Blimp. “Aisa jaadoo dala re…”. Blimp. “Bheege hont tere, pyaasa dil mera..”. Blimp, blimp. “ Is kaal kaal me hum tum kare dhamaal….”. Blimp. “Kaun kambakth bardashth karne ke liye peeta hai?” Blimp. “Well, the movie was shot entirely in exotic locales like Switzerland, Sydney and parts of Canada”. Blimp. “I used to sit nearly 2 hours for the make-up. I am also wearing a Rupees 1 crore saree for the marriage scene…..”. Blimp.
I switch the TV off having done enough channel surfing. No matter what channel you select, the underlying theme is essentially the same – super glamorous reveal-all heroines, mega budget movie sets, exaggerated performances, unrealistic themes and raunchy numbers all adding up to a mediocre total in the end. And then there are these staged interviews with these actors who say how their latest flick is different from all the rest of the films the audiences have ever seen. Fake smiles, hollow performances, inflated story lines, unrealistic plots and poor visualization mixed with a lot of Guccis, BMWs, Burj-al-arabs, Venetian gondolas, cleavage and thighs is all you require to create that heady mix of what is called a ‘film’ today. I was convinced all of acting and filmdom is bunkum hypocrisy and make-believe.
Until I saw Deepti Naval’s performances. It was a sleepy Sunday afternoon and I was surfing channels with Garfield-like eyes. I suddenly stumble across this Eastman color film typical of the early 80s. There is a doe-eyed beauty with lovely long hair and a smile so genuine, I am spellbound! Deepti Naval. I decide to hold on to the channel for a while and after a 2 minute attention span, I move on to other channels. But something made me come back to the channel once again and this time I decided to watch the performance closely. Simple, natural and profound are the three words which characterize her on screen performance. I wait for the interminable break to get over and when the movie resumes, I learn that the movie is ‘Chasm-e-Baddoor’, in which a young, unemployed and cigarette-addicted bachelor (Farooque Sheikh) woos and wins his sweetheart (Deepti Naval) in the romantic locales of Delhi.
Of course, the theme is no different from the others, I agree. But the portrayal was indescribably fantastic. For the first time I somehow felt that love and courtship was within the reach of normal, middle-class human beings who possessed scooters and stayed in flats shared by wacko friends very similar to the ones I am privileged to have 😉 I realized romance can also bloom while waiting in bus stops and over a rickety old bike and you needn’t necessarily sport a Ferrari to avoid your lady’s sandals from getting dirty. And also, I was relieved that the object of your love could as well be a simple, traditional and very ‘gharelu’ looking damsel, who sells ‘Chamko’ detergent door-to-door and pursues Hindustani classical music as a hobby. She needn’t necessarily be a super model with a painted face and an affected heart, professing a love for rock music and head banging among other ‘modern’ things.
I was so impressed that I decided to hire a CD of the film and watch it from beginning to end. I did. And my admiration doubled. I watched another of her film, ‘Katha’ and found her performance equally captivating. This time, her portrayals were simpler than simple. She resides in a ‘chawl’ and the story is about how two men, one covertly (Naseeruddin Shah) and one overtly (Farooque Sheikh) vie for her attention. Her simplicity is emphasized by the hibiscus flower she decorates her hair with and the unobtrusive sarees, very much becoming a chawl resident. And yes, those smiles and tears that adorn her face look so really real. It is perhaps the true test of any heroine – minus all the glamour and hype and cast her in a quotidian role and then see if the performance is convincing enough. And Deepti, in my opinion, is the very yardstick with which one can measure such a talent.
The charm of Deepti Naval’s portrayals lies in its simplicity. They are simply profound and yet profoundly simple! There is a streak of genuineness and conviction in those eyes that enraptures one instantly. There is nothing extra-ordinarily glamorous about her roles. But it is this very sheer mundanity that is appealing. Deepti Naval makes ordinary things and everyday events beautiful. Her hibiscus flower and eye-black simplicity, her genuineness and masterly portrayals speak more emphatically than most of the attempts by high-heeled, hardly clad heroines of today.
I am back on my couch surfing channels. It is with a hope that in this clutter of channels overabundant with pomposity and glam, there is one channel that is telecasting one of Deepti Naval’s films. Ek Baar Phir (1), the Hindi equivalent of encore, is all I can say to her delicate and artistic performances. And as I am doing so, I wonder what could be the secret behind the authenticity of her performances. Suddenly, a long forgotten quartet unhinges itself and waltzes into my mind:
“Give me a theme”, cried the poet,
“And I will do my part”.
“It is not a theme you require”, replied the world
“You need a heart”.
1. ‘Ek Baar Phir’ also happens to be the second movie of Deepti Naval, preceded by her debut appearance, ‘Junoon’ (1979).