By Utpal Borpujari
Deepti Naval is a multi-faceted talent. From acting in a number of highly-acclaimed films over the years, to painting, writing poetry and doing photography, she has her hand in quite a few creative pie. Now, she has extended her creativity even further, going behind the camera to hold the directorial megaphone.
Yes, Deepti Naval has turned director with a film with a sensitive subject and a very poetic title that goes Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish. The film, which was screened at the market section of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival this year, marks a significant turn of leaf in Naval’s cinematic career that has seen her portray a range of characters in movies of various moods and shades.
As Naval takes her experience of acting in films as diverse as Chasme Buddoor, Mirch Masala, Hum Paanch, Saath Saath, Katha, Aandhi Gali, Damul, Mane, Bawandar, Angoor, Kamla, Ankahee, Main Zinda Hoon, Anaahat and Firaaq to directing films, she is all set to write a new chapter in her creative life. And as she scouted for prospective international buyers for her film at Cannes, she was visibly enthusiastic about it.
“My film is a modern, sensitive and realistic portrayal of people seeking to find happiness amidst adverse conditions,” says Naval, who describes her film as one that talks of human bonding.
The film has Manisha Koirala, Rajit Kapur and Naval’s nephew Sanaj in the lead roles in a story that is about the intertwining lives of an ageing prostitute, her wheelchair-bound child and a gay song writer. Koirala, whose sensitive acting in films like Bombay, Dil Se and 1942 – A Love Story is still remembered, will be seen in a script-driven role after quite a long time. “This film has given me great insight into the world of the protagonist. I feel enriched having played the part,” says Koirala, who accompanied Naval to Cannes to promote the film.
Naval is aware that going by the film’s basic premise, people could and would construe it to be a film about gays and prostitutes. And that is why she emphasises, “I did not set out to make a film about gays or prostitutes. I wanted to tell a story, a simple story about the intricacies of human bonding, the highs and lows of relationships. That is what this film is.”
Naval, who has always sought to traverse a path away from the beaten track, which is why probably in physical terms she regularly tracks in the mountains, doing so even when she was extremely busy as an actress, is keenly awaiting the film’s theatrical release. “This is not made for festivals only. My goal is to reach out to filmgoers across India,” she says, adding that the subject of her directorial debut might not be what a typical Bollywood potboiler is composed of, but it is something that would connect with the viewer at an emotional level.
The director in her is all praise for the cast, and while both Kapur and Koirala are seasoned performers, Naval has been particularly charmed by Sanaj. “I am not saying it just because he happens to be my nephew, but Sanaj has surprised everyone with his nuanced and sensitive performance, which goes much beyond his age,” she says.
With Kiran Deohans doing the cinematography and Gulzar writing some sensitive lyrics, Naval seems satisfied with what she has been able to do in her first outing as a director. But that does not mean that she is turning her back to acting. “That is something that will never happen, as acting is something I cannot forego. And my role in Nandita Das’ Firaaq showcases what kind of roles I am looking for – performance-based and powerful, something which viewers will remember me for,” says Naval.