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Updated: July 1, 2010 20:03 IST

Tom Alter – My first break

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Actor Tom Alter. Photo: K. Murali Kumar.
The Hindu
Actor Tom Alter. Photo: K. Murali Kumar.

How it happened

Actually, my first ‘break' was being selected for Film Acting at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune (Poona, then) after the audition carried out at the National School of Drama, in June 1972. We were more than 1,000 hopefulsout of which Benjamin Gilani and I were chosen, but, as they say, that is another story.

My first ‘break' – my first ‘shot' – was in a film called “Sahib Bahadur” starring Dev Anand and directed by Chetan Anand. It happened like this – when I passed out of the institute I ended up staying at the Azmi house (Kaifi, Shaukat, Shabana, Baba) in Janki Kutir, Juhu. It was Shaukat ji who suggested I go and meet Chetan Anand who was planning “Sahib Bahadur” and I did. Shaukatji had done the ‘groundwork' by mentioning me to Chetan sahib (and I will always be grateful to her for this). I met Chetan sahib, we became friends for life and I played a college student in the film. In September, the same year, I gave my first shot with Devsahib at Rajkamal Studio in Parel.

How it felt

It was a shot of three of us – I think the third was a ‘struggling' actor like myself – I had to ask Devsahib what time we should meet the next morning and I think he said “9 a.m.” But what I remember most is the excitement, the nervousness and the fact that Dev sahib favoured the camera in the shot and did not look directly at the two of us. It was a lesson for a lifetime.

How life changed

The shot did not change my world and the role did not launch me in any way – but it was the first shot, the first role and to work with the Anand brothers (I would work with Vijay Anand later) was a dream come true. They were inspired and together the three of them were pioneers in Hindi cinema – “Guide”, “Haqeeqat”, and “Hare Ram Hare Krishna” — three examples of that pioneering genius. So just to be with them on the sets was magic in itself. “Sahib Bahadur” sadly did not do well. Chetan and Vijay Anand are no longer with us. Dev soldiers on. Rajkamal Studio, I have not been back to for years. So there is sadness in memories too.

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