Deepti Naval: This new generation doesn't know me
When I interviewed Farooque Shaikh about his new film with Deepti Naval called Listen...Ameya, he was all in praise of his co-star, even calling her one of the most underrated actresses of her time.
He's right, of course.
Deepti Naval has given us some beautiful and very natural performances in films like Katha, Chashme Buddoor, Angoor, Saath Saath, Rang Birangi and the recent Firaaq.
The ever friendly actress, Deepti spoke at length about her new film, her former husband filmmaker Prakash Jha, and how she likes to spend her free time.
What attracted you to Listen... Amaya?
This film explores the relationship and thought process of the younger generation vis-a-vis the middle-aged.
The younger generation always feels that their parents have lived their life and now they should only take care of their kids. The film addresses this topic.
Does life end after crossing 50? Can one look for happiness and find a second chance once again in life? The film also sees the need for companionship in middle aged people and is it necessary to fulfill it?
The film is about a mother and daughter relationship where the daughter is very much involved in her father's memory and so it is difficult for her to understand that her mother is moving ahead in life and trying to give place to some other man in her life. The girl is struggling to come to terms with this.
It is a very relatable story; there are so many people who are single in life and do need companions.
Image: Deepti Naval in Listen Amaya
'It is not a sexual need; it is the need for a companion'
Do you know anyone who has faced this problem? In India it is difficult to imagine an elderly couple in love.
Yes, in India it is taboo. People think "Log kya kahenge" all the time; what will people think if I really look out for a companion at this age, how will it look in society?
It is not a sexual need; it is the need for a companion, someone to have around you to whom you can say 'See how this is?' You need to address someone, to share your thoughts with someone.
I think now we are opening up, at least in metro cities. I know many people who are getting behind their parent asking him/her to find a companion and get off their back!
Also, if a man is a widower or a divorcee, he immediately looks around for a companion again, but women are still in a dilemma. If someone suggests it, they will often reject it, even get offended.
Have you ever thought of 'Log kya kahenge'?
Yes, it used to come to mind but I have got over it. I think independently and ask myself whether I will be able to live with my decision, will I be happy or will I be cursing myself for either choosing to go with it or not to go with it.
I have taken all my decisions independently because I am a fiercely independent woman. I am different from my screen image.
I am a free spirit and I would like to redefine everything myself.
Image: Deepti Naval and Farooque Shaikh in Listen Amaya
'I am not completely fearless'
Did you have to bear the consequences of your decision?
I am not completely fearless. I gauge the situation and then decide. But I am fearless enough to go against the tide and pay the price for it.
Nobody in my family or extended family ever taunted me or has given me a hard time. I have always been appreciated and encouraged for my decisions.
People who don't matter to me, I don't care what they think about me. What matters to me are my friends, my immediate family. What my mother says to me matters to me so I have to convince her. May be she will be pained by my decision for some time but when she understands, she agrees with my decision and even appreciates it later.
The choices that you make in your life keep changing, like the decision I took when I was 20. If I re-evaluate that when I am 50 now, I think my view point will not be the same.
I will talk very frankly about my marriage to Prakash Jha. We never fought, there was no bitterness, and we parted because our ways were different. He went to Delhi and I was in Mumbai and slowly we drifted apart. There was nothing we were sharing. Our lives were different so there was no point in that one paper saying that we are married to each other and that holds us together. So we divorced.
At my age now I sometimes sit back and think and re-evaluate my decision. I think if I had given some time for this relationship to build up, or if I had adjusted a bit rather than saying my life is in Mumbai and I have come here to act, then this would not have happened.
But the value you realise later in life. He was a nice man, he was a capable man. If I had put in more effort it would have worked. But that understanding was not there at that time. At that time, the decision was right. You won't grow in life if you sit with just one view point.
Image: Deepti Naval and Swara Bhaskar in Listen Amaya
'I have to enjoy the work I do, I am single, I have lived alone for 10 years'
You are an actress... you are broad minded...
I chose the profession of acting which not many chose in those days. Today everybody wants to be an actress. Society is more open today, but when I came from America to act in films, my mother said nobody knows us in Mumbai, the filmy world is bad and people are also bad.
I told her you have educated us so much and given us good values, now is the time we implement it and use it and you want to protect us, want us to sit at home. If I am to work in a field which has all types of people, then I will use my values and choose the proper people to work with, and what type of films to work in.
Today, my mother is very proud of me and the type of work that I have done and the cinema that I have chosen. She is happy that I did not just stand in front of the camera and move my hips. I have lived up to their expectation.
Do you think you have achieved a lot in your field?
I have not achieved what I was capable of. I could have achieved far more, I was very choosy and I kept on saying no to too many films. When my colleagues have done 250 to 300 films, I have just done 60 to 70 films.
The chunk of my life which could have been utilised for doing very important work in cinema I did not do because I did not like the roles then.
If I hade got good offers, whether for commercial films or art films, if they were inspiring roles I would have done them. In Hindi cinema we waste good artists sometimes
As far as my life is concerned, I am happy I am not searching for anything in life. I just want to do work and grow spiritually and I have to keep myself content. I have to enjoy the work I do, I am single, I have lived alone for 10 years, my daughter is 23 now but I am happy being in my own company.
Image: Deepti Naval, Swara Bhaskar, Farooque Shaikh in Listen Amaya
'I earned love from the public because of the work that I did'
You have travelled a lot...
I am a major traveller. I am a committed trekker. When I was in my 30s and 40s I would just take my car and drive away from here, go to Delhi in two days and from there three days to Ladakh and from there I would start trekking.
I was a star at that time and people knew my face. This new generation doesn't know me. They haven't seen my Chasme Buddoor, Katha and Rang Birangi. People who knew me would help me when I was alone and they would be excited to see me. I earned that love from the public because of the work that I did.
Today, I'm not that confident as people don't know me. I would be treated like any other woman travelling alone, so I would not take the risk. Girls mail me and sometimes call me and say, 'ma'am, you did all these treks alone, why can't we go?'
I tell them that times have changed and I was a known face then. The chances that I could take they can't. Luckily, there was no mishap. But you have to make sure to look to your safety and then you can go for any trek that you want.
What do you do in your free time?
I have lots of free time. My last film was Firaaq with Nandita Das. Before that was Leela and Freaky Chakra. I am just doing one film a year which wraps up in 40 days.
I use my free time in my creative pursuits. In the last ten years I have written two books, one short story, The Mad Tibetan: Stories from then and now and one book of poems, Black Wind.
I always do something or the other so I have been advised to go easy to look after my health. I also paint and I am going to have a painting exhibition by this monsoon season and I am working towards it.
Image: Deepti Naval in Listen Amaya
'Farooque and I did not get very good scripts like this one where we both could work together'
You are working with Farooque Shaikh after a long time. How does it feel?
I must have felt that we are working after a long time for just a day or two. After that, it never felt that we were working together after 25-30 years.
We did work recently with Hema Malini (Tell Me O KKhuda) but there were very few scenes together and the script was not demanding. I think after Saath Sath, this is our first proper film together. I really don't know why we took so long; I think we did not get very good scripts like this one where we both could work together.
In fact, I was not aware that Farooque was in Listen Amaya. I said yes because I loved my role in the film. I liked my character who loved her daughter and cared for her and did not try to ride over her daughter's happiness. She is first a mother.
If you were younger what kind of role would you like to do?
If I was 20 years younger, I would like to do Kahaani obviously as it's a woman-centric film, sensible, has no masala, is gripping and well executed.
What are your forthcoming films?
I have just finished shooting for a Shekhar Suman film. He is directing a film for the first time. It will star Adhyaan Suman, and it's a medical thriller.
Image: Swara Bhaskar, Deepti Naval, Farooque Shaikh