From the Sidelines

Shanta Gokhale writer and theatre critic, remembers Tom Alter, the thespian

Published: October 2, 2017 12:03 am
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I wasn’t a friend, I saw him on stage. We only met on one occasion and talked for about an hour. That was about four years ago, at Girish Karnad’s place. Rangashankara in Bangalore was having a festival of Kannada plays, and he’d invited a whole lot of people to his house; Tom was one of them. I took the chance of sitting down and talking to him and he was always very happy to talk. He had lots of interesting observations to make, not just about theatre, but life too. I was talking to him about his performance in Ranjit Hoskote’s Three Monologues — Tom performed in one of the three, the one about Aurangzeb. He was made to speak a lot of his lines lying down, with his head towards the audience. So, he bent his neck, almost upside down, and I thought it was quite a feat to have delivered his lines so articulately in that position.

I remember talking to him about his performance as Lucky in the Marathi production of Waiting for Godot. Of course, he’d performed the play with Motley for years, but this was a new production and he had to perform a section that was nearly two pages long in pure gibberish. Once again, he was very good.

The last time I saw him on stage, was at his own theatre festival in March. It lasted 17 days and I watched him perform as Rabindranath Tagore with Mallika Sarabhai, who played Tagore’s Argentinian muse, Victoria Ocampo. He was very good as Tagore.

He had so much zest and energy at the festival. He was so enthusiastic and full of joy. He was so versatile — he did comedy, tragedy, and all those bio-dramas. His facility with language was remarkable. He was such a good man. He loved life, yaar, and lived it to the hilt.

 

As told to Anushree Majumdar

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