Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chasing dreams

My dreams
Look for
The real thing
And my
Chases a dream -- Deepti Naval

Nirupama Dutt

This Little poetic confession comes from the second known Bollywood actress who took to writing poetry. And it’s not just poetry for Deepti Naval. Apart from being a painter, this petite actress has recently made forays into photography. In Delhi for her first-ever exhibition of photographs at Gallery Espace, Deepti brings with her the rugged landscape of Ladakh. The wide open sky, the snowcapped mountains, the trees shorn of the last leaf, walls of stone, rounded mud wall of a remote monastery merging with the bare hilltop…. And occasionally, a winterscape peopled with women wrapped in shawls and smiles.
Her dreams have certainly chased the real thing. And the photographs speak of skill and poetry. These stark landscapes are in a way an extension not just of her own poetry, but also that of her celebrated predecessor, Meena Kumari. Their poems speak of their direct communion with nature and of their journey through life alone. For, it was Meena Kumari who had spoken of Chand tanha hai asman tanha, dil mila hai kahan kahan tanha (The moon is alone and so is the sky, where won’t you find a heart alone?)
`Aloneness’, and not `loneliness’, was very much a part of Deepti’s early poems, which she started penning while still in college in New York. These published in an anthology called Lamha Lamha (Moment to moment) a couple years after the young, starryyears Deepti made her debut in Ek Baar Phir. This pahhened a decade after Meena Kumari’s death in 1972.
Interestingly, not only were these two actresses a generation apart, but also a world apart. Meena Kumari belonged to an age when tragedy was what the audience liked and so, with her immense talent and classic beauty, she queened over it. She played the ideal of Indian womanhood, and sadly, martyrdom followed her in life and the only way out seemed to be alcohol. Deepti came from a background in which women were empowered. She had the girl-next door looks. And charm spilling over.
The points of difference between Meena Kumari and Deepti Naval are many, but the common factor remains poetry. Interestingly, both of them gravitated poetically towards Gulzar, in their search for a sensitive man. And Gulzar not only re-invented Meena Kumari’s image on screen in Mere Apne, but also edited and published her poems after she died, for she had left all her diaries with him. Gulzar also paid her a tribute on celluloid though a short film called Shaera.
Deepti, too, found favour. Grapevine had it that the poet character that Gulzar invented in his film ljazat was inspired by her. Yes, that lovely Maya, played by Anuradha Patel, who telegraphs her poems and died strangulated, Isadora Duncan-like. Deepti laughts away the resemblance, though: ``Not really. I am not as erratic as maya was. I just love doing a lot many things.
There’s no rule that says an actress cannot paint or photograph. ``I came from a strictly non-filmi family. Both my parents were academics. I majored in painting and that was the time I learnt photography, too. But then came films,’’ she says. ``It is not a tragedy for me not to be doing films. I can do tother things.’’
For some time now, Deepti has been writing poetry in English and has penned some sensitive poems on the women inmates at the Ranchi mental asylum, which she visited to work on a script. ``Life has not been the same after that. I was so moved by the women and their histories.’ ’She says. The tentative title for her book is Living On The Edge.
On the personal front, Deepti has found a meaningful relationship with Vinod pandit, nephew of vocalist Pandit Jasraj. ``We are companions and for the moment, we do not wish to bring our relationship within the institution of marriage,’’ says Deepti. And one is happy that she has the spirit and the options which her ``older sister’’ Meena Kumari did not have. It is just that the two chased dreams at different points of history.