February 8, 2001,
The art of being Deepti Naval
The art of being Deepti Naval
SHE too should have passed into the era of the middle ages like most of her contemporaries in the late seventies and the early eighties. But Deepti Naval still manages to look as stunning as she did a decade ago. She’s displayed an uncanny resilience of staying on the bright side of the arclights.
First her entry into the world of TV serials as the director-lead star of Thodasa Aasman and a lead in the 104-part Tanav, the first megaserial on AIDS. And then, a complete re-invention as poetess, photographer, part-time actress and director.
"I didn’t want to end up wearing white wigs and doing mother roles", says Deepti, still looking stunning as she enters her 40th decade. Her latest manifestation is that of a high-profile model. She recently did an assignment for a jewellery house, Art Karat and looked resplendent in the semi-precious ornaments she adorned.
The ‘white wigs’ allegory perhaps has something to do with her role in Subhash Ghai’s Saudagar where she played the mother of Vivek Mushran. After the movie she was flooded with maternal roles that she rejected outright.
Not that she’s given up films either. But she’s very selective about the kind of work she wants to do. "There’s a lot of trash being churned out in Bollywood", says Deepti. And she should know considering she was the member of the Censor Board’s revising committee, "where I had to watch a whole lot of rubbish films". But, she adds, "Movies like Hyderabad Blues and Bombay Boys give me a lot of hope as well. I wouldn’t mind doing such films".
Like the kind of role she recently did in America-based director Jagmohan Mundra’s Bawandar, the real-life story of a potter woman who was allegedly gang-raped in her native village in Rajasthan in 1992 and has been fighting for her rights since then.
The film revolves around Sawri Devi (Nandita Das) and her rickshaw-puller husband, Sohan (Raghuvir Yadav) who is approached by a social worker, Shobha Devi (Deepti Naval) to wean people away from child marriage. Sawri Devi takes up the cause with gusto but the villagers are so enraged that a few of them get together and rape her in full sight of her husband.
Shobha decides to fight for Sawri Devi and creates a nationwide sensation. She even helps her get Rs 1 lakh from the Prime Minister’s fund and though Sawri Devi loses her case in a lower court, she decides to join hands with Shobha in her crusade against child marriage.
"This is the kind of meaningful role which is close to my heart", says Deepti who did a role similar to that of Sawri Devi in the eighties art movie, Kamla where she played the role of a villager who was sold to a journalist by a flesh trader.
It is art in any form that excites Deepti.In 1996, she did a series of stunning paintings that created a stir in the art world. In 1997, she wrote a book of poems,Lamhey Lamhey that was spoken of highly in literary circles.
In 1998, she picked up a Tata Sumo and drove to Ladakh where she did a series of pictures of landscapes. The resultant photo exhibition titled In Search of Another Sky, had the glitterati and art circles swooning over her camera work. It wasn’t the stuff which coffee table books are made of. Instead it was breath-taking landscapes and haunting abstract images of Ladakh in winter.
"I do not like to confine myself to any single creative medium", says Deepti who has been re-defining herself year after year ever since she put stardom on the back burner.
In fact, even during her heyday in films, Deepti was never bedazzled by Bollywood. Despite having the looks and talent to reach the top-of-the-pile of commercial cinema, she rejected roles if they didn’t suit her.
Born in Amritsar, she studied in Sacred Heart Convent, and then went to Palampur, in Himachal Pradesh where she completed her schooling. Later her family migrated to New York, from where she graduated in art. Which explains why she says she is "half Punjabi", half-Pahadi and half New Yorker".
Back in 1979, it was a lure of serious cinema that brought Deepti to Mumbai fromNew York. "I came to India with a purpose. And that purpose was to do films with substance", says she. And true to her word, she began selecting roles that were not mainstream.
First came Sai Paranjpai’s Chashme Baddoor opposite Farooq Sheikh, which was a runaway hit despite being dubbed as alternate cinema. Having established herself in her first film, she went on to win critical acclaim for films like Katha, Kamala, Mirch Masala and Ankahi and became the top parallel film actress along with Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil.
But with meaningful roles drying up in the nineties, Deepti turned to other avenues of art. She says, "There was always this need to express myself, whether it was painting or poetry or photography. But foremost I am still an actress."
She may have missed out to Madhuri Dixit for the lead role in former husband Prakash Jha’s Mrityudand, but Deepti doesn’t show any regrets and says she’s happy doing what she is doing — art, poetry, photography and special modelling. But what about acting? The answer is quick: "Whenever I am seduced by a good role, I’ll pick it up at once".
No favour this
IT’s a survey which has confounded most Hollywood watchers. In the usually authoritative Tarter poll of Hollywood’s Top-10, some of the all time favourites like John Travolta, Keanu Reeves, Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and Bruce Willis have gone missing.
Leading the hot pack is Clint Eastwood who has replaced John Wayne as the all-time favourite hero. Wayne who’d beating everyone for the coveted spot since his death in 1979, has been finally pipped to the post by Eastwood and is down to No. 2.
And now the surprise. The third place, for some inexplicable reason goes to Steven Seagal. Inexplicable because he’s neither had a huge hit nor a memorable role for a long time now.
The fourth place is occupied by Mel Gibson and there’s a tie for the fifth between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise. Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Kevin Costner, Sylvester Stallone and Paul Newman follow in the next five positions in that order. The first woman to feature in the list is Demi Moore, a poor 14th.
The results have cast a shadow of doubt on the quality of sampling in such polls. Fans are now wondering whether to blindly believe these polls or take them with a pinch of salt.
Rolling no more
Poor Mick Jagger. Just when the ageing rocker was about to make his big-time splash on the silver screen, the project ran into financial trouble. Slated to play a Terminator-like villain, Jagger was asked by his producers to dip into his multi-billion fortune to bail out the film. The pop star balked at last moment as his lawyers informed him that ex-lover Marianne Faithfull was threatening to write a kiss-and-tell book and her price for keeping her mouth shut was a cool $500,000!
It was a scare of the ladies kind. When Barbra Streisand spotted Betty Midler walking in wearing a leafy-green dress which was exactly the colour she was wearing at a Paramount party recently, she panicked. Barbra immediately sent an attendant dashing back to her house. Sometime later he was seen bringing her a broad brown belt and a brown shawl that she quickly slipped on. Though Barbra looked completed different in her new add-ons, she was careful to avoid Betty for the whole evening. And according to a gossip, Betty too kept a discreet distance.
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