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Actor Tom Alter passes away at 67

The veteran stage, television and film actor was diagnosed with stage four skin cancer earlier this month and died at home on Friday, 29 September.

Sonal Pandya

Padma Shri Tom Alter, a veteran actor of stage, television and film, passed away on 29 September after returning home from the hospital.

His family released a statement on his passing, "It is with sadness we announce the death of Tom Alter, actor, writer, director, Padma Shri, and our dear husband and father."

In early September, it was revealed that Alter had been diagnosed with stage four skin cancer and was admitted to a hospital for treatment. Alter's son Jamie had said his father was suffering from squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer and in 2016, he had his thumb amputated due to the condition.

Alter was born in Mussoorie, Uttar Pradesh on 22 June, 1950 to American missionary parents, who had migrated to India in 1916. As a young man, Alter studied at the Woodstock School in Mussourie and at the age of 18, had a short stint at Yale University for a year. He returned to India to become a teacher in St. Thomas School in Haryana.

There began his tryst with Hindi cinema and after watching Shakti Samanta's Aradhana (1969), he decided to pursue acting. He studied acting at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune from 1972 to 1974 under Roshan Taneja and landed his debut film Charas (1976) a few years later.

In a career spanning four decades, Alter worked with the masters of Indian stage and films. He was a part of Satyajit Ray's Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977) as captain Weston, opposite Peter O'Toole in One Night With The King (2006), and played Lord Mountbatten in Sardar (1993).

Alter co-founded a theatre group, Motley Productions, with actors Naseeruddin Shah and Benjamin Gilani in 1977 and performed in acclaimed plays like Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and essayed the role of Mirza Ghalib in Ghalib in Delhi.

On television, he appeared in iconic television serials as Sanvidhaan, Zabaan Sambhalke, Yahan Ke Hum Sikandar and Shaktimaan.

Alter was also a writer and authored three books - The Longest Race, Rerun at Rialto, and The Best In The World. He had a keen interest in cricket and wrote on it for magazines and newspapers such as Outlook, Sunday Observer and Sportsweek.

As a sports journalist in his early years, Alter was the first to interview a 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar on video.

In 2008, he was honoured by the Indian government with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour in the country.

Alter is survived by his wife Carol and his children Jamie and Afshaan.