Tom Alter to Debut as Director of a Whodunit With Sharmila Tagore

Tom Alter, Bollywood’s go-to guy for all ‘gora sahib’ roles will now make his debut as a director

3 min read
Tom Alter (Photo courtesy: Facebook)

After four decades of multi-tasking as a movie, theatre, television actor, besides authoring novels and writing on sports, the 65-year-old Tom Alter is gung-ho about turning film director on May 28.

“It’s never too late,” he laughs,” while disclosing the fact that quite a few of his colleagues from the Motley theatre group  -- Benjamin Gilani and Uday Chandra --have been included in the supporting ensemble of actors. Plus, there’s Asha Sachdev who was shocked when he called upon the in-retirement actress who like Tom Alter, graduated from the Film and Television Institute of Pune.

Tom Alter inaugurates the 8th edition of the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK 2015) in Trivandrum on 26 June 2015 (Photo courtesy: Facebook)
Tom Alter inaugurates the 8th edition of the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK 2015) in Trivandrum on 26 June 2015 (Photo courtesy: Facebook)
Er, but what about Naseeruddin Shah who was one of the founders of Motley way back in 1979? “No, Naseer won’t be in the film,” Alter responds crisply, deflecting discussion on their rumoured creative differences.

Alter, often known as the Mumbai film industry’s  ‘blue-eyed sahab’, has chosen to to direct Rerun at Rialto, a thriller located in the actor’s hometown Mussoorie. The screenplay has been adapted from his own 2002 novel which narrates the story of an attractive middle-aged woman who, with her family, goes for a revival screening of Mughal-e-Azam at the hilltown’s nostalgia exuding, art-deco Rialto cinema. At the end of the show, she has vanished, leading to a whodunit thriller.

Sharmila Tagore has been pencilled in for the part of the vanishing lady.

Tom Alter will direct the whodunit <i>Rerun at Rialto </i>(Photo courtesy: Facebook)
Tom Alter will direct the whodunit Rerun at Rialto (Photo courtesy: Facebook)

The actor-about-to-turn director, is especially gung-ho about a casting coup of sorts. India’s original Mr Bharat, Manoj Kumar, has assented to play a brief but pivotal cameo as the projectionist of Rialto cinema, which incidentally closed down ten years ago.

Alter who portrayed a British officer in Manoj Kumar’s  Kranti believes that the 78-year-old actor-producer-director-lyricist is perfect for the part which will require only a day’s shoot.

Manoj sir has also suggested that he would like to write the  lyrics of some of the songs. I’m honoured that he has agreed to come on board. In fact, we’re planning to start  the film’s first shot with Manoj sir at an old Mumbai cinema which resembles the Rialto to a degree.
Tom Alter
Tom Alter in the play <i>The Old Man and the Sea </i>(Photo courtesy: Facebook)
Tom Alter in the play The Old Man and the Sea (Photo courtesy: Facebook)

For Manoj Kumar, May will be an unusually busy month. To receive the Dadasaheb Phalke Award of the year, he will be in New Delhi on May 2. Yesteryear’s Mr Bharat has been suffering from a back ailment and may have to be wheelchaired on stage. His last screen appearance was over a decade ago in Maidan-e-Jung, a little-remembered actioner toplining Dharmendra, Akshay Kumar and Karisma Kapoor.

Alter says that all care will be taken at the one-day shoot of Rerun in Rialto so that his guest star in a ‘very special appearance’ will not be physically strained.

Bring up the subject of two biographies which have been in the works for quite a while on Tom Alter, and he retorts, “Oh that! I  requested one of the writers – a fine journalist from Delhi -- not to go into the cliché that here’s a gora of American descent who can speak perfect Hindi and Urdu. I’m tired of that. She didn’t know how to react. So I suspect that she might have given up on me as a lost cause.”

(The writer is a film critic, filmmaker, theatre director and weekend painter.)

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