A writer, a sports commentator, a film actor and an eminent theatre personality, Tom Alter has donned multiple roles with élan. With a large number of Bollywood films and many brilliant plays to his credit, this actor, who is fluent in multiple languages including Urdu, continues to pursue his passion for acting with a variety of interesting roles. This weekend, Mumbai witnessed a theatre festival titled Nayaab, which featured three of his plays in Urdu – KL Saigal, Lal Kile Ka Aakhri Mushaira and Ghalib Ke Khat and “The response was tremendous,” avers the seasoned actor.
So, what made him pick these three plays to be staged together in Mumbai? “Well… all the plays are in Urdu and are historical,” says Alter adding that two of these plays have been staged in the city for the first time. While KL Saigal is a musical, in which Alter takes the audience on a journey that traces the singer’s life from his salesman days in Delhi to a superstar in Mumbai, Lal Kile Ka Aakhri Mushaira recreates the last Mushaira at Lal Kila, where the best Urdu poets of all time come together on stage, Alter plays the role of Bahadur Shah Zafar. Ghalib Ke Khat is a presentation of Mirza Ghalib’s personal letters, and Alter plays the role of poet Hargopal Taftah. We asked about how he was able to essay three different roles in just three days, and the challenges that surfaced with it: “Not really. There still is enough time to prepare for each role.”
But he does admit that when a play is performed many times over in different places, certain changes can be seen. “As a play is performed over and over, there are certain changes that are seen, especially in the mood of the play,” reveals Alter.
Though the play based on KL Saigal is about six years old, it has been extensively performed across different cities of the country. Ghalib Ke Khat has been staged for two years old while Aakhri Mushaira has been on the circuit for four months. Alter has constantly been performing on stage in different cities. He admits that it’s a fun learning experience. “I did not know much about Saigal. But through this play, I learnt a lot and I appreciate him a lot more,” he says.