MID DAY - FEB 1, 2003

On the move
I HAVE A ZEST FOR LIFE: Deepti Naval in Freaky Chakra

Featuring in four
films over a short
Span of time,
Deepti Naval is
back in news

Mayank Shekhar

IT MIGHT seem an anomaly of sorts that an actress proverbially well past her prime has publicists of three films haranguing the phone lines of this paper’s office to get her interview done. Each caller offering the same selling point to this tete-a-tete, “You can ask her where she’s been all these years.
And as we sit comfortably in a plush Versova apartment that has a canvas with an easel placed at a corner, three line poems etched on a glass wall and a “40-plus” doe-eyed Deepti on the other side of the table, we realise she’s quite prepared for this chat. And for the obvious question.
“For the last seven to eight years I’d been traveling. Half-a-year in the US, a few months in Himachal, Ladakh……Mumbai would be a transit point where I’d come and meet my close friends and then go back.” Go back to her painting (she’s had exhibitions across the country), writing (a poetry compilation is expected in a few months), traveling, introspecting….
Whereas an actor is expressly an extroverted entity, a painter or writer is supposed to be just the opposite. How does she cope with her contrary sides? “I have a zest for life but at the same time I get into a shell at times, when you can’t even tell it’s me!” That reeks of schizophrenia, has she consulted a doc yet? We jocularly prod. And the face lights up to a howl of laughter, the familiar demeanour of the subtle comedies of the 80’s (Chashme Buddoor and Katha). Age certainly hasn’t withered one bit of that charm.
So, what made her leave tinsel town one fine morning, about a decade ago? “I ran away from clichéd bhabhi and maa roles. Whenever a filmmaker would call me to say, ‘I have a part that’ll suit you,’ I’d get scared.” Which is why she immediately lapped on, when V K Prakash, the director of the English film Freaky Chakra called her to say, “This is a role people cannot conceive you in.” A high strung, irritable Mrs. Thomas, a widow who later falls in love with her teenaged paying guest. “Mrs. Thomas isn’t a regular Mrs. Thomas who wears a frock or a cross around her neck. The director wasn’t sure I could do this role, neither was I. That was the challenge.”
Naval’s challenge now is to learn Marathi as she is off to shoot for Amol Palekar’s period drama Anaahat. “My co-actors Anant Nag and Sonali Bendre are both Marathi-speaking. I’ll have to pick up the nuances of the language on the sets.”
After Somnath Sen’s Leela, Raj Basu’s Wings of Hope (a film she’d rather “not talk about”), that’s four films in a rather short span with Naval in sumptuously lengthy roles. This is possibly her second phase as an actor, a fresh twist to the new wave movement that “pitifully dissipated because of various reasons…….It’s nice to be working as an actor.”
So would the self-admitted bohemian again wake up on the wrong side of the bed one day and head away from it all? “You never know,” she whispers after a long pause. “But I am still committed to good work. Freaky Chakra was the first different role. It could be the last.” Perhaps not, for this is no Sunset Boulevard reenactment here. This naval fleet looks raring to face the camera on her own terms and is getting opportunities.