After her performance in notable Iranian filmmaker, Majid Majidi’s upcoming film ‘Beyond The Clouds’, the talented Indian actress is playing the lead in Viraam and a supporting character in Akshay Kumar’s Padman. One thing that separates Urmila Mahanta from other young actresses in the circle is her ability to conquer any challenge presented to her. She not only confronts the challenge but also makes it look like her own, without any flaw. With a pure Assamese descent, the young actress managed to mark her space in cinema through debut performance in the critically acclaimed 2012 Tamil crime thriller Vazhakku Enn 18/9. Ahead of her recent film release Chakallashpur, she talks about her childhood love for acting, her alma mater FTII, and her excitement of working with Majid Majidi. Excerpts:
Q. You have been a part of a number of plays, theatre and you have also done movies and short films. How deeply attached are you to acting?
A. Acting has been a part of my life since childhood. Even before performing in front of the camera I used to act in front of a mirror as a young child. So you can imagine how deeply attached I am to this form of art.
Q. Your debut film, “Vazhakku Enn18/9” was critically acclaimed and received a great response. Was that a turning point in your career?
A. Yes, I do consider it as one, especially because I was still pursuing my course in FTII, Pune and went to Goa to attend Goa Film Festival where I have been spotted by director Balaji Sir. Later he called me to Chennai for an audition and the rest is history!
Q. Your first two movies also won an entry to the Academy Awards. Did you have a hang of success by then?
A. Not exactly but I really do feel blessed to be a part of those movies. God has been really kind to me.
I am blessed to work with Directors like Ketan Mehta (Manjhi-The Mountain Man) …Likewise, I feel blessed to have worked with Balaji Sir, AR Murugadoss (Akira).
Q. Your debut film was in Tamil, something far from your comfort zone. How challenging was your role and how difficult was it to act in a language you wouldn’t converse in?
A. It was a big challenge as I didn’t know the language, but as an actor, I love to take up challenges where I can stretch my limit and give my best.
My ongoing work includes working with R Balki for his upcoming film.
Q. You have done movies in Assamese, Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam and Tamil too. Remarkable for a young artist! How does this affect your growth as an actor?
A. I think it has given me more exposure and I am also experiencing different work cultures of different regions. Similarly, it’s also an opportunity to connect with all my audiences across the country and even abroad.
Q. What was the boost in your career graph after having worked with few fine artists of the industry?
A. I am blessed to work with Directors like Ketan Mehta (Manjhi-The Mountain Man) who is my super senior and we were also learning filmmaking from him in our institute. Likewise, I feel blessed to have worked with Balaji Sir, AR Murugadoss (Akira). Recently I got an opportunity to work with world-renowned Iranian director Majid Majidi- a dream come true experience for me.
Q. What is the kind of cinema that intrigues you?
A. To be honest, any script where I can explore myself as an actor.
Q. What role did FTII play in grooming yourself as an artist?
A. FTII is the concrete base where I learnt the formal ABCDs of filmmaking. I owe everything to FTII from my acting, my skills, my learning and even my understanding of cinema.
Q. How appreciative are you of the Assamese Cinema? Do you see a growth in the industry?
A. I am very hopeful that our glory days will be back. We all will have to work together to take it forward. Recently we have seen rays of hope through films like ‘Kothanodi’, ‘Bokul’ etc.
Q. We’d ask you to get partial and name your favourite director and actor who you’ve had the pleasure of working with?
A. If you ask me today, then it has to be Majid Majidi. I can’t thank the Lord enough for giving me the opportunity to work with him.