In a career spanning 30 years Urmila has played everything from a killer to a stalker to a rape survivor. It’s easy to be bedazzled by her glamour and oomph. But beneath these there is an actor who understands the craft.
1. Rangeela (1980): She came, she sang, she danced, she conquered… Urmila tripping over that handcart to the sound of Asha Bhosle’s ‘Ho Ja Rangeela Re’ oozed oomph and sex appeal. With considerable help from Manish Malhotra, Urmila redefined the seductive space which was so far occupied by Hindi film heroines with simpering reluctance. After Zeenat Aman, Urmila was the first Bollywood diva to break away from the belief that only bad girls wore short skirts.
2. Pinjar (2003): A change of image for the femme fatale, as she transformed into a rural Punjabi woman during Partition who accepts her rapist as her husband. It was a tough role requiring gruelling levels of focus and dedication. Director Chandraprakash Diwedi was filming Amrita Pritam, and that is a big deal. Urmila was up to the challenge.
3. Pyar Tune Kya Kiya (2001): Arrey Ramu, tune kya kiya! Ram Gopal Varma once again turned his muse to a wickedly subverted ode to womanhood. If in Rangeela Urmila played a sexually innocent seductress (Urmila oomphed only in dream sequences) in this film she lusted after Fardeen Khan like Sharon Stone on coke. It was frighteningly desperate performance filled with rage and longing that went beyond the mediocre direction (by the late Rajat Mukerjee). Her expressions of yearning and aggression in the song ‘Rondhe Hai Tera Pyaar’ (Alisha Chiani smouldering up the soundtrack) were killing.
4. Ek Haseena Thi (2004): Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Who knows this better than Saif Ali Khan? He was left by Urmila to be eaten by live rats at the end Sriram Raghavan stunning revenge saga. From the innocent virgin seduced by the cunning Casanova to the psychopathic avenger, what a range Urmila revealed! To think they didn’t give her the best actress award for this. They didn’t give Mumtaz the award for Tere Mera Sapne either.
5. Kaun: I still get shivers when I recall Urmila’s psychotic expression at the end as she peeps out of her home’s eye hole to catch her next victim. This was a film that required her to ‘act’ like a normal frightened victim all through when in fact she was a frigging lunatic killing people who had the misfortune of knocking on her oak door. Among all the films that Ram Gopal Varma directed with Urmila this was the scariest. And for the right reasons. After Urmila stopped working with him Ramu’s films got scary for all the wrong reasons.