{ Page-Title / Story-Title }


Deepti Naval and Farooque Sheikh: Magic

How a little indie film brought back the beloved 1980s pairing for Listen...Amaya

Sonal Pandya






A small 2013 indie film about a widow with a young daughter finding love again may not have found much of a mainstream audience on its initial release. Starring Deepti Naval, Farooque Sheikh and Swara Bhaskar, Listen... Amaya is a quiet look at the daily pleasures and travails of contemporary life in Delhi and deserves to be given a second chance. As the film begins, Naval who plays Leela Krishnamoorthy calls out to Bhaskar's Amaya when she rushes out for a jog. She implores her to wait to hear her out before she leaves. Early on, it's established that Amaya has a listening problem which needs to be worked upon.

The Krishnamoorthys run a cozy cafe called Book a Coffee out of her home. Leela has become a veteran barista after her husband's death. Meanwhile, Amaya is a twenty-something writer and free spirit who quits her full-time writing job. Book a Coffee, which has books scattered all around the cafe, is usually bustling with customers of all ages and from all over the world who drop by for their daily cup of joe.

One such regular is Jayant Sinha affectionately called Jazz by Amaya. Jayant is a skilled photographer and friend of the family who is always around. He encourages Amaya to co-author a coffee table book with him on the old bazaars of Delhi.  Like Leela, Jayant has lost his partner early in life. His wife and nine-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident for which he blames himself. Both of them embark upon a relationship which slowly is built over time. They grieve over their lost loved ones and look forward to making plans together for the future.

Directed by Avinash Kumar Singh, Listen... Amaya reunites the once-successful pairing of Farooque Sheikh and Deepti Naval from the early 1980s. Hindi film buffs can never forget their films together starting with the iconic Chashme Buddoor (1981) and moving on to Saath Saath (1982) and Kissi Se Na Kehna (1983). They were brought back onscreen 26 years later for Hema Malini's Tell Me O Khhuda (2011) in which they played supportive adoptive parents to Esha Deol's Tanya. Here, their scenes together are filled with much understanding and knowledge that it's a delight to watch them interact. At one point in the film when the pair banter warmly, Shaikh jokingly calls her Miss Chamko in character.

But their relationship comes under fire when Amaya discovers their growing closeness and accuses her mother of betraying her late father. Hurt and disappointed, Leela and Jayant put their relationship on hold and try to return to their normal lives. As the title character, Amaya is quite frustrating. She is portrayed as a modern young woman but acts more like a petulant teenager than the adult she is supposed to be. When Leela remarks that they don't know each other at all, she injures her hand in a childish display of rage. Mother and daughter drift far apart at one stage.

However, in the world of films, there usually is a neat resolution at the end. Amaya comes to see the error of her ways and finally start listening, but not before a dramatic event makes them all realize how precious life really is. Bhaskar does a wonderful job of inhabiting Amaya, warts and all. Amala Akkineni makes a comeback to Hindi films after 23 years in a small role as Amaya's understanding aunt who returns to help Leela and Amaya during their conflict.

It's bittersweet watching Listen... Amaya knowing that just a mere months after the film released, Sheikh passed away. The screenplay, by debutant director Singh, Geeta Singh and Vikas Chandra, was written especially with Sheikh and Naval in mind. They were their first choices and the film benefits from their previous chemistry and shared experiences and adds extra weight to their scenes. Listen... Amaya might be a plea from a mother to a child to keep oneself open to the world, but it's also a lesson for us to stop and listen to what's in front of us.