It took Deepti Naval and Farooq Sheikh 30 years to reunite in 2011 film Tell Me O Kkhuda. The successful onscreen pair of the 80s had given us some nine iconic movies including Chashme Buddoor, Saath Saath, Katha and Faasle. But as much as we couldn’t take our eyes off their innocent onscreen romance, the two actors were good friends off camera too.
“Farooq was a wonderful co-actor. The cinema that we made together was kind of middle-of-the-road cinema which was neither very artsy nor very formula-driven commercial film but they were entertaining films,” Deepti Naval told News18 in 2019. According to her the films they did “defined the youth of that time so beautifully, be it their spontaneity, innocence or simplicity.”
Time and again, Naval has revealed how Sheikh used to push her to be more active. “He would tell me, ‘Deeps, you must do more work, you are very lazy.’ But so was he. He would do selective work as well,” she was quoted by TOI in 2013.
Deepti Naval and Farooq Sheikh first teamed up in Chashme Buddoor (1981). While Naval played a girl-next-door, better known today as the salesgirl of ‘Chamko’ washing powder, Sheikh played a Delhi university student and a hopeless romantic.
Chashme Buddoor wasn’t your staple commercial film back then, yet it went on to win hearts in the crowd of bigger releases like Kranti, Laawaris, Love Story, Yaarana, Rocky and Ek Duuje Ke Liye in the same year. That’s because Chashme Buddoor’s honest storytelling with a simple, engaging approach touched hearts. Even today, the movie is enduring nostalgia, that captured the middle class in a fable-like form.
“I’d give a shout-out to Sai Paranjpye (director) for making Miss Chamko immortal. She is somebody who groomed me for the cinema I am best known for. Same for Farooq, I would say. The middle-cinema gave him so much. Today, he’s remembered as the most natural and charming actor there ever was. He made the common person feel he represented them. You could see an average urban Indian saying, ‘He is playing my life.’ That’s what he stands for,” she opened up with indianexpress.com earlier.
Their next, Saath Saath (1982) catered to a more mature romance. In fact, Deepti Naval and Farooq Sheikh went on to represent the middle-class couples who were struggling to fulfill their dreams, while also balancing their idealistic ways.
“Our on-screen chemistry comes very much from the roles we played and the scripts that came to us. We were two very believable people and natural actors, so it seemed like we belonged together. We were all down-to-earth people. Nobody had any starry airs,” the ace actor said.
Off the camera too, there was a brewing friendship between the co-actors, who never jumped on the bandwagon of any kind of romantic relationship. Despite the fact that Sheikh was reportedly a “charmer” around women, his rapport with Naval was about cracking jokes and pulling each other’s leg.
“I never played a prank on anybody but I wish I had. Basically, Farooq had a habit of making everyone laugh at my cost. I used to be pissed about it initially, but that was the cute part about him,” Naval told us.
After losing touch over time, the two reconnected in early 2010s when Tell Me O Kkhuda and their last collaboration Listen… Amaya’s (2013) happened. Naval said she would always poke him to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “I told him to watch his weight, get leaner and fitter, but he would discard it all saying, ‘Main toh tandurust hoon’ (I’m fit),” she told TOI.
Deepti Naval, also a writer-painter, credits Farooq Sheikh, who passed in 2013, for introducing her to Persian writers. “He was a voracious reader, well-informed. We had a lot of similarities.”
While working on her collection of short stories, The Mad Tibetan (2011), Naval made him read each story before sending them to print. “We sat during lunchtime in his make-up room every afternoon and after he finished reading, we would talk about it. He knew me as a poet from the early ’80s, but he was delightfully surprised that I had evolved as a writer,” she told indianexpress.com.
“Farooq always used to say, ‘You deserved so much more from Indian cinema, Deepti,” she said.
Happy birthday, Deepti Naval!
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