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Art is not a luxury, but a necessity.



I have seen any number of eyes in my life,  but never have two eyes made such an impact on me, like the eyes of my friend ,  Deepti Naval – Ali Peter John 

She had just done her first flim “Ek Baar Phir” after being an anchor on radio and television in New York in America. 

She had come to Bombay to know the reaction to her performance in the flim and was staying as a paying guest in a building called ” Queens Apartments ” in Juhu. 

I don’t know who told her about me  but she called me and we fixed up a time to meet . My eyes were dazzled when they met her eyes before l could enter her apartment.  

Her eyes told me a thousand stories,  her eyes were a flood of feelings and emotions which l wanted to unravel some day , her eyes promised my eyes to meet many more times . 

Deepti Naval  stayed back in the city of dreams after ‘Ek Baar Phir’ which was a big success both commercially and critically and it was Deepti who got more appreciation and recognition than the two actors,  Suresh Oberoi and Pradeep Varma . She was on her way to greater  success… 

She moved from one paying guest room to another and so did her career.  She was not the typical ‘naache gaane wali heroine ‘.

She  was a very sensitive actress who excelled in playing some of the most sensitive roles in flims which were far away from the rut and the routine.

It took her only two years to establish herself as an actress who was  destined to go very far and make a name that could not be erased by time or any other forces. 

With sucess, she moved into a better apartment in ‘Oceanic’  in Seven Bungalows near the beach in  Versova. 

Her house-warming ( ghar prawvsh) party was attended by some of the biggest names in the flim industry, which included Raj  Kapoor,  Javed Akhtar,  Shabana Azmi and Basu Bhattacharya.  The party was proved that Deepti had made it . 

But , Deepti was not  one who could be satisfied with what she had achieved.  She kept striving towards greater heights as an actress. 

She knew by now that she would not be able to compete with the glamour girls and so concentrated on good Hindi flims ,with good writers   good directors and good roles in which she would have something good to do.  

Her career took a new turn when she did flims like “Hip Hip Hurray” and “Daamul”  , both directed by Prakash Jha who was seen as a  new hope and light for Indian cinema.

It was during the making of these two flims that Deepti and Prakash got closer to each other which led to love and they decided to get married according to Arya Samaj rites. And I together with director Raman Kumar was one of the witnesses to the marriage.  

Their marriage however did not last long and ended in a separation, but they continued to be very good friends and continued to care for each other .

They had an adopted daughter,  Disha, who was brought up by Prakash and continued to have a special bond with Deepti till Prakash and Deepti got together again to see Disha getting married.  

What a way life and love had played its parts in the lives of Deepti and Prakash ( both the names meaning light). 

Deepti who was a born lover ( like me ) then fell for Nana Patekar who was an already married man with a grown up son .

Their affair was talked about  in flim circles and even outside it.  Deepti was pregnant and wanted to marry Nana and have the child , but Nana was not in favor of Deepti’s plan and they had to separate after Deepti had an abortion,  but like Prakash and Deepti ,  Nana and Deepti  also continued to be  very good friends. 

Deepti had another affair of the heart with a young singer called Vinod Pandit who was a nephew of the classical singer Pandit Jasraj .

This love story was growing very smoothly till Vinod was struck by cancer and Deepti stood by him till the very end .

And when he died Deepti cried and told me , ” no more men for me,  Ali ” . And that is how she has been for the last ten years. 

Whenever she looks back on her career  , she  remembers her flims like Paanchavati,  Ankahee,  Kamala , Chriutha ” ( she had to paint her body dark for the role and Saath Saath, Chashme Baddoor and Angoor in which l faced the camera with her , Mousumi Chatterjee, Deven Varma and Sanjeev Kumar .

She played Jackie Shroff’s wife and their son Vivek Mushran “only because I saw the flim as an opportunity to work with the great Dilip Kumar in  “Saudagar” )” . 

She played the mother of Shah Rukh Khan in “Puru” and it was these roles that could and end to any hope she must have had of playing leading roles,  but she didn’t lose hope and continued playing meaty roles.

And now at 68 and after having a mild heart attack last year, she  is shooting in London for a flim to be made  for the OTT platform. 

And what is very good about Deepti is that she is a multi-talented woman ,  the kind of woman I have always hoped to see and know during my lifetime. 

Deepti is a poet and a writer.  Her first book , Lamha Lamha written in Hindi was published in the early 80’s .

She then wrote a diary about her experiences in a home for mentally challenged women in Ranchi .

She has kept writing stories,  scripts and poems ,on her Facebook these days . And she will leave London after the shoot and fly  to give the finishing touches to her first major novel , ” A county called childhood”. 

I must mention here that she has written and directed her own flim, ” DO PAISE KI BAARISH CHAAR AANE KI DHOOP ” with her  friend Manisha Koriela in the key role, playing a prostitute.

The flim has however still to be released.  Deepti is supposed to direct two more flims and she has several scripts written by her waiting for opportunities to be given life. 

I too have collaborated on some of her early scripts and I must say that it was a privilege to work with her and her extremely creative mind . 

And Deepti is also a very good, bold and recognized painter who has held her own one-woman exhibition. 

Deepti is a free spirit and has always lived according to her own  principles laid down by herself.  She is a woman of her own eccentricities and moods. 

You can never know what is on her mind and what she will do next . She can plan a flim in Mumbai and then just get in to her car and drive alone all the way to Sikkim , Ladakh and Leh  where she has been several times.

She has her own museum in Himachal Pradesh,  on the banks of the Dal Lake in Srinagar. And her own house in Mumbai is a museum of her own were the most precious exhibits are her hundreds and thousands of memories and in one corner of her apartment is an age old organ (Piano) and in several cabinets in her house are hundreds of dvds of films from Hollywood and India.  

I have known Deepti for 42 years . And l can swear that l still dont know the real Deepti Naval and l hope l dont ever know her.

I admirer her as she is . A common friend once asked me ,” Ali , how can you tolerate Deepti for so many years , she is mad ?” I wish he was here now when l tell him and the world that l love Deepti just the way she is .