Having delivered numerous critically acclaimed films over the years — including Chashme Buddoor (1981), Saath Saath (1982) and Katha (1983) — veteran actors Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval are undoubtedly one of Bollywood’s most successful on-screen couples. And now, 27 years after they were last paired in the film Rang Birangi (1983), the duo will reunite for debutant director Avinash Singh’s Listen...Amaya (LA). They talk to us about their camaraderie, careers and more.
How did it feel to come back together after 27 years?
Farooque Shaikh: We have been in touch over the years. Deeptiji and I have had a long history of work together and it’s been a happy journey — at least for me. I don’t know what she feels about it.
Deepti Naval: (smiles) Yes, we keep running into each other.
FS: We have common friends and chat on and off. Even if we meet after a gap, we pick up the conversation from where we left off. But yes, we haven’t worked together in all these years in a proper film with key roles.
Was having a known co-star also a factor in doing this film?
DN: Yes, when they told me that Farooquesaab was in the film, I agreed too. It was one of the three factors for doing the film, the other two
were the script and the makers.
FS: It is important to share a certain comfort level with your co-actor. You get more confident which, in turn, results in an outstanding performance. Neither she nor I are known to do 200 films. I have been in the industry for 40 years and have done about 35 odd films. After LA, they are threatening to release another one of my films, Club 60, with Sarikaji. I think it will be too much for the audiences to have two Farooque Shaikh films in the same year.
Did you miss the limelight when you aren’t doing films?
FS: (laughs) Though she’s an exceptionally gifted actress, she has 10,000 other things to do in life.
DN: (laughs) I didn’t miss the limelight. I was happy doing my kind of cinema. It was never glamour-driven. I worked with down-to-earth people like Sai Paranjpye
and Hrishikesh Mukherjee and you didn’t feel like you were from that part of the industry which was glamour-struck. I was never part of it, so...
FS: I feel appearing on screen is just one kind of limelight. She writes poetry and prose, she made time for promotions of LA and didn’t go the Jaipur Literature Festival where she’s regularly invited. She travels, paints, talks to me on the phone.
DN: He reads books all the time. Farooque is buried in a book when there’s time between shots. It’s difficult to get his attention.
FS: I pretend to be busy. I hope people think I am an educated man.
DN: He’s also a big foodie.
FS: I have to be one as she hardly eats. I have to eat twice as much.
Who do you think are the Farooque-Deepti of today?
FS: There’s no need for the next Farooque-Deepti; we are still here. Why do you need another? Come back to us after 50 years and we will talk to you from heaven.
What do you remember of the times that you worked together?
FS: My first film with Deeptiji was Chashme Buddoor (CB) and when she came on set, we knew there was an attractive lady from New York who wanted to do cinema. The parallel cinema movement was just about starting then. Smitaji (Patil), Shabanaji (Azmi), Naseersaab (Naseeruddin Shah), Omsaab (Puri) and others were doing films then. Rakesh Bedi, Ravi Baswani saab, god bless him, Saeed Jaffery saab were some of our common friends. All of us in CB were reasonably fresh. It was a fun unit. We went to Delhi for two months in winter, though we were expected to wrap up the shoot in one.
DN: While shooting CB, we didn’t even realise what we were making would be remembered as a cult film from the ’80s. We had a lot of fun shooting, enjoying the day and doing some good work. I never thought much about the acting bit, I would follow my instinct and give the take without worrying about the end result.
FS: Now CB is being remade. If David (Dhawan, director) makes a film that matches what Sai Paranjpye (original director) made, then he’ll have a good film to his
credit. He knows his craft and is a senior filmmaker with a lot of experience. But what’s crucial to the film is its script. Remakes are an opportunity and a challenge at the same time. People remember what the original was, which makes it a challenge.
Which of the current films do you think represent good cinema?
FS: There’s a bright new audience that has come in and a new set of filmmakers too. Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006), Vicky Donor (2012), and Pakistani films like Bol (2011) and Khuda Kay Liye (2007) were very interesting. It’s a good time to be an actor right now.
DN: Kahaani and Vicky Donor which came out last year, were big surprises. I also admire filmmakers like Avinash and Geeta who have explored a sensitive topic like middle age romance.
FS: Today’s audience understands that there is no age for love. It’s a feeling that one can have at any age.
If a senior person feels joy, anger, depression, it’s fine; but when they feel love, it frowned upon. How is it different from other emotions? The film is a story for all generations. Some people will like it and while some may not, it’ll stay with them even after they leave the theatre.
DN: The film is more about finding compatibility and companionship with someone at this age. Someone you share a comfort zone with, someone you can relate to.