THE late Eighties, around the winter of 1988,
actor Deepti Naval spent a few weeks at a mental
institution. The purpose was to research a film
she was scripting. The intended film, which she
had titled Aks, is yet to be shot; but Naval’s
experience and observations in that institution
led to a different creation: a set of 24 poems
that forms the second section of her book, Black
Wind and Other Poems, released at Oxford Bookstore
in Delhi on Thursday.
The title poem
comes in the first section. The verse in this
part of the book is inspired by Naval’s
general feelings about life. Black Wind is written
in the unusual format of a dialogue between one’s
two selves – one suicidal, the other fighting
that manic urge.
is very personal, but a lot of people come up
to me and say they have gone through that,”
says Naval, who was introduced at the book launch
by her publisher Mallika Sarabhai as a “creative
person in every way” – a poet, painter
and photographer, apart from a film actor. The
cover of the book is, in fact, Naval’s own
– a wistful woman holding a bunch of wilting
Though a lot of
the poetry is born of anguish, not all of it is
somber. Smita & I, on Smita Patil, is a “sweet
poem”, in the poet’s words, a remembrance
of a life where the two friends often met fleetingly
Poetry has been
a part of Naval’s life for long. She has
“always been writing” and among her
favourites are Neruda, Lorca and Sylvia Plath.
There is something of irony in her admiration
for Plath. While Naval fought out of her suicidal
state of mind, finding catharsis in poetry, Plath
succumbed to it.
Of the poems in
‘The Silent Scream’ section, the one
reflecting Naval’s ruminations at the mental
institution, am outstanding work is The Goodess,
the tale of a young girl who dares to wear the
tinsel crown of the goddess on her head and so
threatens the world that calls itself sane.
many of the women at the institution were not
mad at all. They had just been dumped there because
they were unwanted,” says Naval.
The idea of making
a documentary on them crossed her mind, but she
decided to forgo that venture because of the several
restrictions on revealing the women’s identity.
Naval, who is still
performing – her most recent films were
Freaky Chakra (2002) and Leela (2001) –
would direct a film someday, but not before she
is done as an actor. She has, however, written
and directed a TV serial, Thoda Sa Aasmaan, about
three women of different ages, who are all going
through major turning points in their lives, who
meet and start life afresh.
of work may give the impression that Naval is
‘women-oriented’ – she had acted
in some of the most woman-centric films (Ek Bar
Phir, Kamla, PanchvatiAndhi , Main Zinda Hoon)
made in India before the term came into currency
– but she declaims any such description.
Not a “banner-waving feminist”, not
she. Her way is more spontaneous and, perhaps
for that very reason, stays longer in memory.