painting and photography – these are the three present passions
of former actress Deepti Naval. A day after her debut exhibition
of photographs clicked in Ladakh, she talks to Anita Joshua in New
On the move, but seldom in a hurry.
Blessed with more than one talent and the urge to constantly explore
with self, Deepti Naval, the critically acclaimed actress of the
not-so-distant past, has since meandered away from films to dabble
in poetry, painting and photography. And, by her own admission,
there is no telling what she will do next. But in all likelihood,
film direction is somewhere on the horizon.
As much as admitting it while talking
to The Hindu at Gallery Espace in New Friends Colony a day after
her maiden exhibition of photographs – “In Search of
Another Sky” – opened in New Delhi, Deepti Naval is
candid enough to concede that she “just cannot go through
life sticking to one thing” “I love to experiment and
explore aspects within my personality.”
A nomad at heart, Deepti insists
that it is no accident that she should have taken up photography
seriously. “After all, I did study photography in college.”
Though it was not her main subject, she studied photography along
with astronomy and American theatre while majoring in Fine Arts,
English and Psychology from the City University o New York.
Looking nowhere like the “woman
nextdoor” image that Hindi films have bestowed on her, Deepti
Naval – dressed all in black – wears her early middle-age
well. But the voice is as soft and gentle in real life as it was
on the reel. Ditto for her thoughtful persona.
Not showing any visible signs of
weariness that might be caused by frequent changing of avatars.
Deepti sees nothing unusual about the course her life has taken.
“I was always sure of becoming an actress. But I was equally
sure that I would some day come back to painting and photography.
It was bound to happen. I came back to painting – a childhood
hobby – in 1991. So it was but natural that I should return
Needless to say, gradual retirement
from films has helped her pursue her other interests with passion.
About her withdrawal from films, Deepti Naval says: “I have
not withdrawn from the celluloid world. I am prepared to act, provided
I get the kind of films I like to do.”
Resigned though she is to the fact
that Bollywood no longer has space to accommodate actresses like
her, the budding photographer is quite scathing in her criticism
of Hindi filmdom’s blinkered vision. ‘I’m too
old to play the role of a hip-swinging teenybopper opposite the
hero and too young to become the hero’s mother. Sadly, our
script-writers cannot conceive of a character who is neither the
hero’s lover nor the hero’s mother.”
However, she has been getting some
offers. But, choosy as she is, the answer has almost always been
‘no’ in the recent past. Primarily because she got no
satisfaction from the roles she did in a couple of commercial films.
“I felt they were meaningless.” But she refuses to name
these films in which she felt inconsequential. Among her favourites
are ‘Ek Bar Phir’, ‘Chashme Baddoor’, ‘Kamala’,
‘Main Zinda Hoon’, ‘Panchvati’, ‘Mirch
Masala’ and ‘Ankahi’. Continuing to voice her
thoughts about films, Deepti rues with a steely resolve: “I
will now either do something major or create something major.”
Could this mean film direction? “The possibility is there,
but how soon I will get into it is something I will not b e able
to say right now. I do have a couple of subjects in mind, but I’m
not very keen to take the plunge right now. I quite enjoy the freedom
given to me by poetry, painting and photography.”
She elaborates in a reflective voice:
“These three media allow me to work with myself. The same
cannot be said about cinema. The celluloid world does not allow
you to be a free soul. You just cannot pack your bags and set off
for the mountains. Films require a lot of coordination with other
individuals.” Her foot-loose and fancy-free existence might
be something that she holds dear, but she does understand the cinematic
Coming back to the current exhibition
of photographs, this woman of many talents insists that they were
not shot to be exhibited. “I love travelling – spend
a good part of the year exploring different parts of the country
– and Ladakh is a particular favourite. Ladakh, with its raw
unspoilt beauty, and the inherent beauty of its barrenness is something
that has always appealed to me.”
One of the few to have captured the
hostile terrain of Ladakh in winter, she shot the photographs this
past February. Despite the stark landscape featuring frequently
in the exhibition, she denies having planned it so. “While
shooting, I was not trying to make any comments. I was trying to
capture what touched me.”
Having tasted considerable
success in the media that she has applied herself to, Deepti Naval
today is probably well positioned to say which is the most expressive.
But, no. She cannot pick and choose. All she is willing to say is
that films have till date not allowed her to speak her own language.
Something that can be rectified if she took to direction!