If she strikes you as being enigmatic her place is no less. Having separated from ex-husband Praksh Jha (“there are many reasons why a marriage doesn’t work I’d much rather talk of my work, than of the past”) Deepti Naval now again lives alone in a Bombay suburb. As you prowl around the high-level terrace apartment, overlooking the Versova beach, you begin discovering the person in the place. Every room, every nook and corner that has been designed by her, reflects some simple and some not-so simple ideas. Her own paintings on serval walls make frozen, permanent statements of their own. A cozy warmth, an air of amazing tranquility that would be languorous had it not been so surcharged with psychic energy, cocoons the place in permanent silence. It’s as if many invisible creative currents are at play here. A small music system is visible in the comfy sitting room, but the TV and other electronic paraphernalia are all tucked away in a bedroom. You notice a harmonium and realize there is a musical side to her. When you are given the privilege to use her own personal toilet, you discover one of the most designer bathrooms of its kind and she modestly informs you several magazines, including Interiors India and Inside Outside have already featured it. That piece of news is so unexpected; one uses the flush gingerly and holds the breath, afraid to break any of the many little curiosities lying around.

We settle down in the sitting room, I lounge on the carpet from where I get a view of both sea and sky, she curls up on a sofa nearby, since there Is no domestic help, she requests her tailor ‘master’ who’s been working on something under her meticulous instructions, to make some tea. Her laughter is so disarming, he can hardly say no and after a while, tea arrives. Talk just happens; there is no formal questions and answer routine. “Yes, I agree that my film career has entered a watershed, but I have no regrets on this score. Recently, I have been mostly just finishing some of my films, which include Shekar Kapoor’s Dushmani, Guddu and Anil Sharma’s Policewala Gunda.” I describe it as a sort of creative menopause, as far as films are concerned and she laughs. “Call it what you will, I’ve decided there won’t be any Saudagars and Yalgaars for me again. But I have intentionally taken the role in Balidaan, where I play an intense, religious-minded woman who is a pukka Krishna bhakt. Being an Arya Samji myself and not having any faith in idol worship or moorti puja, its a challenge for me to live this character. I have never played that kind of mind before and (laughs) this is the closest I’ve come to practicing religion. And I am also intrigued and amazed by the fact that millions of women still live in such blind faith” any other film worth talking about?

“Actually, yes quite unexpectedly I got an offer last year from Tirlok Malik of Apple Productions, who is a young filmmaker based in New York, to do a role in his English language film Love, Lust and Marriage. I play Mrs. Jumar, a doctor’s wife, played by Tirlok not exactly a triangle, it’s a film that takes a hard look at relationships; it shows that love has to be worked for and that marriages are not always made in heaven. The American crew, their style of working is so different, the homework is done well in advance and things are so much more efficient. For me, it was like working in my home town; my parents have always been in N Y and I have done college and university these so it was a lot of fun. Another film, coincidentally also in English, promises to be fun, too this is Blondie Singh’s takeoff on your own film world, tentatively titled Bollywood. It has Chunkey Pandey doing a takeoff on Amtiabh and I do an actress called Aabha who is at the fag end of her career (if there are Freudian echoes here, Deepti seems not to notice them). It’s a whacky, Mona darling type of character that is seen typically in a Hindi film villain’s den and I’m doing this one for a lark! Shooting schedules are being set in Rajasthan and Goa.”

I steer the conversation TV wards. One recalls that she has essayed a few roles on the small screen, though these haven’t been too many: her part in B R Chopra’s Sauda was pivotal, though viewers liked her much more as Farooque Sheikh’s girlfriend and wife in Aakhri Dao while few recall that she has also done some episodes of Ali Sardar Jaffrey’s Kehkashaan.

“Actually, the watershed period has been a boon in disguise. It gave me time at last to be with myself, to think and internalize my own experiences. It brought back a new, freer, painting phase, too. I realize I also started writing much more than I every did - poetry, as well ideas for film and TV scripts. One of the results has been Thodasa Aasmaan, my own TV serial.” Interestingly, the multi-faceted lady, who is a promising closet poet, has finally decided to make something of her own, egged on by reasons that made other actresses like Kavita Choudhary and Neena Gupta wield the pen and camera, too.

“I had just sent a proposal ages back and then, one fine day, when the list was finally announced, I learnt that my serial had been passed. So we got around to making a pilot and even here, Doordarshan has been extremely cooperative. I was given a certain deadline to submit my pilot and just when the final post-production work had to be done, I got the call from New York and had to go away for nearly 40 days. They were very understanding and agreed to keep in mind that the pilot was a bit of a ‘rough-cut’ - it was a relief to learn later that the pilot was approved without any hassles.”

Getting a sneak preview of this pilot, one got a good idea of what the serial, with its intriguing title, is about. With the story revolving around the main pivot of a young married couple in which Mahesh (Vinod Pandit) and Naashi (Deepti herself) try to cope with a marriage under strain, Thodasa Aasman sensitively explores human relationships, examining the ‘role playing’ in a stereotyped middle-class setup in the light of the dreams and ambitions of various characters. The husband comes through as a typical male chauvinist, even as the wife struggles to cope with the home and baby, without getting even a few words of appreciation as reward. At the end of this episode, a crisis point is reached as Naashi walks out suddenly in anger and tears leaving the man holding the baby.

It is an interesting beginning. Clearly; Deepti has put a lot of herself in it, writing, directing and acting and though she has an executive producer, major responsibilities of production and marketing are hers, too. She admits ruefully, “Obviously I would have loved it if someone else had volunteered to produce it for me.”