Urmila Matondkar's last release was Ram Gopal Varma's production, Ek Hasina Thi, which released in January 2004.
The actress kept away from the limelight for an entire year and it appeared she had not signed any films either. But in reality, Urmila has been busy with two movies -- Shripal Morakhia's Naina and Pankaj Parasher's Varanasi.
Despite her keeping a low profile, Urmila's popularity remains unchanged.
The actress, shooting in Varanasi for Parasher's film, was surprised by the adulation she got. "I have been to non-metropolitan towns for shooting [before]. But nowhere have I witnessed such a soaring mass of fans!" she exclaims. "Wherever I went, there were people flocking for attention. It was amazing!"
Urmila is not the only Bollywood star to shoot in Varanasi in recent times. Abhishek Bachchan had shot in the city for Goldie Behl's Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai. More recently, Aishwarya Rai was down at the Ganges shooting for Rituparno Ghosh's Chokher Bali.
Earlier, however, Deepa Mehta could not shoot her film, Water -- starring Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das -- in Varanasi when news spread in the city that the film belittled its culture. The director had to finally shoot the film in Colombo.
Meanwhile, Urmila's Naina was shot in London.
"From London to Varanasi is quite a long way, but it is a journey worth taking. There's so much to learn from the cultural differences. I'm lucky to have travelled to many parts of the world for my shootings. I think an actor needs to broaden her perspective constantly," says Urmila.
The actress will return to Varanasi in March for the second schedule. "This time I'll be pitched against a formidable cast of actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia and Raj Babbar. I love the idea of being part of an interesting ensemble cast," she says.
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The last time she worked with Naseer was when Urmila was a child -- in Shekhar Kapur's Masoom. "How time flies! In 2003, I got to work with Shabanaji in Tehzeeb, after Masoom. We have become good friends," Urmila says.
Urmila's heroes in her new films are relatively new faces -- Anuj Sawhney in Naina (Nayee Padosan) and Ashmit Patel in Varanasi.
"To me it has never been important who my co-star is. The script is always my main consideration. Varanasi's script is a superstar," the actress says.