Write ups



Her dreams look for the real thing, and her reality chases a dream. Deepti Naval, the actress who questioned the norms of cinema for over two decades, released her first book of poems that are pensive yet tranquil, surreal yet true to life. “They’re just like me: full of contradictions, ” she tells ARCHANA JAYAKUMAR


It will be too late – you will
Die of it!

This thing that sleeps with
Night after night, like
An aging wanton woman,
Spent, but not quite spent –

And she waits for you to
Dump her, in some dark
Corner…. yet follows you,
Drunken whore !

Like the lull after a storm, her defiant words symbolise the triumph of the vanquished. Like the masochistic pleasure sought in self-destruction, her haunting symphonies are pensive yet tranquil, surreal yet true to life. Deepti Naval’s first book of poems in English titled Black Wind and Other Poems was recently released in Mumbai. It shatters all preconceived notions you would harbour about a Bollywood actress.

Having essayed not-conformist roles in a career spanning two decades, Deepti’s reflections find equally articulate expression in her paintings, self-portraits, photography and writing. “But cinema has always been my first love. I had decided I was going to be an actress when I was seven,” recounts the Amritsar-born artist, who moved to New York to major in art and to study photography. “My parents would’ve had a fit if they knew about my passion for acting,” she laughs.

Deepti arrived in Mumbai in the early 1980s with a desire to work with the likes of Shyam Benegal, Sai Paranjpye, Gulzar and Basu Bhattacharya. After some “wonderful films”, Deepti found herself disgusted at “pathetic” projects that she was offered. “When I have other cerebral inclinations, why should I associate myself with such films?” she queries, weighing her words carefully. That’s when she tried her hand at verse, and soon published a book of poems in Hindi Lamha-Lamha. “The experiences that I’d survived found expression in my work. Sometimes it takes you an age to come to terms with turbulent phases you go through, and actually write about them, ” reflects Deepti , admitting that it’s difficult to “make myself vulnerable to the reader who gets a clear insight into my mind ”. But the belief in the universality of emotions gave her the courage to get published.

Transporting reality into the world of the “so-called insane” is the second section of the book titled The Silent Scream. “I’d spent a couple of weeks in an asylum to study the mentally unstable for Amol Palekar’s Ankahi”. Deepti was so drawn into their world that she “bled” poignant poems (as lyricist Gulzar put it) such as The Stench of Sanity and Goddess. “There are no ‘should do’s” in their world . No masks, no facades. It made me wonder who is really sane……” she wistfully remarks. These intimate encounters also found their way into a script she wrote, which hasn’t been translated onto celluloid yet. “It’s too dark. Maybe, I’ll turn it into a novel some day,” remarks Deepti.

She counts off Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, Garcia Lorca, Vikram Seth and Arundhati Roy among her favourites, pointing to a few of their works that lie around in her Andheri home. Almost austere, the only splash of life is added by her larger-than-life paintings and self-portraits, especially the one titled Contradiction from her 1993 show Reflections. I tried to portray the classic conflict, the contradictions that one is so full of. It’s ironic that we so carefully create a self image, and then go right out and destroy it to shreds, surprising even ourselves…..”