She is Deepti Naval, the actor, for the world. But she is also a painter, filmmaker and a writer. However, when it came to compiling her recently-released memoir, A Country Called Childhood, she chose to write about Dolly (her nickname as a child). “I’ve lived life on my own terms, as the cliché goes. Most of the times, I’ve behaved very non-practical, impromptu, and spontaneous,” says the 70-year-old.
She “never really let go” of that “sense of freedom”, and states that the same “spirit still remains” in her. “When people label me the sweet, girl next door, I don’t [relate to it since] I’ve no such self image. My self image is completely contrary. I don’t know who the sweet girl next door is! It’s certainly not me,” adds Naval, who is known for critically acclaimed films such as Chashme Buddoor (1981), Leela (2002), Listen…Amaya (2013), among others.
We all have both good and bad memories, from our childhood, and so does Naval, who shares how “cathartic” it was to pen down all the nostalgia from her growing up years. “I wrote it because I wanted to pay tribute to my parents… I should have written this book 20 years ago; it’s little late. But, I may not have been able to write such a comprehensive account of my childhood (earlier) because with maturity you are able to see how you felt as a child,” shares Naval, who chooses to change nothing but one incident, from her life lived as a youngster. “I would never run away from home,” she quips, confessing, “I would never do such a stupid thing! I was gone for a few hours and brought back kaan pakad ke, straight from the railway platform (laughs)… But yes, I would run away to Kashmir whenever I would get the chance to! I had tried to run away and go to Kashmir.”
Her writing has been appreciated in the past, wherein she experimented with poetry and short stories. Before publishing the latter, she recalls making her then co-actor, late Farooque Shaikh as her sounding board. “Farooque was such an erudite man, and forever a voracious reader. This (one) time when we were working together after 30 odd years, I would run the final version of the short story through Farooque during the lunch time. He was very happy to see my growth as a writer, and had said ‘Pehle bhi padi thi tumahri nazmein, but this is far ahead… So this time while writing my memoir, I missed Farooque being there. He would have been so happy to see this book today because he always encouraged me, and more as an actor,” says Naval, as her voice deepens.
Ask Naval, who was last seen in 2021’s OTT series Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors, if she would like to see her work of writing adapted for the screen, may be in the form of a web series, and she says, “I haven’t thought of it yet, but now that you bring it up, yes, why not? I know that my book is very visual. Like my short stories, they have also been visual… I’m not sure if it’s easy to translate them on celluloid. But yes, they are stories that need to be told in many ways, and I hope that they will be told and then retold and passed on from reader to reader and to other generations.”
Author tweets @HennaRakheja
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