to weather the storm.
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