October 25, 2002; This was the date when Urmila Matondkar was last seen in a mainstream Bollywood 'masala' when Anees Bazmee's Deewangee (Ajay Devgan, Akshaye Khanna) released. A psycho thriller, the film was a hit.
October 19, 2007; This is the date when Urmila Matondkar would be returning to mainstream cinema with the release of Vikram Bhatt directed Speed. A film that finds it's inspiration from Hollywood hit Cellular; it has Zayed Khan, Aftab Shivdasani and Tanushree Datta as added star attraction. But what was she doing all these five years? Doing a mix of unconventional and offbeat cinema which doesn't quite fall into an end to end commercial mainstream bracket. Pinjar (2003), Tehzeeb (2003), Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Maara (2005) and Banaras - A Mystic Love Story (2006) are just some of the examples.
What would have made her choose to change tracks? Ponders Onir, director of Bas Ek Pal (2006) which starred her in a pivotal role, "There is a phase in every actor's career when you wish you were doing something different from the ordinary. I guess Urmila too wanted to switch tracks after playing a conventional leading lady for around a decade."
The move apparently turned out to be counter-productive for her. She got critical acclaim for majority of her films but Box Office success evaded her. There were a couple of exceptions though with Ram Gopal Varma's last horror success Bhoot (2003) being decent while Naina (2005) managing to cover costs at some centers. In both the films, she had to enact the role of a woman who was troubled and petrified due to paranormal events in her life.
"Don't blame an actor if a movie doesn't perform well", defends her Ek Haseena Thi (2004) director Sriram Raghavan. "If Ek Haseena Thi didn't quite make waves at the box office, it could be due to wrong promotional strategy, market placement or dozen other factors. Did anyone say that Urmila was bad in the film?"
She may not have been bad but with nothing much happening in Bollywood, her 'Mehbooba' act in Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag (2007) was termed by a few as a desperate attempt. Couldn't there have been a better way to return to limelight?
Argues Sriram, "Firstly I haven't seen Aag. Secondly, I am sure that if the film would have worked, we all would have credited Urmila's dance number as one of the major reasons for the film's success." Concludes Onir, "Don't forget that during last 5 years, she has attempted to carry a movie on her own shoulders."
Apart from Speed, Urmila would also be seen in a brief appearance as herself in Om Shanti Om. Come 2008 and she would be re-enacting the role made memorable by Simi Garewal in Himesh's remake of Karz.