Bob Christo (Foreword by Tom Alter)
Penguin Books India
I distinctly remember that fight sequence from the movie Kaalia where everybody is standing in line while food is being distributed and Michael (actor Bob Christo) decides to spoil the decorum and breaks the queue. While one of his crippled inmates gathers courage and decides to retaliate against this brawny white guy Michael shouts back, “Hum jahaan khade hote hain line waheen se shuroo hotee hai”(The line always start behind me). Immediately after that all the other prisoners in the queue go and stand behind Michael.
The most I knew about Bob Christo then was he was an actor from Australia renowned within the Indian Film Industry as the “bad man” of Indian Cinema who played either the role of collaborator, hostile prisoner or British Officer.
The septuagenarian Robert John Christo whom the world popularly knew as Bob Christo died in Bangalore (20 March 2011) winning the affection of millions of Indian Movie Fans for over two decades which included over 230 films and 15 television serials.
The newly released book Flashback: My Life and Times in Bollywood and Beyond by Penguin Books India gives the readers wealth of information by sharing the best and bad times experienced in life by Bob Christo. The actor’s biography was to be released by Akshay Kumar in June 2011 post which he was planning to return back to work in Hindi Cinema in an Akshay Kumar film.
The book gives an interesting insight about the many roles (Engineer, Adventurer, Lover, Mercenary and Bollywood villain) played by Bob Christo in real life apart from holding the credit for being one of the renowned villain of the Indian Film Industry in reel life.
The memorable autobiography traces the journey of this Civil Engineer from Sydney, Australia. Bob firmly believed in the discipline of reading and was also a prolific writer who held the recognition for achieving top marks and prizes for writing outstanding essays right from his school days.
Bob’s wife was killed in 1974 in a car crash leaving him the responsibility to bring up his three children. In 1977 he decided to pursue his career in Civil Engineering and was deputed for his assignment at Muscat. But destiny had its own plans. No sooner he resumed his work in Muscat he was communicated that his friend American scriptwriter George Marzbetuni had a massive heart attack and was hospitalized in ICU in Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai.
Bob decided to come back to Mumbai for a couple of days to visit his friend in the hospital. George was not able to stay for long in India to shoot for the English version of the movie Abdullah as his family was on the way to India and had decided to take him back to L.A.
George wanted Bob to write reports and ensure that the crew sticks to the same script as written by him for Abdullah. Alternatively if Sanjay Khan wanted Bob to do some role in his movie George suggested that it was his (Bob’s) call to go ahead with the same.
One big success wiped out all his previous failures and with passage of time Bob was kept busy and occupied with several opportunities coming up on his roads to achievements. Abdullah, Qurbani, Kaalia, Namak Halal, Mard, Mr. India and Agneepath were some of the opportunities that Bob got and also had the opportunity to share the screen with Marlon Brando, Amitabh Bachchan and Raj Kapoor to name a few. Bob also took special classes in Hindi by taking the help of Qadir Roomi who visited him every morning at 8 a.m., six days a week, to teach him the National Language.
In 2001, Bob decided to retire and left Mumbai for Bangalore to work in Sanjay Khan’s hotel, The Golden Palms Hotel and Spa starting off as gymnasium manager and yoga master. Once the hotel was fully operational by 2002 Bob had become the Fitness Director. Spine Injury made Bob to quit his job from the hotel and in 2006 he started his work on his autobiography.
The book is divided into three parts giving the reader a detailed account of how experience enriched his life. His journey is covered in the book in the following manner (Part 1 – Hong Kong-Philippines, Part 2 – Africa to India, via the Middle East and Part 3 – Odyssey in India).
In Foreword by Tom Alter Bob questions, “Tom, why don’t they give me romantic roles?”. To which Tom replies, “The truth is, my friend, your own life was the most romantic role of all”. Bob agrees that as he looks back on his life, he feels blessed.
Behind every success lies an untold pain in one’s heart and the pain is usually revealed when the individual rises to the top. The key message the author (Bob Christo) wants to convey to all his readers is the great mixture of bliss and sorrow that he experienced in his life. It was life that he fully lived. And why not, as long as there is life there are bound to be struggles.