"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." With this statement released on behalf of the Alter family, news of the passing of veteran film, television and theatre actor, director and writer, Tom Alter was confirmed.
A Padma Shri awardee for his service to the field of arts and cinema, Alter passed away on late on Friday night after battling stage four skin cancer. He was 67.
Tom was often asked if he was Indian. “I hope you won’t ask me if I am an Indian. I trust you know that I am one,” he said before the journalist even began the interview in 2003.
Even in his last interview, earlier this year, Alter has had to clarify that he is not a foreigner time and again, though that never seemed to come in the way of his illustrious career in theatre. Cinema remained his first love. “I came to Bombay (Mumbai) to become Rajesh Khanna. I didn’t come to act on stage. Theatre isn’t secondary, but my passion lies in films."
Popularly known for playing the gangster Keshav Kalsi in the hit soap opera Junoon, in 90s, Tom, a native of Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, was bestowed with Padma Shri for his service to the field of arts and cinema.
His massive work comprises of acting in over 300 movies apart from numerous TV shows. Alter's sudden death has come as a huge shock to the Indian film fraternity.
In a career spanning 40 years, Alter often played British officers, British doctors, and seldom did he get purely Indian roles on screen. The exceptions include Mandakini’s screen brother Karam Singh in Raj Kapoor’s Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985), the gangster Moosa in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Parinda (1989) and Mahaguru, an all-powerful sage in the superhero TV series Shaktimaan (1997-2005).
Not known to many, Alter enrolled into the Film and Television Institute of India and learning acting alongside Naseeruddin Shah and Benjamin Gilani under the tutelage of Roshan Taneja. Alter’s first onscreen role was of an intelligence officer in Rome trying to nab a cannabis-smuggling network in Charas (1976). . Alter’s last Bollywood film was director Imran Khan’s Sargoshiyan, which released earlier this year. Alter’s work in theatre has been praise-worthy. His play, In Ghalib In Delhi, saw him essay the lead role of celebrated poet Mirza Ghalib.