Having reprised the lives of Mirza Ghalib, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Maulana Azad and KL Saigal on stage in the past, veteran actor Tom Alter will now be seen playing the popular yesteryear poet, Sahir Ludhianvi, in a play. Titled Parchhaiyaan, the act will be a musical exploration of the legendary poet’s life and will premiere in the city tonight. It has been conceptualised and produced by Nandini Trivedi and is supported by the Kavya Group. Tom Alter talks to us about the project and his journey in theatre and films.
Tell us something about your role in the play.
It’s not possible to cover everything about Sahir in one play. The act will feature two characters — a young and an old Sahir — narrating his life. I will play the older Sahir. The younger Sahir will be played by a talented artiste, Akshay Maurya. The play will comprise Sahir’s shayari (poetry), songs and some dance as well.
Why did you choose to play this character?
When the play’s writer-director, Suhail Akhtar, approached me, I liked the script. Sahir has always fascinated me as he was a romantic icon. He is from the golden period of Indian cinema. This is my tribute to him. I came to Mumbai when he was alive but it was very unfortunate that I could never meet him.
Which of his songs will be part of the play?
Some of his songs, such as ‘Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein’ (Kabhi Kabhie, 1976), ‘Chalo ek bar fir se’ (O Majhi Re, 1963) , ‘Sansaar se bhaage phirte ho’ (Chitralekha, 1964), ‘Aage bhi jaane na tu’ (Waqt, 1965) and ‘Yeh desh hai veer jawano ka’ (Naya Daur, 1957).
The repertoire of roles that you’ve played on stage is vast. How challenging is it to play such diverse characters?
If you enjoy doing something, it happens naturally. Theatre gives you the platform to enjoy and test your creativity.
Who are your best companions in the theatre circuit?
Naseeruddin Shah and Benjamin Gilani were my first companions. I also share a special bond with Saeed Alam, with whom I’ve been working for the past 10 years. I also share a great bond with Shivani Tibrewala, Divya Arora and Cyrus Dustoor.
What do you think about the present Bollywood scene? We haven’t seen you sharing screen space with other big stars of late.
The good thing about Bollywood today is that there’s enormous young talent coming in. But the film industry has now become a business, which is unfortunate. I don’t do big films because I’m not offered roles in them. I like to do offbeat films with interesting subjects.
What are your upcoming theatre projects?
I’m working on eight plays with Saeed Alam. There’s also Yadi, by Asghar Wajahat. It’s a fictional act about what happens when Gandhi survives the gunshot by Nathuram Godse. Other interesting plays I’m working on are We Love Rabindranath Tagore by Mallika Sarabhai and The Old Man And The Sea by Shivani Tibrewala.
The play will be staged on April 5 at Nehru Centre, Worli, from 7 pm onwards. Tickets available at the venue and Rhythm House. Call 98200 40119 for more details.