Whenever I think of Urmila Matondkar, I think of a lot warm food and conversation. Urmila talks a lot. If you know her, you’d know what ‘nineteen to the dozen’ means. She is a one-woman entertainment industry in the living-room if she warms up to you. Or else she freezes you out of her life.
I can’t say I am totally surprised by her move into politics. Urmila has always been an adventurous soul, and never afraid to speak her mind. At the same time she can be killingly diplomatic when the need arises. In brief, the consummate politician. What I like the most in her personality is her firmness of resolve. She is well-informed about current affairs. And if she is half as enterprising in politics as she was in her choice of films (from Kaun to Pinjar to Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara), she would make a huge impact in politics.
Anupam Kher who directed Urmila in his only directorial venture Om Jai Jagdish and also played her father in one of his finest films, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, talks fondly of Urmila’s inner drive to excel at whatever she does. Half-measures don’t work for Urmila. I’ve seen her fierce dedication at getting it right from the time she came in.
Like Sridevi, Urmila’s debut film as a leading lady in Hindi (Aa Gale Lag Jaa) was a disaster. Like Sridevi, Urmila was re-launched and the rest is history. On September 8, 1995 at 12:05 noon, a star was born. It was like a war chant. The minute Urmila Matondkar screamed "Yaeee re yaeee re zor nagake nachee re" in her micro-mini Manish Malhotra outfit that left EVERYTHING to the imagination, she was a certifiable star.
I remember Ram Gopal Gopal telling me Urmila’s stardom had nothing to do with him. “When people say I made Urmila’s career in Rangeela I completely disagree. I am the same guy who earlier made Drohi with Urmila. What happened to that? For any actor, success is a question of getting the right opportunity. Then everything falls into place. During Drohi, the choreographer didn’t turn up for a song. So I asked Urmila if she would dance on her own and she agreed. And she did a great job. That’s when I decided to make Rangeela with Urmila.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Urmila’s career shows her to be constantly making brave choices. She isn’t afraid to take risks. She may stumble and fall while taking the ragged route. But she doesn’t let the fear of failing and falling stop her from being adventurous. Shabana Azmi, a dear friend to both Urmila and I, recalls Urmila’s enthusiasm even as a child artiste in Shekhar Kapoor’s Masoom.
Shabana describes Urmila as a born star. Above all, Urmila is an entertainer. She can take centre stage effortlessly. Unlike Hema Malini who had to coax herself out of her shyness to become a politician, Urmila is comfortable with crowds. I remember her walking into the premiere of Kamal Haasan’s Abhay many years ago in Mumbai. The flashbulbs went berserk. Urmila posed, preened, pouted and then rushed towards me as the cameras continued to click, not the least self-conscious about greeting a friend while the photographers were clicking. I knew some day she will captivate crowds on a far larger scale than the entertainment industry allows. The moment has come now.