Miss Chamko was a wee bit older than me so it would take me a while but as I grew up, I’d always catch up with her. Or so I thought as I watched her descend the stairs after the best washing powder-prowess demonstration ever.
She walks into Siddharth’s bachelor pad. His roomies have put up pictures of scantily clad women lovingly. But our Siddharth’s wall has Vivekananda! He quickly covers the other photos with a towel. She finishes washing his shirt as part of her demonstration and proudly points to it and asks, “Isn’t it shining?”
“Has to be,” he replies part laconic, part sheepish. “It’s just come back from the laundry.” And I was floored. I may have developed a fascination for washing clothes since then, because my Miss Chamko, better known as Deepti Naval, in the effervescent Chashme Budoor (with Farooq Shaikh as Siddharth) would fascinate me as I transited from the mandatory shorts in school to the more respectable full-length trousers.
Since then, every conversation I have had with any woman I was remotely interested in, would make me look for Miss Chamko, happily demonstrating the power of washing powder and walking up that little garden bridge to a charming restaurant to sip cold coffee with ice cream.
Miss Chamko and I were born in the same month, albeit a mere 17 years apart. As I grew older, Miss Chamko took on different roles but none of them disappointed me. They just added to my fascination for this witty, intelligent and elegant lady who continues to personify romance.
But yes, part of Miss Chamko’s charm came from the handsome and witty man who rode a bike that barely worked, smoked cheap cigarettes and kept the most pious wall in his bachelor pad. Shaikh’s Siddharth, as I would learn later, was an essential ingredient in the recipe of my boyish fantasy. The final ingredient was the city where Siddharth and Neha met: Delhi. It was special to me because this was the city that I was born in, loved and would leave for a few years. Strangely enough, Sai Paranjpye, the director who captured Delhi of that era — a city of empty roads and beautiful houses and gardens — hailed from another magical city, Pune, where I would spend years when I grew a little older. So, in my little world, everything fell into place beautifully.
Over the years, Naval would meet Shaikh in various other roles. As the idealistic wife in Saath Saath, in which she brings him back on track after his brief encounter with corruption; his ‘educated’ wife pretending to be a rustic in Kissi Se Na Kehna; the quiet but determined woman in a Mumbai chawl in Katha. In another film (Hip Hip Hurray) I remember her having a witty conversation on feminism, this time Shaikh being replaced by Raj Kiran (the substitution did little to dampen my enthusiasm for her). And when a friend recently wrote to me that she was fascinated to see how Naval was immune to the charms of Arjun Rampal in Inkaar, I knew I was right about her all along!
So, it is with some — ok, considerable — excitement that I wait for her return to the screen with Shaikh in Listen Amaya, a tale of a kind of romance perhaps forgotten in these cynical times.