Actor Deepti Naval: I didn’t go to an acting school, but I was cut out to be an actor
“I didn’t go to an acting school, but acting was the first thing that came to my mind [as a career option]… I was cut out to be an actor,” says veteran actor Deepti Naval, known for cerebral, slice-of-life films such as Chashme Buddoor (1981) and Saath Saath (1982). Naval was in the Capital to attend a retrospective on her films at Daulat Ram College, Delhi University. Here, she interacted with the students, discussed films, acting and her writings.
‘Acting was the first thing that obsessed me’
Last seen in a brief cameo in Lion (2016), the actor reflects on her early affiliations with acting and cinema. “Acting was the first thing that obsessed me when I was 8-9 years old. I was very introverted as a child and as an adult. But something inside told me that I needed to express myself, and it would be on the big screen.” In 1978,she made her debut with Shyam Benegal’s film Junoon. And within a few years, she came to be known as a powerful actor.
However, things have changed drastically since the time she started out, and the “competition is far too much,” says Naval. “Things were also simpler then [in that there was] something more naive and innocent about life. [For instance,] casting agents didn’t exist earlier. We just went and met a director. So many youngsters come and get heartbroken [nowadays]. But on the other hand, there’s a room for lot more now. There’s also web series and Netflix.”
‘Heartening experience at Daulat Ram College’
The Film and Photography Society of the college recently organised a film festival to celebrate the work of the actor, screening her films ‘Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish’ (2009) and ‘Listen..Amaya’ (2013), among others. The reason that the society organised the fest, says, Monica Prabhakar, convenor of the society, is: “Today’s generation is not aware of her brilliant work in art and commercial cinema. So, we did not just cover one aspect of her life, but touched upon other facets of her life, too —painter, poet, story writer and director.”
Naval “thoroughly enjoyed” the event. “We had a retrospective of my films and an interactive session. I thoroughly enjoyed myself with the girls [as] I was there for two full days. It was a heartening experience to spend that much time with the youngsters; to be able to convey to them what you’ve lived and experienced. They [students] were very receptive and talked about my paintings and writings,” says Naval.
‘Identified with playing a writer’
Deeply reflective in both personal and professional life, Naval has to her credit, an impressive body of work spanning poetry (Lamha Lamha -a Hindi poetry collection; and Black Wind and Other Poems) and short stories (a collection The Mad Tibetan). “I love writing. It is the closest thing to me after being an actor. [With writing] you are able to deal with so many other aspects of yourself that don’t get dealt with, otherwise. My next book is autobiographical, something personal, like a memoir. I will be letting it all out now because it’s been lying with me for far too long,” she shares, adding that she loves reading about lives, especially those in the limelight. “Autobiographies give you the picture of the person behind the image on screen, because that’s never really you.”
‘Identified with playing a writer’
Naval made her theatre debut in 2015, when she played author and poet Amrita Pritam on the stage, in the play Ek Mulaqat, which was also staged in the Capital, in February. “I’m glad I got this as my first experience of theatre where I got a chance to play Amrita Pritam, whom I knew personally and admired as a person and writer. I identified with playing a writer and liked how from one spoken words to the next, it keeps unfolding. Before (author and writer) Imroz sahib came in to her life, she had a huge fascination for (poet) Sahir Ludhianvi. She loved his poetry. [The play explores] the equation between the two (Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhianvi), which we go on to explore, talk about their own life, and question the other person’s life and choices,” she says.
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