They were the evergreen couple of the ’80s. They flirted with each other over a bucket of soap water in Sai Paranjpye’s Chashme Buddor. Few could recreate the magic of romance like Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval on screen. Farooque passed away on Saturday. Here are excerpts from their last interview together...
Did you ever think Chashme Buddor would go onto become such a cult when you were shooting for it?
DN: For me working with Farooqueji was never like we were going on set and making this huge movie. Acting didn’t seem like a big deal. You just naturally did your scene the way you understood it and left the rest to the director. I don’t even remember a tough scene except for that Chamko sabun scene where I had to feel uncomfortable yet look pleasant as a salesgirl.
FS: Well the towel washing scene was the magic of Sai (Paranjpye).
You’ve done eight films together. What do you think worked for you both?
DN: I think they liked the friendship we shared which inadvertently reflected on screen. I loved the part in Chashme Buddor where there’s discomfort between the two. Like the demonstration of washing the toliya (towel). That’s one of my most favourite moments in cinema.
FS: My favourite is the song Tumko Dekha to. It was a depiction of such pure, selfless love. We were honest on screen, it was never pretence.
Were you ever infatuated by each other?
DN: For a bit, but he was always a married man (smiles.)
FS: That infatuation extended itself quite a bit. I have been somersaulting about her since forever! It’s been so many years and I’m still trying to understand her. She is so many things in one. She’s a traveller, a painter, a prose writer, she writes poems, and she’s a script writer, a director. Before I realise about one layer, the other one comes along.
Few actors are able to re-create the simple magic of romance we saw in films like yours. Why so?
FS: These days romances are short lived, because before it can mature you get too impatient. And that’s why it lacks depth in films too. You’re used to things happening in a flash and the only thing to happen in a flash is a break-up.
DN: Real life and cinema fuel each other. Now a days romance doesn’t even exist. It’s just courtship. Most of them end up as sexual encounters without any real substance or appreciation.
FS: In our time we took the time and we savoured love. It’s like cooking a delightful biryani... raat bhar pakti hai... tarah tarah ki sajavat karte hein. Part of the fun is the cooking of it and the anticipation of it. If you jump into the vessel with your face first, it’s no fun. Even the biryani won’t respect you. Life needs to be taken at a certain pace, unless it’s an emergency. But romance can’t happen when you’re in an emergency.
DN: The songs of those days had yearning, waiting. Nobody cries over a split relationship anymore.
You both stood out among handful of actors who made unconventional choices in cinema in the ’80s.
DN: I did not want to wear a lehenga and swing my hips in front of the camera to be honest. I did not want to be the fantasy of the male audience. I wanted to play women of my time. Of course Katha and Chashme Buddor were fun films, but they still had their own voice. Like in Katha there is a scene where she goes to bed with this guy. She wears dark glasses and she thinks no one will recognise her. This wasn’t shown but implied. For Sai to be able to make that point at that time when cinema was so innocent and girls were not meant to jump into bed with anybody was an important point.
FS: Even the films we did with Hrishida (Hrishikesh Mukherjee), scripts were interesting, roles were engrossing and the rest followed. It was a time when the parallel cinema movement was picking up pace. We got onto that vehicle and the faster it moved, the faster we moved.
Your lives have taken its own in all these years. Have you observed changes?
DN: He has put on so much weight. He better lose some...
FS: She doesn’t like my good health and the hair over my head.
DN: That’s because he takes so much screen space. I don’t like to give that much space to him...
FS: That is why all our films are shot in 70mm — 69 come to me and one go to her (laughs.) I’d say she has evolved as a person a lot because living alone does a lot to you in terms of making you stronger. That is something that has happened to her. It has not happened to me because I have always been with a largish family.
Do you have a favourite onscreen couple today?
FS: We’ll think about that when Deepti and I retire.