Alok Nath – Mr. Indian Television, talks about his life, his creative endeavors and his journey
Posted by Vivek on August 10, 2009 | 3 Comment
They say a hallmark of an actor is that he or she should be able to become what they are not and convince the audience that, it is indeed the truth. Using that criteria, Alok Nath, qualifies as one of the finest actors in
From Buniyaad till now, talk to us about the quality of your work and the quality of television programming?
Buniyaad was almost like 25 years ago when it was the inception of soaps in India and we had only Doordarshan (“DD”) back then. It was the radio audiences who had been transformed into watching television. Besides the Chitrahaar’s and the regular weekly feature film, Krishi Darshan, etc, Hum Log was the first soap that DD produced and then Buniyaad followed. So TV was in it’s infancy then and we had one of India’s best filmmakers who had made Sholay, make Buniyaad, so it was a special watch in both India and Pakistan since the story was about these two countries. Also in Buniyaad we shot the first 26 episodes on film, on 16mm, so the whole procedure was like shooting a film on set, we used to dub and the whole rigmarole of processing and background music, just like a film, before we shifted off to video. But since then Doordarshan carried on for 3-4 years on it’s own, serials became a way of life with people and then the private channels came on, Zee, Star, Sony, etc, programming went out of the reach of the government. Characters and stories became a little more modernistic. The outreach became a lot more too, since if one house had television, then multiple families would gather there and watch the content. Actors, who were doing serials became household names. Stories looks got changed, as did the actors characterization with the channels, it became a little more adult, so the audiences started watching serials from Western countries, some of which became eye openers for us. So now we have gone through various stages, sagas of Saas Bahu, Religion, Social Dramas, Thrillers, to where we have now reached a stage where content is king and you need good performers, good looks, programming itself should look good, be pleasing to the eye. It’s been a long journey and I’ve stayed on as an actor, some people have either gone away or moved to different aspects of their life, all in all it’s been a beautiful journey, worked a lot, earned a lot and gained a lot of love and respect of the audience.
Going back in time what made you take up acting as a profession in the first place?
Growing up in Delhi, in Modern School, it was a ritual in school to have an annual function and it was maybe in the second grade that I was cast in a play and since then it became a routine every year, because of the appreciation. So when I got to the ninth grade I started doing theater professionally. After my graduation from Delhi University, I did a three year diploma in the National School of Drama. It was sheer passion, the joy and the taking the bow at the end of the performance and that high that you get, that appreciation it’s unforgettable. Also it was inbuilt, perhaps because I was average in studies so from a carrier perspective this was an easy way out. Although now when I look back I put in a lot of hard work, lot of love, lot of passion, lot of dedication into the whole thing, so it paid off, the honesty of your work shows and you can get the feeling from the audience response. So basically it has been your passion that has over time become your profession.
One saw you in the film Gandhi many years ago, so now if a Hollywood or a Broadway offer came your way, would you take it?
Definitely why not, as an actor I am open to anything.
Now that your financial goals have been met, is it time to take some risks and do roles that would get away from your traditional image, so fulfill the need of the actor in you as opposed to the audience?
Well the thirst of an actor is always there, it’s when you stop acting you’re a dead man. A man can die with his boots on and an actor is no different. There have been roles that I have done to my heart’s content but I can’t really put a finger on something that I’ve been dying to do. But what I perceive and what I foresee as far as the Indian Television audience and content makers are concerned, and the very sorry aping of the West, at least in the film industry, the kind of roles that I used to do, the Babuji and the Pitaji, have more or less dried up. They have been replaced by the Mom’s and Dad’s, so as far as films are concerned I think I may have exhausted my kind of roles, now things may turn around and that you never know. But as far as television is concerned because it is a medium very much related to the middle class and the lower middle class, the Indian ethos is still there, so as an actor there are still challenges in that medium, so I will probably work for another five years as an actor and then perhaps take up production or direction… I really don’t know, I don’t foresee the future right now.
There’s a saying that episodic television is the most challenging for an actor, your take on that?
(Smiles)…The acting on television soaps has also become like downing fast food. Your working hours are bizarre, the money is good no doubt about that, but you get exhausted by the end of the day, you can start at 7 in the morning and go on till like 1 or 2 the next morning, then get a call that same morning again, so there are time you are working continuous for like 30 hours and channels have the pressure, driven by changing TRP’s to not be able to have a sufficient bank of episodes, so everything is always in a state of catch up. TRP also force the channels to evolve the story line as they go, so you get the script, rehearse like five minutes before the shoot and in that time you have to cram you lines, work out your characterization, your gestures, your looks, whatever it is that you need to present before the audience. And in that respect it is close to maddening. But because of my seniority and the place where I am today, I can demand a certain timing discipline, so I work for like ten hours fixed in a day, but for the newcomers they go through a very, rough schedule, so that way it is tough, the competition is intense so all that makes it very demanding.
You probably answered this, but any plans to take up direction down the road, be it a movie or a television soap?
Yes, definitely it’s a very hidden desire, which hasn’t germinated right now, it’s actually been there for a long time. But for now I have all my thoughts on acting and they say that if you shift priorities it is like stepping on two boats at one time. So I want to first wrap up and say good bye to acting and then step into directing and that might take another five years or something.
Summing up, do you think you’ve got your dues from the film and television world as far as being an artist, is concerned?
Well, see I did not expect anything when I came to Mumbai, many years ago. Now the amount that I’ve got, I’m thankful to God. It’s been a very beautiful journey, could have been better. One part of an actors journey is to sell himself properly, to get that kind of a publicity, that kind of an appeal, that builds up an aura that promotes him and puts him in a status, so even if he doesn’t have it all, he is a big name and a star and t
hat always helps, something which I could not manage on my own. I lived a very down to earth kind of life, I did not go and pamper people up, so I got what I did on my merit, I did not go to offices and beg for roles, I got what I deserved, would have been better if I’d promoted myself, which I didn’t. No regrets overall, have a happy family, the best woman in my life, the best kids, lovely house. A very content kind of feeling. Could have been better, ask Bill Gates, he’ll probably say the same, desires are endless, cause creation is an end in itself, once you create something that’s it, that’s the end of that, you then want to step on to another parameter. So as an actor that thirst will never go, but there is a sense of achievement that whatever you have done is liked, is appreciated and loved by your audience, that’s a great achievement. So I’m pretty much happy.