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They say life is like a play, it is not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters. Acting is all about honesty and in our region where the film industry has been entertaining the masses and still continues to do so, talent is definitely no accident of birth. Here's a talented actress from the land of hills and valleys and the mighty Brahmaputra, Urmila Mahanta who has found success and is content with life for she does what she loves most- acting. TNT had a tête-à-tête with the young and gifted actress to find out more about movies and life!
GREETINGS FROM TNT- THE NORTHEAST TODAY! AS CURIOUS AS I CAN GET, I HAVE TO ASK YOU THIS QUESTION- HOW DID YOU LAND UP WITH THE ROLE IN VAZHAKKU ENN 18/9?
Hello! It seems like coming straight from a movie script. During the Goa International Film Festival, one of my friends from Chennai spotted Balaji Sir and informed me about his stature. Hence, he insisted me to accompany him to greet; I simply followed. After a while, one of his assistants approached and informed that Balaji sir wanted to meet me. Balaji Sir directly proposed if I was interested to act in his next film and also asked me to watch his film "Kaloori" screened at IMAX. I was thrilled to receive the offer and then travelled to Chennai for many rounds of auditions, look test, etc.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES AT THE SHOOT.
It was a wonderful experience all together. I thoroughly enjoyed my tenure. Balaji sir is a very talented, sensitive director and he knows how to abstract the best out of his cast. He helped me in understanding my character 'Jyothi'. He also helped in understanding the culture and lifestyle of a typical slum dweller of Chennai. Similarly, I do share a cordial relationship with my co-actors, Mithun, Shri and Manisha. It was fun to have them around. In fact, during auditions, the team would take me out to the slums, bus stands, local trains, beaches, foot-paths and would also make me travel in a rickshaw while wearing costumes and make –ups. They would keep hidden cameras to capture my reactions. Overall, it was extremely memorable and a learning experience.
YOU SAY VAZHAKKU IS THE 'BEST DECISION' YOU'VE EVER MADE, SO DO YOU TAKE THIS AS A TURNING POINT OF YOUR CAREER?
Ofcourse, as it's my first ever film and people started recognizing me after Vazhakhu Enn.
VAZHAKKU, WELL, ALMOST MADE IT TO THE "BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM" CATEGORY IN THE 2013 OSCARS!
Yeah, it was in the list of Top 3. But for me to get short-listed itself is a big achievement. I got to stand at par with Vidya Balan, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor in my very first film itself.
YOU'VE BEEN FEATURED IN TELEVISION SERIALS LIKE MURDER, CRIME PATROL AND TEJIMOLA AND HAVE ALSO ACTED IN SHORT FILMS LIKE AALIYA, THEIR STORY AND CHENG KURTHY….
Yes, I did Crime Patrol, Savdhan India for Sony & Life!Ok….channels. I did Tejimola and Murder before joining FTII. I was also the lead in all my short films! Apart from these I have acted in "Let Me Twist", directed by Sourav Shukla, as the main lead and it was screened in the USA. Similarly, "Cheng Kurthy" was screened in Kerala Film Festival. "Their Story" won several awards in foreign countries and last but not the least, "Aaliyaa" got the Best Short Film award, Best DOP award and Best Critic award in MIFF (Mumbai International Film Festival 2012 )and Ladakh Film Festival (2012) as well.
DID ACTING HAPPEN TO YOU BY CHANCE OR HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN YOUR CHILDHOOD DREAM? WERE YOUR PARENTS SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR DECISION FROM THE START?
No, it was rather a childhood hobby for me. I started acting when I was kid. I have done various stage shows while studying at school. After getting into FTII (Film and Television Institute of India), I had decided to become a professional actress. Yeah my parents, in fact, my entire family has been very much supportive since the very first day! I am thankful to them.
WELL, WE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT YOU- YOUR FAMILY, EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND, ETC.
Well, let me start with my father- my father, Mr. Giridhar Mahanta is a retired Gazetted Officer of Govt. of Assam, my mother, Mrs. Ramala Mahanta is a home maker. I am blessed with three siblings: two sisters and one brother. Both my sisters, Ms. Jutika Mahanta and Ms. Munmi Mahanta are settled here in Mumbai and brother, Mr. Munindra Mahanta is working in Assam. My sister-in-law, Ms. Krishna Mahanta is a professional beautician. I did my graduation from Dimoria College, Khetri and then moved to Pune and got into FTII.
WHY DO YOU THINK ARTISTES FROM OUR REGION ARE LAGGING BEHIND IN THIS FIELD COMPARED TO THOSE FROM THE MAINLAND? DO YOU THINK OUR ORIENTAL LOOKS PLAY A ROLE HERE? WHAT OTHER FACTORS ATTRIBUTE TO IT?
I am not the right person to talk to on this topic, but yes, I can share about my experiences in Mumbai. Language is the first and foremost constraint we face. Our accent plays a crucial role here- once we open our mouth people can identify that we belong to Northeast. Similarly, structure-wise we are not well built like people from North India and the rest. And since I don't have orient features I never experienced any problem as such! I believe lack of self-confidence is also one of the major obstacles.
WHAT'S ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING SHOOTS YOU'VE DONE?
…My first film Vazhakhu Enn, where I didn't understand what was going on in the shoot, location, etc. In fact, I was not aware about the dialogues as they were speaking in Tamil, but I had to act and showcase the right expression. During the shoot, I had to convey through gestures even to ask for a glass of water and so was it for lunch. Similarly, while giving my first audition for the film, my co-actor was from Tamil Nadu who could speak only Tamil, and we had a scene where we needed to interact with each other. He was conversing in Tamil whereas I was speaking in Assamese. What great laughs we had!
CLICHÉD AS IT MAY SOUND, WHAT INSPIRES YOU THE MOST? WHO HAS BEEN YOUR ULTIMATE ICON?
Whenever I see any good performance it inspires me to push myself . I don't have any icon as such…
IT IS HEARD THAT YOU ARE CURRENTLY SHOOTING FOR AN UNTITLED PROJECT DIRECTED BY DILIP K. MUKHARIA AND YOU'RE PLAYING A LEAD ROLE THERE. I BELIEVE IT'S YOUR FIRST STEP TOWARDS BOLLYWOOD. TELL US ABOUT IT. ALSO TELL US ABOUT BALLAD OF RUSTOM.
Yeah, it's my first venture into Bollywood. The name of the film is not yet registered and I have completed 80% of the film. I am very much excited to work with senior artistes like Asrani, Shakti Kapoor who happened to be my super seniors from FTII, and then there are Raaj Jutsy, Manoj Joshi, Pitobash (FTII), etc. Ballad of Rustom happened while studying in FTII; my senior who was directing the film insisted me to do a cameo and usually we don't say 'No' to our seniors! I am very happy to know that Ballad of Rustom is doing quite well in festivals across the country.
I am currently shooting for Sanjay Leela Bhanshali and Ketan Mehta; so thrilled to be a part of SLB production and it's a rare experience to work with such a big banner, big set, big stars… I also wanted to work with Ketan Sir from my FTII days as he is regarded to be one of the most intelligent directors of our time. He is again a super senior from FTII. I have acted in his upcoming film called "Majhi, the Mountain Man" with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Patna.
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME OUT. WE AT TNT WISH YOU THE VERY BEST FOR YOUR ENDEAVOURS. ON A LAST NOTE, DO YOU HAVE ANY MESSAGE TO ASPIRING ACTORS OF OUR REGION?
Thank you so much. It's my pleasure. Be mentally ready to struggle always, to be trained enough to face any hurdle. Know yourself and know your limitations as well.