Deepika Deshpande-Amin, the Indian film, television and theatre actor, known for Bollywood films like Fan, Raanjhanaa and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and many TV shows including Farmaan and Tashn-e-Ishq, and more recently, Ramprasad ki Tehrvi, was born Deepika Deshpande in Mumbai but grew up in Delhi, attending school in Loreto Convent and studying Economics (Hons) in Lady Shri Ram College for Women. How did she get into the movie business then? We trace her journey.
When did the acting bug bite you and how did you deal with the challenges that you faced in the beginning?
Going to the theatre is in the blood of Maharashtrian families and even in Delhi we would regularly attend all the plays performed by the NSD repertory. This is where we saw wonderful plays performed by stalwarts like Surekha Sikri, Manohar Singh and Uttara Baokar. Perhaps this is where it started, but I have always wanted to be an actress. I regularly took part in school plays and seeing my interest, my parents enrolled me in Sushma Seth’s Children’s Creative Theatre. This is where I got my taste of ‘proper’ theatre.
I was doing Economics Hons in Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi when I joined Barry John’s Theatre Action Group. After that there was no looking back. The others in the group included people like Shah Rukh Khan, Manoj Bajpayee, Rituraj Singh, Divya Seth. Some of us had just finished college and some were still studying. Barry conducted regular theatre workshops, we performed so many plays and travelled all over India. We also did plays in collaboration with other theatre groups with actors like Raghubir Yadav and Ashish Vidyarthi.
I don’t think I faced any great challenge then. I was working with Teamwork Films, an organisation that totally supported theatre and the arts. I never had a problem juggling work and theatre. Those were great days. Theatre is the purest, all-encompassing art form and I simply love it.
Tell us about your journey in television?
While I was doing theatre in Delhi with Barry John, I met the renowned director Lekh Tandon, who had seen my plays. I happened to be visiting Bombay when he called me again to meet him and the producer Gul Anand. They offered me the lead role in the series Farmaan, which effectively started my career in television.
We shot the entire series in Hyderabad. I had wonderful co-stars like Kanwaljeet, Raja Bundela, Kalpana Iyer. The series was a success and I won the Most Promising Newcomer Award. Soon I started getting good offers. That is when I decided to make the shift to Bombay. That was the Golden era of television and I was fortunate enough to be part of classic shows like Junoon, 9 Malabar Hill, Safar, Kismat and Shyam Benegal’s Amravati Ki Kathayen.
Would you like to tell us about your marriage? How you met the man of your life and what happened thereafter?
My husband, Vikram Amin, is in the steel business. Our families knew each other well. He was based in Dubai but would come to India often on work, when we would meet. He is a movie buff and theatre lover like me. Theirs is a highly educated, progressive family. His father, a Gujarati Hindu, was an engineer from MIT, US and his mother, a Christian, had studied at Cornell University, US and was a professor of Women and Child Development at Nirmala Niketan. After our marriage, we moved to Jakarta Indonesia, where Vikram was the President of a Steel Plant. We lived there for six years and I simply loved my time there. My daughter was born in Jakarta.
I did not give up theatre and was part of an international theatre group called the Jakarta Players. I acted in many plays and also directed three. One was a Hindi play for the Indian Embassy.
You continued your journey in theatre, film and TV after returning to India.
Yes, but it wasn’t easy getting back. Television had changed from weeklies to dailies; to stories driven by kitchen politics. Women characters that were strong and inspiring earlier had now become petty and spiteful. Nothing appealed to me. Not the characters or the system of working. It was all quite disheartening.
Theatre, as always, threw me a lifeline. I began working with Lillete Dubey’s theatre group, Prime Time, and that was a fulfilling experience. I acted in plays by India’s finest playwrights Girish Karnad, Mahesh Dattani, Vijay Tendulkar. We travelled the world performing these plays in countries like USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Pakistan, Muscat, Dubai, Malaysia and of course all over India.
How did films happen after this? Which are the memorable ones?
I guess word got around that I was back and casting directors started approaching me. The first big film I did was Raanjhaana with Sonam Kapoor and Dhanush. After that other films came along like Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania with Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan and Fan with Shah Rukh, Mardaani 2 with Rani Mukerji, Ghoomketu with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Anurag Kashyap, Shyam Benegal’s film Well Done Abba and Rough Book by Ananth Mahadevan. I had a beautiful role in the film Gone Kesh, directed by Qasim Khallow (its available on Amazon Prime). Good roles came via web series like Siyaasat on Amazon Prime and Epic. The series What The Folks and the Desi Mom sketches have proved to be extremely popular and fun.
Where are you as a person and professional at this stage in your life — and where is it that you see yourself 10 years from now?
Life is good personally — we are well-settled, my daughter is studying in Brown University, in the US; we used to travel a lot before lockdown. Professionally, I am dissatisfied. I yearn for better roles. Woman-oriented, strong roles are scarce today. Women my age are stereotyped as mothers, constantly nagging their children to eat or get married. Female characters are one dimensional. There was hope from the OTT platforms but that seems to be fading. I do have a secret desire to write, and maybe produce my own content. Now that I have said it out loud here, I might get around to actually doing it, hopefully before 10 years!
(The article is a part of collaboration with The Daily Eye)