Padma Shri actor Tom Alter passes away after long battle with cancer

Sep 30, 2017, 07:36 IST | PTI

Veteran theatre, television and film actor Tom Alter, best known for his performances in "Shatranj Ke Khilari", "Junoon" and "Kranti", passed away aged 67. The renowned actor and Padma Shri awardee, who had been battling stage four skin cancer, died last night at his residence here.

Tom Alter
Tom Alter

The actor was diagnosed with skin cancer last year and was treated for the same but earlier this month he suffered a relapse and was admitted in Saifee hospital. "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 Friday night at home with his family and close family members in attendance. We ask for their privacy to be respected at this time," statement released on behalf of his family read.

Alter's last rites will be performed on Wednesday as per Christian practices. "It will be done mostly on Wednesday. It will be a church funeral as per Christian practices," his son Jamie told PTI. Mourning Alter's demise, President Ram Nath Kovind offered condolences to the actor's family. "Sad to hear of demise of veteran actor Tom Alter. He
will be remembered by film lovers. Condolences to his family #PresidentKovind," he posted on Twitter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed grief and recalled Alter's contribution to film and theatre. "PM expressed grief on the demise of Shri Tom Alter and recalled his contribution to the film world and theatre. He extended condolences to the family and admirers of Shri Tom Alter," the official handle of PMO posted. An Indian actor of American descent, Alter, was born to American Christian missionary parents in Mussoorie in 1950.

Alter was working as a teacher in a school in Jagadhri, Haryana, when he was bitten by the acting bug after watching Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Tagore's "Aradhana". The actor soon joined Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, where he studied acting from 1972 to 1974 and graduated with a gold medal. Alter made his film acting debut in 1976 with Ramanand Sagar's directorial venture "Charas", which starred Dharmendra and Hema Malini in lead role. Alter played Chief Custom Officer in the movie.

His next and one his most celebrated films was Satyajit Ray's "Shatranj Ke Khilari" (1977), based on Munshi Premchand's short story of the same name. It was followed by Shyam Benegal's "Junoon" (1979), Manoj Kumar's "Kranti" (1981) and Raj Kapoor's "Ram Teri Ganga Maili" (1985). His acting credits also include "Aashiqui", "Parinda", "Sardar Patel" and "Gandhi".

Though Alter was one of the finest actors of his era, he was stereotyped in Bollywood as the perennial British man. He made his debut in regional cinema in 1977 with Kannada
film "Kanneshwara Rama". He also acted in Bengali, Assamese, Gujarati, Telegu, Tamil and Kumaoni films. On television, Alter worked in popular shows like "Junoon", "Zabaan Sambhalke", "Bharat EK Khoj", "Shaktimaan", "Captain Vyom" and "Yahaan Ke Hum Sikandar".

He was last seen on TV in ongoing serial "Rishton Ka Chakravyuh". Alter was closely involved in theatre throughout his career. He co-founded Motley Productions with Naseeruddin Shah and Gilani in 1979. Alter's prominent stage works include the two-and-a-half-hour-long solo play in Urdu, "Maulana", "Babur ke Aulaad", "Lal Qile ka Aakhri Mushaira", "Ghalib ke Khat", "Teesveen Shatabdi", "Copenhagen", "In Ghalib In Delhi" and the theatrical adaptation of William Dalrymple's "City of Djinns".

A cricket enthusiast, Alter was also a sports journalist and was the first person to interview Sachin Tendulkar for TV, before his debut as a cricketer for India. The actor was awarded Padma Shri in 2008 for his services in the field of arts and cinema. His last film was "Sargoshiyan" with Alok Nath and Farida Jalal. The film released in May this year.
Alter is survived by his wife Carol, son Jamie, and daughter Afshaan.

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