She carries so many mantles that it is difficult to imagine her without any one of them. An actress, poetess, painter, scriptwriter, serial director…and now a photographer.

Having acted in such meaningful films as Kamla, Ek Bar Phir, Ankahi, Andhi Gali, Panchvati and Mirch Masala, Deepti Naval has refused to be typecast in the clichéd roles of a Bollywood hero’s bhabhi or mother.

“I was always a bit self obsessed, but never an exhibitionist,” she says. Perhaps it is the same dislike for theatrics that now characterizes her low-key debut as a photographer. The pictures she shoots are going to be part of her first public e x h i b t i o n appropriately titled In Search of Another Sky.

The exhibition opened at Gallery Espace, New Friends Colony, on Monday. This will be followed by a second exhibition at Piramal Gallery in Mumbai.

Over 40 frames will be on display, clicked at various locations in Ladakh, during the actress’s visit there in January-February this winter. Each mounted frame is pegged between Rs 6000 and Rs 9000.

Asked what In Search of Another Sky means, she says, “It means looking for a new experience. Another space…”Which is reflected in her photographs too. The images that she has captured are stark, sharp though clothed in very muted tones.

Though most of these are abstract, there are a few with some human elements. However, these too blend with the surroundings, and the effect is startling.

The locale is some untrampled, virgin spots in Ladakh.

“I was intrigued by the winter texture of Ladakh It is so bare. There is something magical and out worldly about it that draws me to it,” she says.
“I look for poetry in my frames.”

Does it mean she just goes for aesthetics – a pictorial quality – or does her work also convey some kind of an inner equilibrium, a deeper meaning?

“I don’t shoot with any pre-empted theme. I haven’t gone hunting for these images. I try and look hard for a certain poetic quality in life.If I find it, the philosophy becomes part of the composition,” she explains, pointing to the picture of a frozen vessel - a pot on fire, but it is covered with snow. She shot that in the compound of the house where she stayed with a Ladakhi family. “At one glance, it’s just a vessel. But, if you look closer you will find much more there...” she muses.

Are there any autobiographical elements in her photographs?

“Yes, there are.

Why is her work so melancholic?

“Don’t ask me why because I won’t be able to answer it,” she reflects. Fine, but, does her interest in photography means she has finally retired from films? “No" she laughs. "Not at all!. If I get a role that turns me on, I will accept it. Otherwise I am happy without work.,” she says. Then what is photography? Just a stop-gap pursuit?

“I was always interested in photography. I did my three semesters in it, during my graduation days in New York. Only, I got too busy with my film career afterwards to seriously pursue it. After all, every art is an extension if an artist’s personality,” she says.

In her own honest appraisal, how would she rate her photography skills? “I would say these are rather good for my first attempt,” she says with a nervous laugh.

Has she come a full circle, or is there anything after photography? “I don’t know that yet. I have never planned anything in my life. Maybe, I will direct movies. Maybe, I will just go in search of another sky. Who can say…”