Tom Alter talks to the writer in Dudhwa National Tiger Reserve and says he is more than just the token firang of Hindi cinema.
I ventured deep into the core area of the Dudhwa National Tiger Reserve during the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections in search of the Tharus, a tribe that claims Rajput ancestry and lives in the Terai region along the Indo-Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district. In the forest, I bumped into actor Tom Alter, the perpetual ‘foreigner’ in Indian cinema, who was exploring one of his lesser known interests — wildlife. Excerpts from a chat:
What drew you to Dudhwa?
I have always wanted to visit Dudhwa, and the perfect opportunity was a TV project called Jungle ki Kahaaniyaan, in which we look at various wildlife issues across the nation. And Dudhwa, in its mysterious way, was most fascinating.
Does your interest in wildlife have anything to do with your childhood?
I was born and brought up in Mussoorie, surrounded by the forest. I spent many winter days in Jim Corbett Park as a boy and young man; I loved fishing, but not so much hunting. To be alone with a fishing rod on the banks of a lovely, clean, flowing river surrounded by forest with the whole day ahead of you is paradise.
Do you feel wildlife as an issue has been well-represented in Hindi cinema? Or in theatre?
Wildlife, in its full beauty, has been the backdrop of many films but the issues of wildlife… no; they have not been dealt with in the depth they demands. I am trying to make a film on Jim Corbett, as my tribute to him and his jungle world.
Could you elaborate that?
I have a dream to make a film about one day in Jim Corbett’s life — the day when he finally captured, on film, six tigers together by the banks of a stream near Kaladungi. The film will touch upon that great man’s entire life in the course of that one day — his sister, Maggie; his shikari friends; his favourite forest; his dreams; his wishes for the tiger and for India; why he gave up hunting for pleasure, and so much more.
Your appearances in Bollywood have become limited today. Is there a place for actors when dash and glamour seem to score over talent?
I never use the word ‘Bollywood’ — this is a marketing ploy that became a fashion about 25 years ago. I — and many others — work in the Hindi film industry, based in Mumbai. Dash and glamour have always been important parts of Hindi films. So I have no complaints. And I am not a theatre person. I am an actor who works in films, television, and theatre.
Do you think a theatre actor needs to compromise on success to have a fulfilling acting career?
Any artist — any person — makes compromises when his or her heart permits. I view my art, acting, as something without any boundaries.
You have always carried the burden of the “firangi” on the screen, despite being fluent in Hindi and Urdu.
This is totally untrue — in 95 per cent of my Hindi films, I have spoken Hindustani, which I speak in real life, and my roles have covered many dimensions and colours.
Tell us about what inspired or impacted your acting.
I grew up surrounded by poetry, literature, sports and a deep love for language. My earliest favourite was Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, but sports was my true passion, and still is. I acted in school under two amazing teachers, Frenchie and Joan Browne. They instilled deep within me the quest for perfection.
Any other talents that you are hiding from the viewer?
I love to sleep.
What about your love for Urdu poetry?
I am still trying to understand Urdu poetry. As I said, I grew up surrounded by poetry and language. My brother, John, is a brilliant poet and I had a very fine teacher in school, Bill Starr. Urdu was the language that my parents loved.
Do you think your “western” appearance prevented you from getting any major roles?
My looks are me, and I have no regrets. It has been a very fulfilling and rewarding career, and continues to be so. My talents — for whatever they are worth — have been fully welcomed in the Hindi film industry.
How relevant is the ‘western-looking actor’ today in India?
Can there be another Tom Alter? I have no idea about the ‘western-looking actor’. My work has always totally transcended any colour or any look. As for another ‘Tom Alter’, there can never be ‘another’ anyone.
Aamir Khan say there is no Intolerance in India, urges Modi to reign in people spreading hatred
Days after his intolerance remarks, Bollywood star Aamir Khan today said India is “very tolerant” but there are people who spread hatred and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein them in.
The actor also believes that he still continues to be country’s brand ambassador even though the government may have discontinued his services, saying India is his mother and not a brand.
“Our country is very tolerant, but there are people who spread ill-will…Those who speak of breaking up this vast country, such people are present in all religions, only Modiji can stop them. After all, Modiji is our PM, we have to tell him,” he told Rajat Sharma in his ‘Aap ki Adalat’ show on India TV, according to a press release issued by the channel.
Aamir said a sense of security comes from the justice system, which should ensure speedy justice, and from elected representatives who should raise their voice when something goes wrong.
“After all, law is equal for all, and nobody is above law. Unfortunately, there are some people who spread negativity and hatred. If I am not wrong, our Prime Minister has also expressed concern. His slogan is ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’,” he said.
The actor, who hit headlines with his remarks that his wife was thinking of leaving India over growing intolerance, also replied to megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s remark that he damaged India’s brand identity by his statement, saying there was a feeling of insecurity due to growing intolerance.
“I had said in my interview that there was a sense of depression, a sense of despondency, a feeling of insecurity and intolerance was growing. But these are entirely two different things,” he said.
He added that he was “wongly quoted” and said, “I never said India was intolerant, I was wrongly quoted…To say about rising intolerance and to say India is intolerant are two different things.”
Claiming to continue serving as India’s brand ambassador even after government discontinued him, the superstar said, “For me, my motherland is my mother, it cannot be a brand. I can never view my mother as a brand. It could be a brand for other people, but not for me. Till this date, I continue to be India’s brand ambassador, even the government may have discontinued me.”
He said for 10 years he was brand ambassador for ‘Incredible India’s Atithi Devo Bhavo campaign’ and never charged a penny for all his public service campaigns for the country and nor will he charge in future.
Aamir also asked media and news channels not to air news about violence on TV as it creates an atmosphere of fear.
“Every Indian is infected with fear. I would also appeal to media not to highlight such violence, as it creates a sense of insecurity and fear among common people,” he said.
On his wife Kiran Rao expressing her intent to leave India due to insecurity, Aamir said he and his wife were not going anywhere and have been born here and will die in India, but said, “After all, Kiran is a mother, a mother always worries about her children.”
“Often we speak so many things among ourselves, but that does not mean, we take 100 per cent action on them. Now was that our intention. Kiran has actually expressed a feeling, an emotion, and we were born here, and we will die here. We are not going to leave our country, let me make it clear,”he said.
The superstar went on to say that whenever people try to divide, “we should become alert, and should beware as to why we are being reminded that we are Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh. After all, we are all Indians. We have to be on our quard.”
Seeking to clarify that there was intent on his or his director’s part on purportedly denigrating Hindu religion in his film ‘PK’, he said, “It was only a character playing the role of Shiva in a play, who was made fun of, in a particular situation. After all, Lord Shankar is Almighty, how can we dare to make fun of him?.”
The actor said he fully empathised with the cause of Kashmiri Pandits. “My heart cries even today for them. It is shameful, and I appeal to people living in the Valley to bring the Kashmiri Pandits back.”
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Jeremy Lin slams Chris Rock’s ‘racist’ Asian joke at Oscars
Los Angeles (IANS): Actor-comedian Chris Rock’s Asian joke at the 2016 Academy Awards might have made people burst into laughter, but NBA star Jeremy Lin wasn’t amused.
The Charlotte Hornets star took to his Twitter page to share how upset he was because some people thought that making fun of Asians was “cool”, reports aceshowbiz.com.
“Tired of it being ‘cool’ and ‘ok’ to bash Asians,” he wrote, while asking, “when is this going to change?”
Despite the fact that Rock earned positive reviews of his jabs at #OscarsSoWhite controversy at the gala night on Sunday, the 51-year-old host appeared to disappoint some people when he made a joke involving Asian children.
In the middle of his monologue at the awards show held on Sunday, he said that he wanted to introduce the accountants from Price Waterhouse Coopers, which tabulated the vote results.
People started to laugh when they learned that the accountants were two Asian boys and an Asian girl whom Rock named Ming Zu, Bao Ling and David Moskowitz. The three children walked onstage as they brought briefcases, illustrating the stereotype that Asian people are diligent workers who are also good at mathematics.
However, some people were upset when Rock said, “If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids.”
They were quick to interpret that Rock implied Asian children were either accountants or child labourers.