INTERVIEW | “I’ve always been interested in creative writing”: Deepti Naval – The New Indian Express

Express press service

What prompted you to write about your childhood rather than your film career?

I wrote my first book in 1981. It was a collection of poems called Namha Namha. After that, another collection, Black Wind and other Poems, was released. Then there was a short story book, called The Mad Tibetan: Stories From Then and Now. I have always been a writer and a poet. This is my first memoir. I’m not interested in writing biographies because it feels like I’ve been there, done that. I may write my film career, but it won’t be an autobiography. This is my first time writing about my childhood as I have always been interested in creative writing. I didn’t want to write about how I got this movie or film. It was my desire to do a literary work that prompted me to write this book.

In the book, your memories of Amritsar also paint a socio-political picture of the two decades of your life. Would you like to elaborate on that?

Amritsar is the city in which I grew up. A… a border town will always be a border town – it will always be marked by the stories of partition and the Hindu-Muslim tragedy that happened. The Holocaust and the horrors of it are what are told over and over again. Although, in my own house, we were never told any gory details about Partition. But it felt like Lahore was 50 km away. This proximity to the border was not imaginary; it was just that it was right there. The impact of the partition on the refugees were stories we heard all the time from neighbors or families of friends – how Master Tara Singh galloped down Mall Road on his horse, wielding a sword. My childhood had to be placed in such a way that readers would understand the geography and why the story of the partition was so important in my childhood.

Tell us about the title of the book?

The title didn’t come to the book first. I was writing and in the initial phase, where I describe the vibe of the house I grew up in and the neighborhood is when I wrote the sentence. These are the sights, sounds and smells of the land – a land called childhood. And it was my publisher who understood that and said that’s what you’re going to call your book.

Did you draw on your childhood experiences when you embarked on your acting career?
Not so consciously. By acting, we consciously assume nothing. I’m sure I wouldn’t have understood how I was going to play Shakti (in Shakti: The Power), in my confrontation with Nana Patekar where I yell at her and call her names in a scene, if I didn’t hadn’t made known Deoli, the woman of Mochistan
(a character from the book). Somewhere deep inside me, I knew that Deoli would berate her husband every night he came home drunk. His would be the last voice we would hear while we slept on the roof. That voice of her scolding her husband stayed with me and when I started playing a woman like her, I didn’t consciously think of Deoli, it just came to mind.

Who are your favorite authors?

I’m not someone who reads all the time, because my time is divided between so many things. After reading Ben Okri, I switched to (Haruki) Murakami and I enjoy it so much now. I’m also trying to get used to audiobooks. One day I would like to narrate my book as an audiobook as well. There’s a wonderful narration of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, which I listen to because my mother loved that book and read to us from time to time.

What prompted you to write about your childhood rather than your film career? I wrote my first book in 1981. It was a collection of poems called Namha Namha. After that, another collection, Black Wind and other Poems, was released. Then there was a short story book, called The Mad Tibetan: Stories From Then and Now. I have always been a writer and a poet. This is my first memoir. I’m not interested in writing biographies because it feels like I’ve been there, done that. I may write my film career, but it won’t be an autobiography. This is my first time writing about my childhood as I have always been interested in creative writing. I didn’t want to write about how I got this movie or film. It was my desire to do a literary work that prompted me to write this book. In the book, your memories of Amritsar also paint a socio-political picture of the two decades of your life. Would you like to elaborate on that? Amritsar is the city in which I grew up. A… a border town will always be a border town – it will always be marked by the stories of partition and the Hindu-Muslim tragedy that happened. The Holocaust and the horrors of it are what are told over and over again. Although, in my own house, we were never told any gory details about Partition. But it felt like Lahore was 50 km away. This proximity to the border was not imaginary; it was just that it was right there. The impact of the partition on the refugees were stories we heard all the time from neighbors or families of friends – how Master Tara Singh galloped down Mall Road on his horse, wielding a sword. My childhood had to be placed in such a way that readers would understand the geography and why the story of the partition was so important in my childhood. Tell us about the title of the book? The title didn’t come to the book first. I was writing and in the initial phase, where I describe the vibe of the house I grew up in and the neighborhood is when I wrote the sentence. These are the sights, sounds and smells of the land – a land called childhood. And it was my publisher who understood that and said that’s what you’re going to call your book. Did you draw on your childhood experiences when you embarked on your acting career? Not so consciously. By acting, we consciously assume nothing. I’m sure I wouldn’t have understood how I was going to play Shakti (in Shakti: The Power), in my confrontation with Nana Patekar where I yell at her and call her names in a scene, if I didn’t hadn’t known Deoli, the woman of Mochistan (a character in the book). Somewhere deep inside me, I knew that Deoli would berate her husband every night he came home drunk. His would be the last voice we would hear while we slept on the roof. That voice of her scolding her husband stayed with me and when I started playing a woman like her, I didn’t consciously think of Deoli, it just came to mind. Who are your favorite authors? I’m not someone who reads all the time, because my time is divided between so many things. After reading Ben Okri, I switched to (Haruki) Murakami and I enjoy it so much now. I’m also trying to get used to audiobooks. One day I would like to narrate my book as an audiobook as well. There’s a wonderful narration of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, which I listen to because my mother loved that book and read to us from time to time.