Deepti Naval: In memory of Smita Patil

On the actress’s 61st birth anniversary today (17 October), friend and fellow actress Deepti Naval shares a poem written especially for her.

Courtesy: Deepti Naval

Sonal Pandya

One of Hindi cinema’s most talented actresses, Smita Patil, was gone too soon at 31 owing to complications during childbirth. The star of critically acclaimed films like Manthan (1976), Bazaar (1982), and Mirch Masala (1987), she became the face of the new wave of parallel cinema that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. Her death left a huge void in Hindi cinema which was never quite filled. There can never be another Smita Patil.

Actress Deepti Naval knows that only too well. The two acted together in just one film, Mirch Masala (1987), in which Patil essayed her final role. But they also knew each other as friends and colleagues. A 1981 Stardust annual cover labelled Patil, Naval and Shabana Azmi as ‘The New Wave Glamour Queens’. The three had a friendly (and not-so-friendly) rivalry going and were often considered for each other’s films.

Naval allowed us to share her moving poem ‘Smita and I’ here. The poem was part of her book, Black Wind, which was published in 2004. She said of her state when she penned it, “The poem was written after Smita passed away. Her going was a big jolt for us. I remember being traumatised by Smita's sudden demise for months together. It was after that that I wrote these words addressed to her.”

Naval also spoke about the above photo: “We were on Bandstand together on one of these monsoon days, in the month of July, August sometime, [with the] cloudy sky in the back and those people sitting on the rocks. I used to live around there, on Bandstand.”

Smita and I

Always on the run
Chasing our dreams
We met each time

At baggage claims
VIP lounges
Check-in counters

Stood a while together
Among gaping crowds
Spoke, unspoken words

Yearning to share
Yet afraid, afraid
Of ourselves

All around us
People cheering, leering
And we, like spectacles
Amidst all the madness

Trying to live a moment
Of truth
A glance, a touch
A feeling to hold on to
And move on…

The last time we sat together
Waiting for a flight
I remember I’d said,

‘There must be another way
Of living this life!’

For a long time
You remained silent


Without blinking
Without turning

‘There isn’t’

You are gone, and
I’m still running…

Still trying
To prove you wrong