New Delhi: He has comfortably slipped into playing Sardar Patel and Lord Mountbatten on screen and effortlessly reprised the roles of Urdu poet-lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi and Maulana Azad on stage. If one connects the dots of Alter's journey, it bears striking resemblance to that of a Bollywood movie: a 19-year-old school teacher is inspired after watching late veteran Rajesh Khanna's performance in "Aradhana". He packs his bags and gets admitted to the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Any particular character you wish to play?
I desire to enact the roles of two stalwarts of partition, Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah is a very controversial figure to play. But I personally feel there is something to learn from him. Why he became a fanatic, no one knows. If we can find that out, I am sure there must be something to learn from it. I have played so many roles, but playing Nehru and Jinnah on stage should be exciting. We haven't explored the lives of these people.

How did Captain Weston in Satyajit Ray's Shatranj Ke Khiladi happen?
I meet Satyajit Ray at FTII's convocation day in 1974. He passed by me and said 'we will be working together'. Initially I thought it was a figment of my imagination and then I forgot about it. But I did get a call after a year and a half from him for this role.

How has working with Ray affected your work? Has it influenced you by any means?
Yes, working with him influenced me, as I firmly believe in what Ray had said in his convocation day speech. He said, "I make films for myself. Fortunately, some other people also like them".

You have stayed away from the conventional path and razzmatazz of Bollywood. So what do you do all the time?
I branched out into theatre, writing and television. In over three decades, I worked in 300 movies, have written three books and have been active in theatre. Also I am a keen observer of sports, have contributed to various magazines and newspapers.

So doing so much of work doesn't tires or bores you?
We all can do it. We all used to do so much in school. I was into so many things - editing the school magazine, playing sports and a bit of studies.

Okay, your green eyes and fair skin have labeled you gora, firang, etc. how do you react to it?
I am an Indian. My family lineage may be different, but I was born here. I hold an Indian passport. I don't need to prove my credentials to anyone.

What are you working on for the moment?
I want to finish my two pending books: a novel on theatre and another on a poet. But my work commitments are not giving me much time.

Tell us something about the serial you have directed for DD Urdu.
The serial is called Ek Fursat-e-Gunah, which is set during the partition of the sub-continent in 1947. The story is about the coming together of three friends. I was born post-Partition so I haven't seen much. But my family has been through that, so in some ways the loss and pain of meeting does evoke many emotions.

JPN/Agencies

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