The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, October 12, 2003
Lead Article

Evoking the Bhoot of the past with Pinjar

After her stunning performance as a possessed lady in Bhoot, Urmila is back with a portrayal of a victim of Partition in Pinjar, based on the famous Amrita Pritam novel. Vickey Lalwani in conversation with the Rangeela girl

Urmila Matondkar in Pinjar
Urmila Matondkar in Pinjar

FROM portraying a seductive and innocent slum girl to playing a psychopathic killer or a possessed woman, Urmila Matondkar has done it all. She had a huge string of flops... until Rangeela happened. Her looks, hair, clothes, attitude... everything went in for a complete transformation, thanks in a large part to dress designer Manish Malhotra and make-up whiz Mickey Contractor. To her credit, the Maharashtrian beauty worked harder, constantly innovating herself. In October, she will be seen in a screen adaptation of the Amrita Pritam novel,Pinjar.

Excerpts from an interview:
How did you prepare for this complex portrayal in Pinjar?

I have gone into every detail of the period—from the clothes, to body language to the ambience of the era. Moreover, I read a lot on the plight of women abducted during Partition. I also read a collection of stories based on Partition. This was a very conscious effort, simply because I have been associated with modern roles.


Did you read the original novel Pinjar?

No. I didn't want to mix up the script and the novel.

Recently, you even visited Wagah at the Indo-Pak border?

Right. Women there have gone through many of the experiences that my character goes through in Pinjar. Indian history hasn't really recorded the pain and suffering of the women who were used as pawns in the vendetta game during Partition. Abduction and rape were only the beginning of these women's trauma. Many such women were impregnated and had nowhere to go.
How would you describe your character in Pinjar?
My character in Pinjar goes through the harrowing experience of being abducted during Partition. When she escapes and manages to return to her family, they shun her. Think of it, the issue of social stigmas and ostracisation of women 60 years ago is just as relevant today. Women still have to constantly prove their innocence and assert their right to dignity in our patriarchal society.

Pinjar seems to have moved you?

I can't tell you how moved I am. I don't think any film has or will make as much difference to me as a human being, actress and a woman as Pinjar has done. We actors in Bollywood exist in a cocoon that is far removed from real world. Pinjar awakened me
to the reality that most women face. We just have to step out of Mumbai or step out of our cars to see how women at the grassroots live

Go on...

We don't know about the wounds of Partition. We don't know that those haven't healed still. We have just read history books. I was a very good student and scored very high in history, but the books don't tell you each and every detail. Unless and until you see those wounds in person, you will not feel sensitised. You know what I mean? I am sorry if I am sounding fairy-tailish, but a beginning has to be made to eradicate all conflicts arising due to religion.

Do you think Pinjar can do the trick what Krantiveer, Gadar and Sarfarosh could not? I mean, can Pinjar wipe off communalism?

Difficult to say. As a human being, I got the opportunity to realise something and make a statement. Hope that people realise when they see it.

Do you think that Hindi films should be made legitimate in Pakistan?

That I don't know, but I would love to see Pinjar being screened in Pakistan. It is minus any bias, colour, etc.

Have some of your recent films put you into a bracket in which commercial films will be hard to come by?

I don't think so. Recently, I did a commercial film Deewaangee. I want to be remembered in the cricket sense as an all-rounder. But yes, I am now looking at roles with substance. I can't accept all 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.

Did your sex-symbol tag stick on you for too long?

Today, I am having the best of both worlds—commercial and art. Filmmakers are coming to me with the meatiest of roles. I am having my cake and eating it too! Actually, the sex-symbol image is a figment of the media; they just want some sensational heading and matter to fill up their pages. It should have stopped long back when I was offered Judaai, soon after Rangeela.

Of late, you have been keeping a low profile. Why?

When I read some of these rubbish stories (in the Press), I feel flabbergasted. It's sad to see respected sections of the media putting two and two together and saying it's five. Anyway, 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.

No celebrity has had any share of his privacy...

Yeah. I think the day I became a celebrity I gave up all right to privacy. I can't go around explaining and clarifying everything. Anyway, friends don't need it, and enemies won't believe it. By refuting nasty rumours, articles, I feel I'm giving garbage the dignity it does not deserve.

You have seldom been thick pals with any heroine...
I am not daggers drawn with any of them. As and when I meet them, we chat and have pleasant moments. Honestly speaking, our fast and stressful life does not leave any scope for intimate friendships.

What next?

I have three films—Khalid Mohammed's Tehzeeb, Ram Gopal Varma's film for 20th Century Fox Ek Haseena Thi and Tanuja Chandra's A Hope and a Little Sugar (a nice frothy story about a Muslim boy and a Sikh girl).

Do you believe in ghosts that you did Bhoot so convincingly?

I don't believe in ghosts at all. That was simply acting. Thanks if you liked it. Believe me, human beings can be far more scary, dangerous and harmful than ghosts. TWF