Tom Alter

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Tom Alter
Tom Alter at Dev Anand's birthday celebrations.jpg
Born (1950-06-22) 22 June 1950 (age 66)
Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India
Occupation Actor
Years active 1976–present
Spouse(s) Carol Evans Alter (m. 1977- present)

Jamie Alter

Afshaan Alter

Thomas Beach Alter (born 22 June 1950) is an Indian actor of American descent. He is a television actor, best known for his work in Bollywood,[1][2] and has also worked in the theatre.[3]

In 2008, he was awarded Padma Shri by the Indian government.[4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

A native of Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India,[6] Tom Alter is the son of American Christian missionaries of English and Scottish ancestry and has lived for years in Mumbai and the Himalayan hill station of Landour. His father was born in Sialkot, now in Pakistan. His elder sister Martha Chen has a PhD in South Asian Studies [7] and his brother John is a poet and a teacher.[1]

As a child, he studied Hindi and, consequently, he has occasionally been referred to as the "Blue-eyed saheb with impeccable Hindi."[8]

He studied at the Film and Television Institute of India. His major inspiration to enter films was Rajesh Khanna. He confessed in an interview "I still dream of being Rajesh Khanna. For me, in the early 1970s, he was the only hero — romantic to the core, not larger than life, so Indian and real — he was my hero; the reason I came into films and he still is."[9]

He is married, with two children, a son, Jamie, and daughter, Afshaan.[10]

He is a life member of International Film And Television Club & International Film And Television Research Centre of Asian Academy of Film & Television.


Alter taught at St. Thomas school in Jagadhri (Haryana) for $50 a month before taking to films. He worked as a sports teacher at the school. He used to coach cricket in the school. His crisp columns on sport have enthralled readers of popular newspapers and journals to which he contributed for ten years.[11] He loved his job and the small town of Jagadhri. In his own words, "There was something very warm about Jagadhri. I remained a teacher there until the day I watched Rajesh Khanna romance Sharmila in Aaradhna. That was the beginning of my addiction to cinema."[12]

Alter is fluent in Hindi and knowledgeable of Indian culture. He has worked for noted filmmakers like Satyajit Ray in Shatranj Ke Khilari and is remembered for his role as a British officer in Kranti. In Sardar, the 1993 film biography of Indian leader Sardar Patel, which focused on the events surrounding the partition and independence of India, Alter portrayed Lord Mountbatten of Burma. He has also played Indian characters in Indian television series, such as the long-running Junoon, in which he was the sadistic mob lord Keshav Kalsi.[13] He also acted in Hollywood movie One Night with the King with Peter O'Toole.

Sachin Tendulkar's first ever television interview was with Tom Alter, when a 15-year-old Sachin faced a video camera for the first time ever as a cricketer in between practice sessions of his Ranji team Bombay in 1988.

Alter has written such books as The Longest Race, Rerun at Rialto, The Best in the world, and is also a sports journalist with a special interest in cricket, a game on which he has written extensively in publications such as Sportsweek, Outlook, Cricket talk, Sunday Observer and Debonair. He plays cricket for a film industry team MCC (Match Cut Club), which includes Naseeruddin Shah, Satish Shah, Vishal Bhardwaj, Aamir Khan, Nana Patekar, Bhupinder Singh and Amarinder Sangha. He also wrote on cricket in Indian publications. In 1996, he was invited by friend Siraj Syed to Singapore, to do cricket commentary in Hindi, for Indian viewers, on the sports TV channel, ESPN.

In 1996 he appeared in the Assamese-language film Adajya, and in 2007 acted in the theatrical reproduction of William Dalrymple's City of Djinns alongside Zohra Sehgal and Manish Joshi Bismil. He also appeared in a solo play Maulana, based on Maulana Azad for which he has received much critical acclaim. He has also received praise for his role in the art film Ocean of An Old Man, which has been screened at film festivals around the world.

Alter's first cousin Stephen Alter, also born and raised in India, is a notable author and teacher. Both are graduates of Woodstock School, Mussoorie. Alter has also worked as the red robe guru in Mukesh Khanna's TV production Shaktiman (1998–2002). Alter has also acted in the role of a doctor in Bheja Fry, a comedy movie starring Rajat Kapoor.

In April 2011, he acted in a short film Yours, Maria directed by Chirag Vadgama playing the lead role of Matthew Chacha in the movie.

Alter is also a theatre actor. In 1977 he along with Naseeruddin Shah and Benjamin Gilani formed a theatre group called Motley Productions. Their first play was Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, which was staged at Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, on 29 July 1979. He has been performing at Prithvi Theatre ever since, his latest being an adaptation of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer's My Grandad had an Elephant which was performed on 7 June 2011. He has also worked with the New Delhi theatre group Pierrot's Troupe.

Presently, he is performing in TV serials such as Khamosh sa Afsana (as a Husain Baba), telecast on India's state-owned network, Doordarshan. Since November 2014, he is playing Sahir Ludhianvi in a stage production based on life and work of the famous Urdu poet and film-lyricist. [3]

Alter has lent his voice for authorised Audio Autobiography of Dr. Verghese Kurien, titled 'The Man Who Made The Elephant Dance' which was released on 5 September. 2012 at the hands of Infosys Co-founder and Chairman Narayana Murthy at International Convention Centre, Bombay Stock Exchange, Mumbai. It is conceptualised and produced by Atul Bhide of Om Audio Books.

Appearance in Indian TV serials[edit]

Alter appeared in many Indian TV serials and were praised by audience for his acting. In Zabaan Sambhalke he played the role of a British writer, Charles Spencers, who lives in India and wants to learn Hindi language.


Year Film Role Other notes
2016 Anuragakarikkinvellam Boss Malayalam film
2014 "Yahan Ke Hum Sikandar" [14]
2014 Daptar - The School Bag[15] Magic Uncle Marathi language film
2014 Honour Killing Mr. Smith
2013 The Corner Table George Miller English short film
2012 Kevi Rite Jaish Uncle Sam / Derek Thomas Gujarati language film
2012 M Cream Mr. Bhardawaj English/Hindi film
2012 Life Ki Toh Lag Gayi
2011 With Love, Delhi!
2011 Son of Flower Major James Edwards English film
2011 Cycle Kick Football Coach English film
2011 Yours Maria Matthew Chacha Short Film
2010 Muigwithania Major David English film
2010 Jaanleva Mr. Malhotra
2008 Ocean of an Old Man Thomas - Teacher English film
2008 Colours of Passion Rang Rasiya Justice Richards
2007 Kailashey Kelenkari Sol Silverstein Bengali film
2007 Bheja Fry Dr. Shepherd
2006 One Night with the King King Saul (prologue) English film
2006 Alag: He Is Different.... He Is Alone.... Dr. Richard Dyer
2005 The Hangman Father Mathew
2005 The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey Watson
2005 Viruddh... Family Comes First Anderson (British Consultate)
2005 Bose the foregotton hero Governor Jackson
2004 Loknayak Abul Kalam Azad
2004 Veer-Zaara Doctor
2004 Asambhav Brian
2004 Aetbaar Dr. Freddie
2004 Ghar Grihasti Drug smuggler
2004 Mitter Pyare Nu Haal Mureedan Da Kehna Ghosht Khan
2004 Silence Please... The Dressing Room Cricket coach Ivan Rodrigues English film
2003 Yeh Hai Chakkad Bakkad Bumbe Bo
2003 Hawayein
2003 Hatim King of Paristan Hindi TV series
2003 Dhund: The Fog Uncle Tom
2002 Love at Times Square
2002 Dil Vil Pyar Vyar Special Appearance
2002 Bharat Bhagya Vidhata Mohammed Jalaudin Ghaznavi
2001 On Wings of Fire English film
1997 Shaktimaan Maha Guru
1997 Captain Vyom Vishwapramukh
1997 Betaal Pachisi Hindi TV series
1996 Adajya Mark Sahib Assamese language film
1993-1997 Zaaan Sambhalke Charles Hindi TV series
1993 Sardar Lord Mountbatten
1992 Junoon Harry
1990 Aashiqui Arnie Campbell
1989 Parinda Musa
1989 Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro Johan - (Jani Hippi)
1988 Sone Pe Suhaaga A doctor
1986 Karma Rexon
1985 Ram Teri Ganga Maili Karam Singh (Ganga's Brother)
1982 Gandhi A doctor English film
1981 Kranti British Officer
1978 Des Pardes Inspector Martin
1977 Kanneshwara Rama British Superintendent of police Kannada film
1977 Ram Bharose
1977 Shatranj Ke Khilari Capt. Weston
1976 Charas Chief Custom Officer


  1. ^ a b "No 'Alter'native". Screen (magazine). 9 May 2008. 
  2. ^ Hazarika, Sanjoy (6 July 1989). "An American Star Of the Hindi Screen". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Features / Metro Plus : Tom Tom". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 9 August 2008. 
  4. ^ "Multifaceted actor Tom Alter to receive Padma Shri". India eNews. 25 January 2008. 
  5. ^ "Woodstock School News". Woodstock School India. 2 January 2008. 
  6. ^ "Tom Alter". Paritosh Uttam. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  7. ^ "Curriculum Vitae of Marty Chen" (PDF). 
  8. ^ Zaman, Rana Siddiqui (13 October 2014). "Delhi is my second home: Tom Alter". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "'I still dream of being Rajesh Khanna'". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 12 July 2009. 
  10. ^ "Tom Alter". Times of India. 2012-04-30. Retrieved 2012-08-12. 
  11. ^ "Tom Alter's Life". 
  12. ^ "Chandigarh Stories". Tribune India. 2003-07-31. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  13. ^ "The Hindu : Metro Plus Delhi / Personality : Tom, unaltered". Retrieved 2016-07-02. 
  14. ^
  15. ^

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