Life in Fragments: The Saga of Ali Peter John
By Faith47, South Africa's first lady of graffiti.
THE CITIZEN announces with pride a regular column by the well known film and theatre personality Tom Alter.
In my 41 years in the Hindi film industry --- not Bollywood, but the Hindi film industry – I have been blessed and cursed to meet every sort of person this universe could ever produce – one day I will sit down and tell about the Big Three (Dilip, Raj, and Dev), who were true blessings, to the frauds and farces who also abound – and many in between – but today, on a humid, sweaty Mumbai afternoon, I want to write about a man who breaks all conventions, even of an industry like the film industry.
Ali Peter John – an imp with a heart of gold – a journalist who writes about the truths of life – a man who knows Bombay, even Mumbai, as he knows the veins in his wrists and in his heart – of all the journalists I have met in these 41 years, Ali is the most unique – when you meet him, you feel as if he is actually listening to you, as if he actually cares about you and your career – and when he speaks of himself, it is not his ego speaking, but his experience, his journey –
Ali has been with Screen magazine for decades – he has seen and written about it all – the comings and the goings, the rise and fall, the dream and the reality – from Rajesh Khanna to Amitabh to Shahrukh – he has felt their pride and their pain – deeply – and written of it – and them – and many more – with deep insight and sensitivity.
Ali and I meet about every ten years – at some function, or some muhurat, or some premiere. Each time there is that impish smile, that tilt of the head and of the heart – those probing and yet loving eyes – a question or two, a tale or two, and we bid adieu for another ten years.
Very recently, I met him at Khajuraho during a film festival, in which a film, “Alex Hindustani’, was being screened – a film in which I had the pleasure of acting with my son, a film which is still wending its way to release, a film of immense potential, but a film, like so many others, which is struggling to reach its final destination – the cinema halls of our great country.
It was a perfect time and place to meet Ali – for he understand the film’s journey as few others could, and also because, even more importantly, he gave me a copy of his book – “Zindagi Tukdon Mein” – “Life in Fragments” – which is the tale, told in Hindustani, of Ali’s name and his father and his mother and his Bombay and his brother and his struggle and his problems and his victories and K.A. Abbas and – above all – an ode to the city where Ali was born and still lives and works and where he will, surely, one day, as we all must, drift away –
The fragments that he writes of are uniquely Ali’s – like his name – but they are also fragments of truth, of courage, of pain and hate, of prejudice and injustice, of poverty and poetry, of people and places,