She is just back from Male, having soaked herself in the beauty of white sandy beaches and the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean, all the while shooting for her popular travel show, Musafir Hoon Yaaron. The soft-spoken, gorgeous Deepti Bhatnagar is on a high, with her travel show for pilgrims, Yatra, netting in sizeable applause as well.
We meet at her sprawling bungalow in suburban Mumbai where she is busy nursing her operated knee. "Honestly, I overdid it just a little bit with long skiing and hiking holidays in Austria," she smiles. "But that isn't keeping me down. I am only doing those destinations where I can swim, as that eases the pressure off the joint," she says.
"Musafir Hoon Yaaron has gone online now, and my blogs and travel writing have increased. Yatra is on air again, albeit in a different avatar. We are shooting in HD format now. I shot the first episode at the famous Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai. In this edition of Yatra, I am delving deeper into the ritual fabric at every holy place. For instance, we look at the stories behind the different prasads offered to different gods at various temples. I am also bringing out the iconic chants for the deities, the kind of puja done on different days of the week and so on. These are some informative nuggets that make for an interesting show."
Of course, temples are very difficult to shoot in. For spaces where cameras and phones are not allowed, getting permissions to shoot inside sanctums is even tougher. Of course, Deepti manages it all with a smile. "Often it takes a month for one permission to come through," she says.
Both the shows have come a long way since 2001 when Deepti ventured into television production. For Musafir Hoon Yaaron alone, she visited almost 80 countries in six years! She has always been a familiar face on the telly with her commercials on the air and several blockbusters, including the Jackie Shroff-starrer Ram Shastra and the Aamir Khan-starrer Mann, apart from movies down South.
Musafir Hoon Yaaron is now spanning novel pegs in the best skiing destinations, spa specials, adventurous locales... "If you are starting out with skiing, Gulmarg in Kashmir is your best bet. It is home turf, the slopes are gentle, and you can get your comfort food in hot aloo parathas easily," says Deepti.
"Once you have broken the ice, literally, you can move onto the mountain slopes in Europe: Swiss Alps, Pittbull in Austria and more," she says.
Deepti is a one-woman army. She has been powering Deepti Bhatnagar Productions for 20 years and can handle shooting, editing, anchoring and more all by herself.
Deepti has been feeding her creative appetite by producing films as well. Now she begins the promotions for her upcoming movie, Sunglass, starring Konkona Sen,
R Madhavan and Jaya Bachchan. "I have shot it in Kolkata, in two languages: Hindi and Bengali," shares Deepti. A nice, light, humorous film, Sunglass plays around the curious insights of Konkona's mother Jaya who peeps inside people's heads to read their thoughts once she slips on a pair of antique sunglasses.
"We have done the festival circuit and are readying for release in the end of November," she says.
Travel is in her genes and Deepti is looking at starting her own travel channel soon. Even her sons have inherited the travel bug and love skiing, snorkelling and swimming at exotic locations across the globe. "My son Shubh believes in visiting small remote villages in India to teach the locals new skills like acting and photography, and create an interesting travelogue around that. There are millions of hamlets in India and getting them to monetise on their specialities in arts and crafts and food is a unique way of rallying support for them. That's next on my radar," she shares.
"I live and breathe travel. Life is all about learning. So, here's to my secret dream of shooting small films on travel pegs in different countries. Live life large!"