Truly 'sanskari'

Truly 'sanskari'

In conversation

Truly 'sanskari'

He has been tagged as the gentle, affable babuji for years. A tag that he wears beautifully, with his signature, soft smile.

Actor Alok Nath is a prolific artiste with a funny bone: a latent skill coming to the fore through his flirtation with Comedy Nights Bachao. And having outgrown his sanskari babuji image, Alok is now breaking moulds through his adult content show Sinskari, on the web, that makes him tread the tricky terrain. And he’s loving every moment of it.

Alok’s furry friends, Goti and Daku, settle down after the perfunctory barks, on the floor of his apartment in suburban Mumbai, minutes after I am ushered in. Whacky names for pets, I think. “The entire family named them,” says Alok, laughing, as if reading my mind, as we walk into the living area. The actor looks completely at ease with the new projects he is experimenting with at this point in his career. “God has been kind to me,” he says. Despite the pious babuji tag?

No labels attached

“I absolutely treasure the tag,” he retorts immediately. “It has made me who I am today. I love the respect, adulation, fan base and appreciation that my roles as babuji have brought me. But I have reached a point when I need to move beyond the tried-and-tested formula to do something different,” he confesses honestly. “See, in India the problem is that the moment you deviate from the tried-and-trusted formula, there is a chance that your fans might not like it, and perhaps even abandon you. I was bored playing out virtually the same character over the years. I wanted to play grey shades, do something radically different. Thankfully, the response to Sinskari has been heartening as well.” It is a chat show where the screen’s stereotypical father breaks new ground by questioning celebrity guests, including Mandana Karimi, on subjects like pre-marital sex.

So how did the babuji tag happen? “I arrived in Mumbai from Delhi with dreams of being the next Rajesh Khanna, and starred as the lead in a forgettable film. Then Buniyaad came along and took me inside people’s homes virtually. Followed by Rajshri movies, including Hum Saath Saath Hain, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, Vivah... Slowly, I became the genial sanskari babuji whom everyone listened to and loved.”

“My father and grandfather were both doctors, and naturally, I was expected to follow their footsteps. I had to opt for science (and was certified ‘miserable’ thereafter!), then switched to commerce. What had an indelible impact on me was the personality of the principal of my school (Modern Public School, Delhi), M N Kapoor. Even though I played the fool and didn’t study, he gleaned my interest in the fine arts and always encouraged me. In fact in 1972-74, he put in a word for me and got me my first break in a television show. So I am probably the only living actor who has acted in a show on Doordarshan, and then in theatre, serials on cable television, movies and now online.”

Joke’s on you

How does Alok deal with the consistent burst of memes and jokes spun on his oft-spouted dialogues steeped in tradition? “I enjoy the good jokes with a smile. It is wonderful that even though I have not done anything earth-shattering, millions of people on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are chatting about me. I am not tech savvy, but know enough to get by. Most of my co-stars are younger and social media savvy, they share tips on how to work with the features of my new phone as well.”

Yet Alok is grateful for all the blessings and accolades his performances have won over the years from audiences across the globe. The fact that his son is preparing to plunge into the world of acting validates him. “I have never dictated the choice of career to either of my kids,” says Alok. “My daughter is pursuing filmmaking, and is at present on the sets of Bang Bang 2 in Miami. When I look around, I do feel lucky that without me being around much during their early years, and not being involved sizeably in their daily upbringing, my children have not deviated from their path. They are doing brilliantly on their own. Believe me, there is nothing like seeing yourself in your kids,” he enthuses.

At present, Alok’s track in the soap Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai is “in a sort of limbo”, and the actor is busy readying for the release of his next film Sargoshiyan, that has been shot extensively in the Kashmir valley and again, dwells upon the relationship between an old grandfather and his young grandson who returns home in search of his roots. Alok’s video (scripted by Ravi Yadav) titled Babuji, where he plays the protagonist, released on Father’s Day and explores the depth of filial bonds. It has won praise from all quarters.

“Compliments work like achar with sabzi. They are always welcome,” he says with a smile. Parting shot from the silvery bulwark on handling the turmoil that plagues urban souls? “Once Sooraj Barjatyaji (of Rajshri films) told me, that if you ever experience a mental turmoil, a duvidha, thumb through the pages of Ramayana without looking at them and place your finger at any random point on a page. The shlok that you choose by default, interpret that in your situation, and your will find your answer. I truly find it a thought-provoking legacy and a ready solution to every vexation,” sums up Alok. Well said, Pa.