MAR 8, 1995


DEEPTI Naval, actress, painter, poetess, and now director, traces her memories of growing up, and what makes a Deepti Naval.
When she was very young, about 12 or 13, Deepti, who was studying at Sacred Heart’s School in Amritsar, had decided that she wanted to be an actress. And if that didn’t work out, a nun. Why on earth, a nun you want to know? “Tha ek fascination,” she replies. “Nuns have always intrigued me. To give up normal life and devote themselves with a single mindedness of purpose towards their cause, seems such an intense thing to do. So I wanted to be a nun. I never ever thought I’d get married and have babies and lead a regular life in that sense.”

The whole family migrated to New York, and Deepti followed her education there. She graduated with painting as her major subject, and English Literature and Psychology as subsidiaries. In fact of her parents who are still in New York, her mother is a painter and her father teaches Language at the City University.
Only when she had finished her graduation, did she seriously get into acting. “When I was in New York, the one person I admired for her zest, and outlook on life was Jane Fonda. I think physical discipline is a great thing. To look good and feel fit and to do the best with your life and time is very important. And moreover, Jane Fonda is a very aware person, she’s involved in so many causes.”

Well our own Deepti’s no lesser. She works quietly with the AIDS Awareness foundation at JJ Hospital. Apparently, Sunil Dutt is also actively involved in AIDS awareness, and they’ve done bicycle rallies, promoting awareness amongst the ignorant people on the dangers of AIDS. Apart form which, Deepti used to work with the Spastic School in Bandra. But what with directing, and acting editing and keeping crazy schedules, she regrets the lack of time to go there too frequently now. So she’s planning to start working at Dilkhush School, at Juhu which is closer home.

But working with the mentally handicapped has always fired Deepti, and she’s writing about it now. “Even if I can’t physically put so much time into working with them directly, within my own spheres of work, I try and make my contribution, whether it’s a painting, or a story or a poem or even a script. I’m planning to do public service ads and messages for television too.”
“My parents have been instrumental in the kind of attitudes that I’ve developed. My mother was responsible for the flight of mind that I show in creativity, and dad has always been encouraging. He’s believed that being a female child should not stop you from doing anything in life, and achieving any goal for yourself. And I can say, I’ve done with my life pretty much what I’ve visualized for myself.”

“I’m constantly doing something or the other. And when I sit down for a moment, I feel I’m not doing something that I should be doing. I can’t just put my feet up and watch television and relax. For me, when I finish a piece of work, after long hours and I see a freshly created canvas, or a poem take shape and that I’ve managed to put across what my thoughts are, that’s when I experience a sense of deep satisfaction and I feel relaxed.”
Deepti’s book of Hindi poems has been published and her latest collection of poems in English, are in the process of pruning for publication.

ON WHAT’S happening in India today, (vis-à-vis aping the West, and attitudinal changes in society) Deepti has a lot to say. “It’s a jolt for Indian culture. There’s bound to be a ‘transition generation’ that will lose balance and get into extremes. Hopefully they should not suffer for it. But they probably will. It will shed a lot of inhibitions and facades will be broken. All this hoo haa business of society and culture, and double standards, all the present hypocrisy will go out, and there’ll be more openness. But it has its advantages as well as disadvantages.

It’ll be an uncomfortable phase, but the fallout one hopes will be more ‘real people’, and a slightly more relaxed people. No. Not slack and easy on attitudes and all. Just more honest. But the certain Indian sense of lihaaz and sharam the slight purdah, will also go. With everybody talking about everything, there’s possibly little enough stuff that’ll be left private, you know, sexual mores, and women’s issues and all that. But I suppose even that. But I suppose even that is better than a race of hypocrites.

I live day to day, like every today is the last day of my life. One spends so much time living in the past or in the hope of what’s to come, that you miss out on the essence of what is happening now. So I’ve learnt to give the maximum of me to what is happening around me, now. And to smile through the worst of situations. Sometimes you give so much to something and it doesn’t work out, So whether it’s a serial or a relationship, I’ve learnt to accept that well, sometimes in spite of your best efforts, things don’t work. So one doesn’t stop smiling.”

So here’s hoping for many more things from you Deepti; serials and films, poems and paintings and of course, those winsome, warm smiles of yours.