'Ghalib is still relevant'

The city’s first ever Ghalib Theatre festival will see Tom Alter taking the stage with his performance as the famed poet in the play Ghalib. He will also be seen playing Har Gopal Taftah, an eminent 19th century Persian poet in Ghalib Ke Khat. Excerpts from an interview with Alter:

Tom Alter as Munshi Har Gopal Taftah, a Persian poet, in Ghalib Ke Khat 

In what ways do you identify with Ghalib?
I’ve been a great lover of his poetry for many years. And while English is my mother tongue, Urdu is my father tongue. So, Ghalib, naturally is someone who is very close to my heart. I remember watching Naseer’s serial made by Gulzar on Ghalib and I think that is the best thing that has ever come on Indian television. It was absolutely fantastic. So Ghalib is a part of my existence for close to 40 years now. When I got the offer to play him, I won’t say I was ready for it, but I certainly had the inclination towards doing it. It was a natural progression for me.

What aspect of Ghalib’s life comes across in the play?
There are three Ghalibs in the play. The young Ghalib is around 12-13 years old, another who is shown from 25 to 45 years and then there is me, from the time he was weak and unwell, but still full of life. Ghalib was only 67 when he died. So the play covers his entire life. Everyone knows he was a great poet, but the play is also about the human being that Ghalib was. That is the beauty of this play.

Do you think Ghalib is still relevant today?
Ghalib’s philosophy was that we are all one, and the only way a man can solve his problems is by facing them. His philosophy is the only way India can move forward. These are Sufi messages. He said the only way to survive is to be good human beings first, then be a Hindu or Muslim. There is no need to build fancy temples, or mosques. One should worship the greatness of life. If this is not relevant today, I don’t know what is.

You have played many historical characters on stage. Which one was the most challenging? And which are the ones you would like to reprise?
That’s very difficult to say. Maulana Azad was the first historical character I played, and that’s the reason he’s very close to my heart. But then, so is Ghalib and Sahir Ludhianvi. I have also played Gandhi, Tagore and Aurangzeb. It is a tremendous privilege to look at history through these different eyes. There are three characters I would love to play on stage — Nehru, Jinnah and Frontier Gandhi. They were great men of the
freedom struggle.

When: November 15, 16, 17, 7.30 pm
Where: Rangsharda Auditorium, KC Marg, Bandra Reclamation, Bandra CALL: 9223460464 

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