Tom Alter, the son and Grandson of American Presbyterian Missionaries who First Came to India in 1916, grew up in north India in the towns of Rajpur and Mussoorie, and studied at Woodstock School. It was while teaching at a school in Jagadhri, Haryana in the early 1970s that Alter picked honed his Hindi and fell in love with the movies, in specific Indian cinema. In that era television was not common in India and so most people went to the movies, often several times a week.
After graduating from FTII, Alter headed straight to Bombay and soon got his first break in the Dev Anand starrer Saheb Bahadur (1977) directed by Chetan Anand. However first release was Ramanand Sagar's Charas. This was followed by roles in Ram Bharose, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, Parvarish. He dubbed for actor Jeevan for the innocent person of the twin roles played by Jeevan in film Amar Akbar Anthony.
Alter was fluent in Hindi, Urdu and was knowledgeable about Indian culture. He could also read Urdu and was fond of Shayari. He worked for noted filmmakers like Satyajit Ray in Shatranj Ke Khilari and is Remembered for his role as a British officer in Kranti.
He was the lead actor in "Once Upon A Time", a collection of five short stories presented as vignettes, directed by Sujata Soni Bali, and co-starring prominent stage actor and TV personality Sunit Tandon. The production was last staged in Mumbai on 17 June 2017
In September 2017, Alter was diagnosed with Stage IV skin cancer squamous cell carcinoma. His Thumb had Been amputated a Year Earlier because of the condition He died on 29 September in his residence in Mumbai