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Kundan Shah, FTII pay tribute to Tom Alter

Director Kundan Shah and Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) dean Amit Tyagi paid tributes to their late friend, Tom Alter.

Suparna Thombare

The Film and Television Institute of India is hosting a 'Smarananjali' for Hrishikesh Mukherjee with screenings and talks on the great director's films. However, the event saw several members express sadness at the loss of another wonderful FTII graduate, Tom Alter. Alter passed away on 29 September 2017 after losing the battle to skin cancer. The actor was 67.

Paying tribute to the former faculty member for acting, dean Amit Tyagi said, "He was with us when we started the acting course in FTII. In 2008, he joined the acting faculty as an honorary member and was associated with it, till this very moment. Besides being HoD (Head of Department), and taking classes, he also encouragingly acted in student films of all sorts, and did commentary for various films."

Tyagi mentioned that Alter had avoided talking about his cancer, and did not reveal it till late in August. "In fact, the last film he acted in was shot on 15 July in which he plays a cancer patient. Of course, by that time, he had not told any of us that he had cancer. But he had cancer at a very developed stage. Suddenly, at the end of August, it erupted and was diagnosed as stage 4 cancer," Tyagi revealed.

Director Kundan Shah, who was at the event, paid tribute to the actor by saying, "We have lost a great actor and a great friend of the institute who contributed to the acting department." Shah went on to add that he always struggled to cast Alter in his films due to the actor's European features. 

"I always had a mental block as a filmmaker as to how to cast him in my film. He looked European. I always wanted to work with him. In the tentative script, that I wrote for Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro part two, I specifically conceived a role for him to do a slapstick comedy. He has been a great actor... He proved himself in so many plays by Saeed Alam," Shah said.

Dean Tyagi emphasized that the actor was as Indian as they come. Tyagi revealed that Alter even had to fight with the American consulate to give up his American citizenship. He said, "He was an extremely loving and generous person. He was a fourth generation Indian. In fact, he had a two-year battle with the American state department because he wanted to give up his American citizenship, and they couldn't believe that he wanted to take up Indian citizenship."

Calling it a great loss to the community and FTII, Tyagi said, "We have lost a very valuable member of our community, both as FTII alumni and FTII faculty member. I think in this campus we are going to miss him more than anybody else because of the sheer warmth of personality."

The FTII is holding the 'Smarananjali' festival in tribute to director Hrishikesh Mukherjee on 30 September and 1 October. The festival will see films, talks, and discussions about the director's contribution to the world of Indian cinema.