Discerning observers of Deepa Sahi’s film career would always be in a dilemma as to whether she has been a better director or a more talented actress. Perhaps she herself was also caught in between this duality of thought about which of her two prominent qualities she should give more priority. Whatever that may be, she has always displayed an independent trait in herself, right from the time she decided to stay back in India when all the rest of her family shifted to Canada. She proved her mettle in studies as well, being a gold medalist from the Delhi University, before attempting to hone her skills in the realm of theatre. The dichotomy that later surfaced in her versatile career, cropped up in her very first foray into theater. While she had joined the National School of Drama with the aim of becoming a director, she was swarmed with more acting offers, leaving her little option but to pursue acting.
Moving over from drama to the world of films, she was fortunate to have the company of the noted director
, who cast her in the 1984 film, “Party” whose cast was almost a complete collection of actors and actresses of the parallel cinema, and basically from the world of drama. For one of her tastes and preferences it could not have been a better beginning. The film, produced by the National Film Development Corporation, participated in several Film Festivals and received rave reviews. Her next film “Aghaat”, again by Nihalani, a year later, was also well received and got the Filmfare Critics award that year, featuring once again the leading lights of parallel cinema.
The next phase of her cinematic career, however, got interlinked with her husband
, himself a director of parallel cinema. Although she acted in several of his films, the one that stood out for its bold overtones and much discussed adult scenes, was the 1992 production “Maya Memsaab”, opposite the up and coming
Shah Rukh Khan
. Although her roles in various movies have drawn critical appreciation, the one performance most lauded was in the 1988 Doordarshan tele serial “
”, in the backdrop of the partition of India. Her role as the straight talking, unabashed backward class woman from interior Punjab was on the lips of connoisseurs for long. As a director her first venture was the romantic comedy “
Tere Mere Phere
” in 2011, but it met with only moderate commercial success, while “Mangal Pandey: The Rising”, co produced with her husband earlier in 2005, fared better.