A multifaceted personality, Deepti Naval is an Indian actor, director, writer, painter and photographer.
A Country Called Childhood is a beautifully told memoir about growing up in Amritsar in the tumultuous 1950s and 1960s by award-winning actress Deepti Naval. A candid conversation with the veteran actress/author about her memoir, movies and more.
A multi-faceted personality, Deepti Naval is an actor, director, writer, painter and photographer. Deepti has carved out a place for herself in the Indian film industry, winning critical acclaim for her “sensitive and close to life” portrayals that emphasized the changing role of women in India. Deepti, in her last stint as an author, wrote her memoirs. A Country Called Childhood published by Aleph Book Company is a beautifully told memoir about growing up in Amritsar in the tumultuous 1950s and 1960s by the award-winning actress.
In extremely visual and evocative prose, Naval describes an unforgettable childhood filled with love, adventure, mystery, tragedy and joy. It uncovers, in great detail, the life of an unconventional Punjabi family while immersing the reader in the distinctive sights, smells and sounds of a rapidly disappearing India. From the moment of her birth on a rainy night, she traces her journey to adulthood, a path punctuated by many personal turning points as well as memorable events of national significance, such as the 1962 Sino-Indian War and the Indo-Pakistani war. from 1965. Moving and enlightening, A Country Called Childhood shows how Deepti’s early love affair with film and childhood experiences shaped his career as the country’s most admired actor.
Deepti made her debut in 1980 with Ek Baar Phir and has since appeared in over ninety films including Chashme Buddoor, Katha, Saath Saath, Kamla, Ankahi, Main Zinda Hoon and Mirch Masala. She has received best actor awards at several national and international film festivals for her roles in Leela, Firaaq, Memories in March, Listen Amaya, NH10, The Boy with the Topknot and others. She also won Best Screenplay at the New York Indian Film Festival for her directorial film, Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish, in 2010. As a writer, she has three books to her name — her first collection of poems, Lamha Lamha, published in 1981, Black Wind and Other Poems in 2004, and The Mad Tibetan: Stories from Then and Now in 2011. A candid conversation with the veteran actress/author about her memoir, of his films and more. Extracts.
What was the inspiration behind writing the memoirs?
Life itself was the inspiration. My childhood was amazing and I wanted her to share those memories with everyone. The idea of a memoir lingered in my mind for a long time, but it has finally come to life now.
You have written about the memories of the Indo-Pakistani war. A particular incident that remains etched in your memory?
During the 1965 war, we slept on the terrace and there was a mosque next to our house. My dad used to read at night before he slept, and one day a funny incident happened. My mother turned off the light because it was on blackout days and my father turned it back on to read. People around us thought there was a spy in our house giving signals to enemies (laughs).
How long did the dissertation take to complete?
Interestingly, 20 years ago I started writing it, but only wrote a few chapters. The book took me six years of focused time and energy. There was a huge flood of memories so I had to take the help of the editor to give it some structure.
Is there a chapter in the book that stood out to you while writing?
The book writing exercise triggered a lot of memories. I had to omit many incidents, but the book is still about 400 pages.
A country called childhood. A very interesting title. What made you choose this?
It was a phrase in one of my chapters that the editor liked and kept as the title of the book.
Poetry versus prose. What calms your mind most of the time?
Poetry is for my mind and soul, while prose is for everyone.
You have acted in many cult films. How do you think the film industry has changed so far?
Many things have changed. It’s a completely different film industry now. In our time, everyone was a bit laid back, but now everyone is so professional and knowledgeable. But again, the innocence and simplicity we had before is now lost.
Memories you would like to share about Hyderabad?
We were shooting for the movie Yatra in Hyderabad. I remember being fascinated by Hyderabadi jargon.
When can we see you back on screen?
For the past six years, I have focused on writing. You will see me in Goldfish with Kalki Koechlin soon.