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 in Ankahee.

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 and Begana.

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 balance.”

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.

Chashme Buddoor

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.

Rang Birangi

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!