August 24, 2002 
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Deepti Naval
'I was keen to come back'
Deepti Naval on her films, Freaky Chakra and Shakti

Vickey Lalwani

Deepti Naval makes a comeback on the big screen in India with Boney Kapoor's Shakti -- The Power and Trends Films' Freaky Chakra.

The actress, meanwhile, had done some Indian television shows --- Thoda Sa Aasman (as director-cum-actress) and Tanav (in the lead role). She has also travelled, indulged in painting and photography, written poems, and has involved herself in social work.

Her exhibition, In Search Of Another Sky at the Nehru Centre, London, raised funds for The Consortium For Street Children. Founded in 1993, the charity is a network of development agencies providing training, technical and campaigning support to projects for children who live and work on the streets of the developing countries and in Eastern Europe. The exhibition was presented by Surina Narula, the charity's co-chairman and trustee, and attended by a host of British Asian celebrities and public figures, including filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, wife Suchitra and Baroness Shreela Flather.

Two years ago, Deepti suffered a personal loss when her fiance Vinod Pandit (classical music vocalist Pandit Jasraj's nephew), expired. Deepti and Vinod had worked together in Thoda Sa Aasman.

"I do not mind doing art films like [Nagesh Kukunoor's] Hyderabad Blues and [Kaizad Gustad's] Bombay Boys. But I don't want to do the typical mother roles," says Deepti in her tastefully decorated terrace flat in Andheri (a Mumbai suburb).

"Yes, I play Sanjay Kapoor's mother [in Shakti]," she confirms. "But I do not want to play the typical mother roles --- wearing a white wig, being a doormat, with a pallav on my head always. I am yearning to play roles which show a woman in her middle age --- this is when she stands up for her physical, mental and financial needs. Why does the film industry have most roles for youngsters and oldies only?"

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The actress elaborates on her role in Shakti, which hits the marquee September 20. "The film's subject is strongly woman-oriented, something that has always been close to my heart. I am confident about its commercial prospects. I was very comfortable playing Nana Patekar's wife. So what if we were romantically involved at one time? Today, we are great friends. I am very friendly with even my ex-husband [filmmaker] Prakash Jha . Besides, let me clarify that Nana is not a problematic actor as he is made out to be. At times, he gets over involved with a project. Many actors are like that. That should be seen as commitment and passion, not interference," she remarks.

Deepti Naval in Wings Of Hope She is all praise for Boney Kapoor. "I was very well looked after. I shot for the film after I had suffered a major accident. I was driving down from Pathankot, Punjab, after a sojourn to the Himalayas when a dog appeared in front of my car. I swerved and crashed into a tree. My knees were smashed and I had to undergo 16 stitches in my mouth. They really hurt when I laughed and the unit would rag me about how I had invented a new kind of smile," she reveals.

Among her recent roles was as a social worker in director Jagmohan Mundra's Bawandar, Deepti says, "I enjoyed doing that role. To be honest, Jagmohan is a friend and he created that role for me. I was keen to come back. What better way to make a comeback than through a friend?"

Deepti is proud of the recent surgence of South Asian films being brought into the mainstream, especially writer/director Somnath Sen's Leela. The film debuted at the Reel World Film Festival, Toronto, and stars Dimple Kapadia, Vinod Khanna and Deepti. "The film may not be a formula film, but this is the cinema of today," says Deepti. "I am overwhelmed by the subject and treatment of the film. It propagates meaningful issues such as divorce, infidelity, sexual awakening and generation gap.

"Dimple is a liberal college professor from India who has an open marriage to a womanising poet (Vinod Khanna). Then there is Krishna (newcomer Amol Mhatre), who has completely turned away from his Indian self and is considered the ethnic novelty among his friends, who affectionately refer to him as Gandhi. Krishna's mother Chaitali (me), is dealing with her own self-esteem, as her husband Jai (Gulshan Grover) settles into a new marriage to a blonde woman Jennifer. Each character has some sort of personal hurdle to overcome before he/she gets comfortable in his/her own skin --- both emotionally and physically."

She has worked in Raj Basu's Wings Of Hope, and will also be seen in V K Prakash's Hinglish Freaky Chakra. This film is likely to be released this Diwali. "Shooting for this film was a picnic. It is a very bold and unusual role, something I have not played before. It is about an unpopular middle-aged woman who suddenly discovers a new meaning to life when a young boy (Sunil Raoh) enters her life. There are a few steamy scenes between the two of us, but I was comfortable this time unlike the time when I did Vinod Pande's Ek Bar Phir (1979).

Deepti was never short of work in her long absence. "I had many offers," she says. "My absence was out of choice. At some point, I realised I was doing many films but wasn't getting any satisfaction. My roles in Subash Ghai's Saudagar (1991) and Feroz Khan's Yalgaar (1992) in particular, put me off completely. But I must say I really appreciate today's heroines for their clarity of thought and hard work. And they all seem to have perfected the art of dancing," she concludes.


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