By Manuwant K. Choudhary

THE film actress who shot into fame through her film Ek Baar Phir is once again in the limelight. From art films to art itself, Ms. Naval has come a long way.

“Ek Baar Phir” remains my favourite film till date. I played the wife of a Hindi film star who accompanies her husband to London to attend a premier and falls in love with an Indian painter who is a struggling roadside artist. She leaves her husband and stays back,” says Ms. Naval.

Affiliated with art cinema in a very big way, films like Kamla, Ankahi, Mirch Masala, Main Zinda Hoon, Didi, Panchvati are the films where she has played prominent roles.

Ms. Deepti Naval has worked for most serious film-makers including Sudhir Mishra, Saeed Mirza, Prakash Jha and others. While she has even enjoyed doing roles in commercial films like Chashme Baddoor.

“Cinema was my first fascination but I graduated with painting as my major from Hunter College in Manhattan affiliated to the City University of New York,” says Ms. Naval. But Deepti Naval was drawing and painting ever since she was a child. Before migrating to New York she studied at the Sacred Heart Convent in Amritsar.

“There was talk about painting and literature ever since I was little. My father is a professor of the English Language In New York while my mother is a painter.

“Acting is ingrained in me and I don’t think I will EVER be able to give it up. And so is painting because it has come back on its own in its natural course. It is exciting to be able to do more than one thing,” says Ms. Naval.

Having time and again watched the re-runs of old Hindi films in a theatre in Amritsar, Deepti Naval always knew what the future had in store for her. She says, “Initially, my choice of pursuing films as a career did give my parents jitters. My father was keen that I pursue painting as a career in New York and go to Paris later.” But Deepti left a promising future in New York and returned to Bombay to work at her dreams.

“Fortunately, parallel cinema already existed in India and filled the vacuum created by the absence of Guru Dutt’s and Bimal Roy’s films,” she says.

Having contributed to the world of Hindi cinema, Ms. Naval decided to work at her other dream – painting. Finding time between shootings for her various films, in the last three or four years she has managed to complete almost thirty-five canvases which are currently being exhibited.
What inspires her to paint?

“Cinema was my first
fascination but I
graduated with
painting as my major subject
from Hunter College
of the City University of New York”

She says, “It can be anything from an introspective mood to a sense of exuberance. It can be something that touches you deeply or some idea that has been hovering for a long time. You paint from whatever you imbibe from life around you - when you are feeling high and sometimes when you are feeling low and it all reflects.”

The exhibition is rightly called Reflections and it includes some of her poetry as well. She says, “Poetry is an extension of paintings while the paintings are an extension of life itself.” The paintings have simple titles like Hunts, Nuns, etc. There are only two paintings whose titles are not so simple. One is called Black Wind while the other, a man-woman portrait, is called The Aftermath. Don’t miss it.

“I like doing portraits, figurative and landscapes though I am not too keen on doing abstract painting,” she says. “Picasso is my favourite as he has been able to change peoples’ perceptions.”

Deepti Naval has a book of poetry in Hindi to her credit called Lamha Lamha. She is currently working on another one, this time in English. She is also directing and acting in a television serial called Thodasa Aasman.

Some of her paintings will be on sale. She says, “Selling is only a possibility. What I really look forward to is for people coming and seeing my works. And, maybe, I will be able to touch a chord somewhere.” The exhibitions are on till August 16 at the Jehangir Art Gallery.