Urmila Matondkar Interview: I have never understood the concept of comeback

No matter whether you see her on the cine screen very often or not, but one thing is certain that the moment you hear her name, a thousand memories, which you made while watching her movies on the big or small screen in the 90s, flush back to trigger a broad smile on your face. Yes, we are talking about the sizzling ‘Chamma Chamma’ girl Urmila Matondkar who is coming back to movies after a massive gap of nine years and is busy raising the temperature several notches higher in the song ‘Bewafa Beauty’ from the upcoming Irrfan Khan starrer Blackmail. To know what prompted her to come back to movies with a song, her favourite actress from the current lot, and what actually kept her busy while she was away from the arc light, our Mumbai correspondent Mohnish Singh sits down with the gorgeous actress in a sea-facing luxury hotel in the maximum city and tries to extract from her as much as possible. Excerpts…

How does it feel to be back on the silver screen after such a really long time?

Till I am asked this question, I didn’t think I was away for so long and trust me no actor thinks what you feel. But to answer your question nevertheless, it’s been smashing because, to begin with, when I heard this song (Bewafa Beauty), I was excited because I have never thought of this Indian lyrical side of cinema. That’s why I thought it was very exciting to do something like that and I always believed in doing something that hasn’t been done before. Abhinay (Deo), the director, was so very clear that he didn’t want just another dancing kind of a number. He wanted a lot of adaigee and a lot of expressions, something which used to be there in the old type of cinema. The makers were saying and trying to convey something to the audience as it’s not just a flat-out dancing number, which is what most of them sometimes turn out to be. So that is something that really got me hooked to the whole thing and I am glad I did it because, as I said, when you do it without much of publicity and launch or hullabaloo and the song gets some 3 million views in first 3 hours, it’s a beautiful feel.

So is it just a song you are making your comeback with or there are some full-fledged roles also in the pipeline?

First of all, I am not trying to make any comeback. There is no comeback and go-back (laughs). I have never understood the concept of comeback and most actors don’t do, trust me. But anyway, the song ‘Bewafa Beauty’ came to me and I thought it’s exciting and I think I am the best one in dancing. It was fun. Coming to projects, I am open to them but I don’t want to make any comeback or anything like that. I don’t plan my life so much. I take it as it comes and do it to the best of my abilities, be it any part of my life.

What kind of response are you receiving for your song ‘Bewafa Beauty’ from the film Blackmail?

Superb! It’s superb. I was telling this to somebody that today when people think of heavy duty choreography, they talk about ‘Chamma Chamma’. I am extremely happy that when tomorrow people will talk about expressions and grace, they will remember that song. The same thought was there when we were making it. That’s the pretty much the kind of response we are getting.

I have done glossy, big scale dancing numbers before, but this song is set in a dingy bar. It’s a part of a gritty kind of a film, so the outlook in filming it is different. My looks, expressions and everything is different. This is more massy, not something which I have done in the past. It’s something more like a whistle-worthy song. So that’s the different one tried to aim at and I am glad that it has hit the bull’s eye.

The song has got a positive response from most of the audience, but there are some who expected a little extra because you were there featuring in it. What do you have to say about that?

First of all, the song that has been released so far has got a lot of movie inserts into it and that’s why you see a lot is happening there in it. The whole song has not come out yet, so that’s why they are getting a little whatever. Secondly, I have been associated with extremely high glam, glossy, big-scale different kind of dancing numbers and this is a completely different take. Having said that, the song cannot be something different from the movie. It’s gritty so that’s why some of them are ‘Oh my God! Why isn’t she dancing? It is lavish sets usually our movies show – God knows where these clubs exist, but that’s what is shown usually – but that was not the intention because I have been there done that. The whole thing was to definitely do something urban and different.

Of late, we have seen you connecting with your fans more through Instagram. How has that feeling been?

You know I have been the only actor who has come on Instagram so late in life because I am extremely technically challenged and I always used to feel what if I get trolled but I had been told partly by my husband and couple of friends that it’s not like that. But I have never ever let go a chance to thank all my fans for all my journey because if it wasn’t for them. I would not have been able to make any because coming from a non-filmy background you cannot imagine having such a tremendous journey. It would not have been possible if it was not the constant support of the fans. So that’s why the whole social media thing has happened. If you look at it, you will see that not my whole life revolves around it. But if I want to share some moments of my life with them (fans) because of whom I am who I am in the first place, I do. So I have been having a great time on it and it’s really amazing. I really want to thank all my social media followers.

Did you miss acting while you were away from films?

Yes and no. I mean, there are lots of other things that I haven’t done in years, now I am busy doing. So I don’t really sit and miss it. But it is great to be in front of the camera, that’s how I put it.

What kept you busy when you were away from movies?

There are so many things that I love doing and I can’t do a hundred things at a time because then you mess up everything and like I just said that I believe in giving my best in whatever I do at that moment. So there has been a lot of travelling, reading, I did a course in yoga, I learn scuba diving, I learnt a bit of Spanish. Now the next thing I am learning is to play a little bit of guitar. Trust me there is a lot life has to offer. We just don’t know most of the times. So that’s what I have been busy doing.

Your choice of films, be it Rangeela or Pinjar for that matter, was very different from what was happening in the 90s. Do you think you were much ahead of your time?

Yeah, absolutely! I think anybody in my shoes would have done hundreds of Rangeela first before thinking of doing acting, one fine day. That is not what I had time for. I just wanted to try, explore and do work as much as possible, and I am glad I gave it my best. And whatever roles and characters came to me were challenging. Whether the movie was a big hit or not – because they were not cut out to be the full-fledged con; it was a different kind of cinema which was made 20 or more years ago. So obviously you were not going to expect every film to become a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai of that time – it had that kind of challenging subject. And if you talk about today also, even if it is a movie of its own kind, those were movies where very few will dare to go. So I am glad that very few actors who really actually dared to go there and I happened to be that actor and I am very glad that I was way ahead of time because I was in this line of work because of my love for acting, not for the name, fame and money it gives you – though it feels great before you jump at it. It feels great to have a lot of money and lot of fame and people loving you and adulation give you the biggest and ultimate high in life – but that was not the base reason. Therefore, it was great experimenting and the whole ride was good.

It must have been a risky ride, right?

Of course! There have been times when some piece of my mind would come to me and talk to me, ‘Have you gone mad? How could you do that?’ And till the time I saw that I never thought of it like that. And I really thought that we underestimated the intelligence of an audience and media. Why would people think of it in any other way? You’re just playing a character. So it is just that.

Have you ever thought of a sequel to Rangeela?

Oh, no way!

Do you have any favourite actress from the current lot of actresses in Bollywood?

I think all of them are doing fabulous, and I am not being politically correct. I will tell you why. Deepika (Padukone) is fantastic. She is like an all-rounder. She has had a very remarkable rise in her career. Alia Bhatt is doing fantastically well in her genre. Kangana (Ranaut) is rocking in whatever she comes in and does. When you watch her film, you don’t see Kangana, you just see the character. So each one of them is putting in their best and is doing absolutely fantastic work.

Any recent Bollywood film which you saw and felt that ‘I should have done it’?

You know, I don’t think like that. I am a very hungry artist. I would want to do my work well. But when I see others’ work, I don’t feel like I should have done it. I am just enjoying the experience of watching a film because I am a movie buff. I love cinema for what it is. It is great to watch it. When you are watching it, enjoy the experience. Just it.

Do you remember any recent film which you liked very much?

Actually, of late, I haven’t watched too many films as I have been travelling a lot.

How do you think the shooting process has changed since the 80s when you started as a child artist?

It is much professional now. That’s a good part of it. So basically actors are wasting lesser time meeting and more time working.

What do you have to say about exhaustive promotional activities which have become compulsory nowadays?

That is, for me, great. As I said it’s my way of connecting to the people, to fans that I haven’t been connected to and when talking about promotions, it’s not a pain when you are talking about good work and, touch wood, in that sense it has never been a pain for me.

You got an opportunity to share the screen space with one of Indian cinema’s greatest actresses Sridevi in her last film Judaai before she made a comeback with English Vinglish. Now she is no more with us. Do you recall any fond memories of her?

She was an actor par excellence. What can I say? We all know that. There’s nothing that she hadn’t managed to do and it’s too tragic to talk about the whole episode. I happened too sudden. Till afternoon (of 24th February), I didn’t even believe the news (of Sridevi’s demise). I thought it was a rude joke or something. (She almost chokes)

There is a new trend in Bollywood of recreating old songs. Will you be okay if any of your iconic item songs is recreated?

I don’t think that much about all of this. You think of it and also write a good story on it (laughs).

How do you see today’s cinema viz a viz the time when you were active in films?

Then also there was good cinema made. But now there are better options and the market has become bigger and the making has become better. So definitely the whole experience has become so much nicer, and that is great to see.

The leading man of Blackmail, Irrfan Khan, is unfortunately unwell these days. Are you in touch with him?

No, unfortunately, I have never even met him to even say a ‘hello’. It’s been sad. It’s very sad to hear about his illness as well. But like he said he is a fighter and he will come out of it all winner and will be rocking all of us. I am hoping and praying for that.