By Team Bollyy
New Update
Remmbring tom alter on his birthday

Sometimes I feel my life is like one big and unusual puzzle that is solved by different experts at different times or it would not have been the life I have lived for the last seventy years. What has my life been if not one big puzzle? I have even been accused of talking in puzzles by some of my girlfriends who have left me because they have felt and believed that I am a puzzle difficult to solve. Anyway. I had written my autobiography, "Life-Bits and Pieces "with its cover painted by M.F. Husain when I was fifty something I had never imagined in my wildest dreams. I had written my first book, "Voices In Turmoil" when I was jobless, homeless and all of twenty-four and had K.A. Abbas and the Communist English poet Sadanand Rege and my school teacher, Mr. Linus Cerejo as Chief guests (my teacher was the first to make me aware of my ability to write good English ). My autobiography got me unexpected fame with some of the greatest writers and poets praising it and I didn't know how to cope with the new situation in my even otherwise turbulent life. It was while I was grappling with this new situation that I received a call from a friend called Dinesh Lakhanpaul, who had written a few films for the well-known filmmaker Sai Paranjpye he said he had read my book in Delhi and wanted my permission to translate it in Hindi. I laughed and asked him if there was any need for permission between friends. He finished the translation in a month and gave it the title "Zindagi Tukdon Mein "(so much like the tukde tukde gang, isn't it?). I find it embarrassing to say, but the Hindi translation published by my friend Mr. P.K. Bajaj of the Mayapuri Group sold more than the English version.I was on the Jury of the first Khajuraho International Film Festival and had carried some copies of the Hindi translation. The well-known actor, Tom Alter was also on the Jury with me. I knew him for more than forty years and was perhaps one of the few who knew that he was not an American but a descendant of American origin who had an Indian passport and spoke and wrote Urdu and Hindi better than some Indians and was a trained actor from the FTII. I had left Khajuraho earlier and Tom was to follow. He called me one morning and said, "Ye kya kar diya tune, Ali mere dost ?" and before I could even think of an answer, he said "Iska kuch karna padega. Mein kal Bambai aa raha hoon aur sidhe tumhare pass aa raha hoon, bolo kitne baje aur kahaan milna hai ?"That was the first of several meetings in all kinds of small hotels. He wanted to stage my book as a one-man show on stage. I had seen him play the roles of Lord Mountbatten, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad and Sahir Ludhianvi, then why would he be interested in playing out the character of an insignificant young man like me? I kept asking him as he kept rehearsing. He took me by surprise when he said he wanted to visit my village and see the house my mother had built and the people and friends I had grown up with. He traveled in a taxi which he never gave up for forty years and had the same taxi and the same driver till the end. He spent an entire evening in my village and had tea and snacks in the same hotel where I use to have my tea once upon a time (the hotel was now renovated and my friend Shantaram was not there ).Was Tom Alter a madman? This question came to my mind again and again when I saw him stopping all his other work to concentrate on this play based on my book. He booked the auditorium himself, he got the invitation cards printed himself, he got the invitations distributed himself and he even ordered the snacks and tea himself. If all this was not madness, what was ? It was also a time when he was discussing a film he wanted to direct with his favorite actor, Manoj Kumar and we had a few meetings together. Manoj who was not keeping well wanted to work on Tom's film and they were working out details. When Manoj Sahab came to know about the show Tom was doing about me, he said he had to make some contribution to it in a creative way and he decided that he would speak the introduction. It was the first time that he gave me the name "Allah Parmeshwar Jesus "and the lines he spoke about me reminded me of what Javed Siddiqui, the well-known writer said after the launch of my autobiography. He had said, "Ali ,itna achcha toh log kisi ke marne ke baad bhi nahi bolte ".Tom Alter familySome more good things were to happen. The owner of Bright Publicity heard about the play and offered to have a hoarding of the play and put up a huge hoarding over the famous Masjid on the main road outside Bandra Station. I couldn't believe it and kept looking at it . How could that boy be there up on that hoarding where only stars and other celebrities were supposed to be? I received calls from my village friends, school friends, college friends and even from some of my"enemies" who had loved to give me up for dead.

The evening for the play to begin was at hand. Tom was his usual self, dressed in his white kurta and pajama and matching white beard and hair. The backdrop was exactly like the house I had described in the book. The only major glitch was that someone had lost the video on which Manoj Kumar had spoken the opening commentary. Tom however made up for everything with his absolutely stunning performance. I Knew my own story, but Tom Alter made me proud of my own struggles and strife and made me cry for the two and a half hours he was sitting supreme on stage it was the greatest tribute paid to my ordinary life by a great actor with a great soul.

Tom alter injuredPS: All through this chapter, there was one thing that kept hearting me and that was his injured finger always wrapped in a white bandage. I asked him and many others asked him and he said, "Aise hi maamuli si chhot hai, thik ho jayegee ".His optimism however was not going to be conquered that maamuli si chhot, was slowly going to lead to cancer of the armpits which further led to cancer of the lungs and Tom Alter was moved to the Saifee Hospital near his house, where he had spent most of his life and cancer finally claimed one of the most precious lives I had the honor of knowing. The final service for him held in an old Church on a hill in Bombay was something that he fully deserved and received. I went to it even though I couldn't walk. It was the only way I could bid farewell to a great actor, a greater friend and a great human .Tom-alter movies collection (1)Tom-alter movies collection (2)

Latest Stories