Urmila Matondkar: Celluloid will always be my first love

One of the finest talents in Bollywood and a rare combination of expressiveness and sensuality, Urmila Matondakar seems to have vanished from the big screen lately. She talks about television, films, marriage and various issues filling her mind…

After travelling for close to three hours we reached the sprawling ND studio in Karjat, on the outskirts of Mumbai, where Urmila Matondkar is shooting Marathi Paul Padhte Pudhe, a reality show on Zee Marathi. Hardly did we catch our collective breath that we lost it again – Urmila arrived on the set. Her gaze serious, countenance stern with no hint of smile on her charming face, the 37-year-old settles quickly down to a chat. She’s a celebrity judge on the show and believes that one needs to be extremely sensitive to slip into the shoes of a judge. “I am not a judgmental person, so it kind of becomes difficult for me to judge people or the act they perform on the show. Television demands more out of you, as a lot of it is impromptu. More so with reality TV, but I find it fascinatingly beautiful and challenging because it brings out the real personality. The sum total of what you have gathered in terms of life experiences comes into play,” says the Rangeela actor about her transition from a silver-screen star to a judge on the small screen. She adds, “This show is unique because it doesn’t have just dance or singing. The acts vary from yoga to mallkhamb and from rare sports to folk dance. It’s very exciting and challenging to judge something like this. And because I have been a performer all my life, I try to connect with the artiste in all these performers as well.”

It’s been a long time since we saw her on the big screen; you have to think really hard to remember the last film she was in. “It’s been a lull. Nothing exciting is happening, especially for an actor like me who has done so many different types of cinema. On the other hand, television is exciting. It has its own allure and perks,” she believes. But many think that actors are finding it easy to jump on the reality show bandwagon once the meaty film offers stop coming their way. “Everybody is allowed to have an opinion, but they can keep it to themselves. Such comments don’t affect me; otherwise I would not have been sitting here,” she shoots back and is quick to add, “Well, this is not the first time I am doing television. I have dabbled in this medium before. I have also done dance-oriented reality shows in the past. But television today has a much wider reach and I feel this is an exciting time to be on television for any actor.”

There was a time when the name ‘Urmila Matondkar’ was synonymous with sensuality and sexiness. With films like Rangeela and Daud, Urmila became every man’s idea of a sex symbol, if not his ultimate fantasy. She also won accolades for the sheer variety of roles she sketched and her canvas is much wider than her contemporaries’. “I have covered most genres of film and ventured into areas that people even today would hesitate to step into. I am often asked which film is closest to my heart and I find it difficult to select one. It would have been easier to choose one particular film had I done only romantic comedies or horror flicks, but that’s not the case.”

Throughout the conversation Urmila maintains that celluloid has always been her first love. So it would not be surprising to see the oomph girl of the ’90s making a solid comeback, if the script is exciting enough. “The offer has to be tremendously exciting, especially for an actor like me who has experimented with every genre and possible role there is. I don’t want to do a particular type of film. There needs to be something different I would like to see on screen therefore must be part of. Unless there is something exciting and challenging, it’s not going to set the ball rolling. I am in search of that kind of challenge. It needs to add to my repertoire.”

In a career spanning close to two decades Urmila has never been linked to any of her co-stars. Though the rumors of her alleged affair with director Ramgopal Varma cropped up often, the Bhoot director is said to have had a major fallout with his long-time muse. So is Urmila seeing someone now? Is marriage on her mind? “I am very traditional at heart and believe in the institution of marriage. But I also believe that one should not rush into things because somebody else is getting married. There has to be the right reason to tie the knot. I don’t understand what the phrase ‘to settle down’ means. One needs to settle in one’s mind first. I will get married when there is a right person in my life and when the time is right.”