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February 23, 2002
Subhash K Jha
Urmila Matondkar will now act in a screen adaptation of the Amrita Pritam novel, Pinjar.
"I have just been signed by Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi, who made the historical Chanakya for national television, for Punjabi-Urdu author Amrita Pritam's Pinjar," confirms Urmila.
With post-Partition India as a backdrop, Pinjar tells the story of a rape victim who is gradually drawn to her rapist. Manoj Bajpai plays the male lead. Urmila says she fell in love with her multi-shaded role the minute she heard the script.
"I am looking into every detail of the period --- from the clothes which will be designed by my regular Manish Malhotra, to body language to environmental details of the period."
Urmila stresses that Pinjar is different from the other Partition drama Gadar – Ek Prem Katha: "Dr Dwivedi had finalised his script long before the release of Gadar. Pinjar will focus on the human side of the Partition. I have never before been so excited about any project."
As the unit prepares to leave for various outdoor locations in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, Urmila speaks about her need to evolve as an actress. "I am now looking at roles with substance. I can't accept roles that require me to pout and preen. Even when I had a dance item like Kambakht ishq in Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, I made sure it was better than my earlier dance numbers in Rangeela, Mast and China Gate."
Urmila speaks about Kambakht ishq: "What a tune Sandeep Chowta composed! I remember when I first heard it, I wanted to start shooting and dancing then and there. I do have a good number in Deewangee, where I play a pop star."
Of late Urmila has been keeping a low profile. "When I read some of these stories [in the press] I was shocked, then plainly amused. It's funny to see respected newspapers of the country resorting to tabloid mentality. Let them write what they want. The man or woman who pays hard-earned money to watch my film will not be influenced by what the magazines write about me.
“I think the day I became a celebrity I gave up all right to privacy. But I would like to keep my dignity and self-respect intact. At the end of the day, after success and stardom are gone, that's all I will be left with."
There were reports about an Anthrax letter landing up at Urmila's doorstep recently. She says, "True, we received a slightly suspicious looking letter. Before I could open the envelope my family snatched it from me. We duly reported it to the authorities. It turned out to be a false alarm but it was blown out of proportion in the media."
This incident follows a more serious story about Urmila being threatened by the underworld. Though she refuses to speak on the subject at length, she says, "Where and how all this got into the press is anybody's guess. I've hardly spoken to the media. They write whatever they want, irrespective of whether I speak to them or not. So I might as well save my breath. I would rather do my work than talk about it."
"But, back to Pinjar, I have taken personal interest in every detail of my peformance in the film: the costumes, makeup — or the absence of it — dialogues, everything. That is the way it should be for every role. The actor or actress' involvement has to be complete, else the lack of interest shows on screen," states Urmila who is currently doing a selected number of films, including Anupam Kher’s Om Jai Jagdish.
"That is why I admire Kamal Haasan so much. I saw Abhay and I was simply blown by his performance. His involvement with the project shows in every frame. Do you know I did my first film as heroine with him? Later, we did Hindustani together. I would love to work with him again." Talks are on for a project in which Urmila may costar with Kamal Haasan.
About her next release Om Jai Jagdish, Urmila says, "It is the first time I am working in a multi-starrer. It has been great fun working with Anil Kapoor, Fardeen Khan Abhishek, especially Waheedaji (Waheeda Rehman), who I simply adore."
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