Actress Urmila Matondkar worked hard on her appearance and body language for director Onirban's second film "Bas Ek Pal" (BEP) - a film about urban relationships.
"Yes, I cut my hair and also got a new designer Anita Dongre to do my clothes. This isn't because I needed to look different. But we needed to show serious time transition, and that had to be brought into my body language," Urmila told IANS.
"My character is calm outwardly, but shaken and stirred within. I'm very proud of this role and Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara. In both there's no bravura performance by me.
"I want to be like Sachin Tendulkar on the field. Making his presence felt without straining to do so. In BEP, I don't want audiences to check me out in this and that scene. I want them to see the character rather than me."
Urmila has been given the colour orange to denote her character in the film.
"Somewhere or the other I sport orange to show flamboyance. I don't think characters have been given their own colours to denote their personality in any other movie in Hindi.
"For once I don't play a traumatised character, Sanjay Suri and Jimmy Shergill do," laughs Urmila about her first real urban take on relationships.
The film also has Rehaan Contractor and Juhi Chawla in pivotal roles.
"But to play a 'normal' girl is not easier or more difficult. I just enjoy acting so much. I must tell you girls will identify with my character in BEP, who goes to a club, has a few drinks, flirts with a guy and doesn't even remember who he was the next day. I think my character connects with city women in one way or another."
Though she has played characters in bizarre situations in Ek Haseena Thi and Pinjar, Urmila still identifies with them.
"In every character you find a thread that you use to weave around your own personality. Somewhere you connect with a character, or it doesn't work. As far as playing a metro-centric character goes I've never been a typical working woman.
"The work I do doesn't really give me a chance to connect with a typical working woman. What I connect to in Anamika of BEP is her basic honesty. She isn't scared of facing the music. It wasn't so difficult to play her because I know women who get into these crises. "
Then she laughs. "I'm generally made to play these central roles of acutely traumatised characters. In Bas Ek Pal I'm far less aggressive. To that extent this isn't an acting-acting role, the way say Bhoot or Pinjar were.
She feels her roles in Bhoot and Pinjar were highly dramatic.
"Not here. I just adored the fact that BEP had five major characters and they're all beautifully individualised. The way Onir knits them together is so beautiful. It's so easy to show the prelude of a relationship. But how to end it is something Onir knows."
Urmila gave her inputs to the script.
"As a woman I reacted somewhat differently to some of the situations. Onir listened to me. I had of course seen 'My Brother Nikhil' but Onir urged me to watch it again after we started working.
"BEP is about real relationships. I'd like to believe I know today's woman's mind. This is as close as we can get to a real urban woman's mind."
Urmila describes her character as a typical metro-centric girl.
"She works hard and parties hard. She's equally in-charge in a pub and at her work place. She knows she's sensuous and not afraid to flaunt it. One doesn't get to see real characters like, me, Sanjay, Jimmy, Juhi and Rehaan every day. And the film isn't judgmental about these imperfect lives.
"What I liked about the script was that undercurrent of longing. 'What if I had done this instead of that?' the characters keep asking themselves all the time. There're many unspoken desires in this love story. There's a beautiful scene with Jimmy where I'm saying one thing and thinking something else. Such moments are so uncommon in our cinema."
She calls her director Onir a silent dictator.
"No matter what you do or say he makes you do what he wants. Onir and the entire cast were new to me. I've this wonderful scene with Juhi. I'd like to believe it's done in a way two women in love would react to each other in a critical situation. Sure we've grown up watching women battle it out dramatically. But I believe a more muted form of expression is the order of the day."
But Urmila surprises you by giving credit for a mature man-woman relationship to the cinema of yesteryears.
"What about Satyajit Ray's Charulata'? What about films of Gulzar Saab, Shyam Benegal and Kalpana Lajmi? I'm not one of those clueless actors who think mature relationships have started now. To me a liberated cinema is as important as a liberated woman."
And how would she define a liberated woman?
"Economic independence is important. Sadly, a lot of women are emotionally stressed. We're living in stressful times where relationships are a casualty. People gradually forget the reason why they fell in love in the first place."
And when is love going to happen to Urmila?
"Should I try to sound excited by the prospect? Jokes apart. I strongly believe in true love. My favourite films are 'Roman Holiday', 'Brief Encounter' and 'Bridges Of Madison Country'. I definitely believe love happens at the right time."
Does she fear men would fall in love for her success rather than for who she is?
"No, trust me I know the star-struck types. But in India men get intimidated by successful women. So, yes, I do have a problem on hand."