It is difficult to slot an actress like
Deepti Naval. Just as one is all set to label her as just right
for breezy, light-hearted comedies or musicals, and not much else,
she stuns audiences with a mind-blowing performance like the one
Who, then, is the real Deepti? The pretty, vivacious, fun-looking
girl of Chashme Buddoor and Kisi Se Na Kehna or the serious actress
of Ankahee and Kamla Actually, she is a bit of both, with an amazing
versatility that lends itself beautifully to any kind of role.
Deepti’s very first appearance in Hindi films was a two-minute
guest appearance in Shyam Benegal’s Junoon. But few know
that the beautiful dulhan who swings happily to the strains of
Saawan ki thandi phuhaar re and is widowed soon after, was Deepti
Naval. She caught the attention of both the industry and the public
with Vinod Pande’s Ek Baar Phir. As Kalpana, the sensitive,
docile wife of a brash superstar (Suresh Oberoi) who is drawn
into an extra-marital relationship with a painter (Pradeep Verma)
and in the end, prefers to walk out on her husband into her lover’s
arms, Deepti came up with a marvelous performances. Not many actresses
would choose a dicey role as an adulterous wife for their debut-making
film, but Deepti had no hang-ups on this score. She had come all
the way from New York (where her family lives) to be a serious
actress and to hell with filmic prejudices. Her second film Chirutha
was directed by a little known film-maker, Tanvir Ahmad, but the
role offered good scope for acting. Her role was a deglamourized
one, and no one recognized her as the beautiful Kalpana of Ek
Baar Phir and the film bombed miserably. However, her next film
Hum Paanch won her considerable acclaim.
In the intervening years, roles did come her way, but she turned
them down; no she was here to be a serious actress and not the
conventional singing-dancing type of heroine.
Then Sai Paranjpye offered her the role of Neha in Chashme Buddoor.
Knowing Sai’s skill at film-making, Deepti was sure she
wouldn’t be taken for a ride. She was back in the running.
Saath Saath was one film that gave her good scope to perfor. More
films followed – Kisi Se Na Kehna, Rang Birangi, Shriman
Shrimati, Kanoon Kya Karega, etc. But she soon became restless.
Was this acting was all about? She wondered the same mindless
themes, clichéd stories and situations.
The turning point came in the form of Kamla, based on a play by
Vijay Tendulkar and, of course, Ashwini Sarin’s shocking
expose in the press of buying tribal girls. In the completely
deglamourized role of Kamla, Deepti stole the show totally from
Shabana. The audience forgot she was simply Kamla, nothing more.
It was a personal triumph for the actress.
More films with ample acting scope came her way. The amazing fact
was that in this year’s film festival at Delhi, not one
but six of Deepti’s films were screened – Hip Hip
Hurray (which brought about Deepti’s meeting with Prakash
Jha, whom she later married), Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho and Ankahee,
Andhi Gali, Damul and Kamla. Forthcoming films include Nasihat
Today, Deepti realizes that it is not practical to sit back and
wait for a good, meaty role to turn up. “People must see
you on screen frequently to know that you are still around,”
she says. “That’s why it is important to act in a
few commercial films to draw in the crowds for the more serious
and small budget films. The ideal solution is to strike a happy
And judging from her wide range of performances, she seems to
have found it.
KAMLA by Dr. Jagmohan Mundhra,
is reportedly based on Vijay Tendulkar’s play of the same
name. The film opens with a journalist (Marc Zuber) buying a tribal
woman, Kamla (Deepti Naval). But the plight of Kamla and her ilk
is not the film’s main concern. Instead, it concentrates
on the relationship between the journalist and his wife (Shabana
Azmi) and the changes wrought in their life by Kamla’s arrival.
And as the husband’s selfishness, insensitivity and lack
of understanding, especially towards women, are laid bare; husband
and wife are driven irrevocably apart.
Shabana, as the wife, manages to win both the audience’s
sympathy and appreciation; sympathy for the lot of the woman she
plays and appreciation for her handling of the part. Yet, despite
a smaller role and fewer lines, Deepti Naval, using her face and
eyes very expressively to convey the pathos and misery of her
situation, matches Shabana every inch of the way. A scence that
is particularly memorable is one where the two actresses hold
the stage and in which Deepti, in all innocence, asks Shabana
if Marc Zuber has bought her too!
Slow and Steady Wins the
race as Aesop’s fable of the hare and the tortoise tells
us. Sai Paranjpye confirms the Katha in this screen version. The
film has Farooque Shaikh, a man who lives by his wits, representing
the hare and the honest, steady, loyal Naseeruddin Shah, the tortoise.
Deepti Naval is the girl next door.
Set in a middle class society, this romantic comedy is light-hearted
and entertaining. Shah is secretly in love with his pretty young
neighbor. But before he can even reveal his affections, trouble
arrives in the guise of the smooth talking trickster, Shaikh.
He represents an excitement Deepti has never known in her dull,
middle class life and he worms his way into her heart.
The tangle is eventually sorted out. But not before Deepti has
undergone some heartbreak. Yet when Farooque Shaikh absconds,
a mature Deepti, at first, bravely refuses Naseer’s offer
to marry her; believing that it’s pity and not love that
prompts the move. And the quiet dignity she displays in this scene
only emphasizes her considerable talent.
Sai Paranjpye’s First
Attempt at romantic comedy has been hailed as a landmark in Hindi
cinema. And it was one of the first films to popularize the screen
pair of Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval. The two of them are
ably supported by Rakesh Bedi, Ravi Baswani and Saeed Jaffrey
as the pan-chewing cigarette shop owner.
Set in picturesque New Delhi with its beautiful bungalows and
wide. Tree-lined roads, the movie is very easy on the eye and
makes for extremely pleasurable viewing. Farooque Shaikh, Rakesh
Bedi and Ravi Baswani are flat-mates. And Deepti is the pretty
and, more important, unattached, young girl who comes to live
nearby. While Shaikh buries himself in his books, the other two
try to woo the girl. Imagine their surprise then on discovering
that Farooque has stolen a march on them.
From this point on, Ravi Baswani and Rakesh Bedi combine to give
the lovers a rough passage. Eventually, of course, all’s
well. Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval make a charming couple.
And Deepti brings certain freshness to her role as the young,
single girl. Her performance is as natural as it is studiously
low key. A must if you haven’t seen the film yet.
Ek Baar Phir
Tosay the new wave in cinema
or the art film is firmly entrenched. But considering this film
was made about five years ago, its subject, or rather its treatment
of its subject is unusual. It revolves around an actor’s
wife (Deepti Naval). The actor-husband is played by Suresh Oberoi.
Oberoi as the actor-husband runs true to type – he is overbearing,
offensive and insufferable. What’s worse, his wife is just
a convenient appendage. And he expects no more from her than that
she be a doormat.
A shooting stint in London, however, changes everything. Unable
to face her loneliness, Deepti enrolls for a painting course.
Here she befriends a young painter. As their friendship grows
Deepti’s personality blossoms she emerges as an individual
in her own right and, no longer able to tolerate the shame that
is her marriage she leaves her husband.
This was Deepti’s first film. And if the choice of the role
was unconventional, Deepti’s debut was all the more impressive.
She handles the transformation from an obedient, if subservient,
wife, to a liberated woman extremely competently. Indeed this
film heralded the arrival of a major talent on the Hindi screen.
Never before has astrology
formed the basic theme of a film. And blind faith in astrology
just doesn’t pay, according to director Amol Palekar though
he does try a little too hard to drive his point home.
Deepti plays a young girl from a small town, which’s not
quite all there. Her father brings her to his friend’s (Shreeram
Lagoo) home hoping to get professional help for his daughter in
the city. The friend’s son (Amol Palekar) wants to marry
his girl friend (Devika Mukherjee). But his astrologer-father
(Shreeram Lagoo) puts an end to his hopes; he warns his son that
fate has two marriages in store for him and that his first wife
will die within a year of the marriage.
With his parents as helpless onlookers, with a delighted father-in-law-to-be
and with a trusting Deepti, Amol selfishly decides that he would
rather sacrifice Deepti and he marries her instead. The marriage
works wonders for Deepti and she is a woman transformed.
Deepti handles her role intelligently and with sensitivity, she’s
utterly convincing as the immature, slightly hysterical young
woman. And she’s astounding as the wife – especially
in scenes where she meets his ex-girlfriend and asks her, on her
(Deepti’s) death, to wed and look after her husband and
her still to be born child.
The film ends tamely, on a weak note. But this defect is overcome
by a host of impressive performances from a distinguished cast,
which includes Dina Pathak as Amol Palekar’s mother. But
Deepti surpasses them all and her effort is all the more commendable
as she is pitted against actors of repute. Ankahee deserves a
viewing if only to see Deepti at work.
Hip Hip Hurray
Director Prakash Jha’s
Maiden feature film, starring Raj Kiran, Deepti Naval and Shafi
Inamdar, is far less controversial and far more enjoyable than
his second effort Damul, which critics have praised lavishly.
An unemployed graduate (Raj Kiran) decides to accept the post
of sports instructor in a school in Ranchi. There he makes friends
with the history teacher (Deepti Naval) and so incurs the wrath
of a student who worships the lady. The irate student has his
revenge when he ensures the school’s defeat on the football
field to the sports master’s chagrin.
The movie tells us how the student gets over his childish fixation,
how the school regains its reputation on the playing field and
how the two teachers continue to remain friends. Deepti Naval’s
is a small role. As always, it’s a competent effort. Finally,
for those who enjoy drawing parallels, Hip Hip Hurray very loosely
resembles the Sidney Poitier starrer, to sir with love.
In this Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, we see the seven-year itch
at work. If you remember, there was a Marilyn Monroe classic of
the same theme.
Amol Palekar and Praveen Babi is the picture of matrimonial harmony.
And Palekar has but two interests in life, his work and his wife.
Enter friend Deven Verma and Palekar learns it’s time to
live life a little. He begins by paying court to his attractive
secretary (Deepti Naval).
As this little affair progresses, Palekar finds he is thoroughly
enjoying himself. But his lovely secretary is more than a little
troubled; especially as she’s in love with Farooque Shaikh
and not with her boss. So she decides to make a clean breast of
it to his wife (Praveen Babi). And when she does, she’s
quite amazed, in fact stumped by Praveen’s reaction. The
latter laughs it all off as a joke. Praveen then enters the fray
and the situations grow even more hilariously complex.
Full of froth and fun, this lively entertainer offers viewers
a rare treat. Deepti Naval confirms she has a natural flair for
comedy. And the rest of the cast match her ability to clown around.
Kissise Na Kehna
This film stars Deepti Naval
and Farooque Shaikh in the lead once again. Deepti plays a doctor
who’s quite willing to forsake her Hippocratic Oath and
Western ways to please her conservative father-in-law-to-be. And
so she marries the man she loves, with a little help from family
friend Saeed Jaffrey. Deception is, however, new to Deepti and
the strain begins to tell. The tension, evertheless, becomes unbearable
when her father-in-law Utpal Dutt learns of the truth; he suffers
a heart attack. This illness awakens the doctor in Deepti. But
if it’s long road to recovery, it’s an even more weary
and longer road to reconciliation!