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Will Urmila Matondkar finally win a National Award for her outstanding performance in Jahnu Barua’s Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara' The odds are surely in her favour. According to a reliable source, Yash Raj Films decided to market this small, meaningful, experimental avant-garde film mainly because of Urmila’s presence. Says the source, “Let’s be brutally honest. A film titled Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara would immediately limit itself to an enlightened audience which has an interest in films with a historical perspective. The fact that it’s being released on the occasion of Gandhiji’s birth anniversary [last week] only adds to the film’s esotericism.”

Urmila counters, “National Award' I don’t even think about it. I don’t think any actor works for an award. I’ve been singularly unlucky with awards.” The big blow came for Urmila when she missed the honour for Pinjar. But most of her supporters feel this time she’ll be lucky. Says the actress, “Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara is my second pseudo-historical after Pinjar. At first I was slightly unsure about going into a film which was almost totally offbeat and definitely very, very profound. Finally, I surrendered to my instincts, partly because Anupamji and I work so well. I was in his first directorial venture Om Jai Jagdish. We had a ball shooting that film. Since he was the producer of Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara I could hardly say ‘no’ to him. The experience of working with Jahnu Barua and Anupam Kher was very enriching. At this stage of my career I like doing films that help me grow. As a director Barua brings a special flavour to the storytelling. I’ve worked with lots of ‘first-time’ directors, from Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi in Pinjar to Shriram Raghavan in Ek Hasina Thi. But this one was special.”

Urmila is decidedly hopeful about Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara. “All of us had to reduce our fees to be part of this unusual and rewarding film. Thank God Yash Raj Films is distributing it. Otherwise it would just be another offbeat film that gets into theatres on Friday and slips out quietly on Thursday. This film deserves a lot more.”

Apparently one of the preview audience, Satish Kaushik couldn’t stop raving about Urmila’s performance. “Yes, Satishji was very sweet. After seeing the film he praised my performance lavishly. I’ve got to know so much about Mahatma Gandhi while doing this film. It would’ve been the easiest thing in the world for me to slip into the role and walk away after giving a performance. But Maine Gandhi Ka Nahin Mara is the kind of film that must touch lives. It touched mine. And I’m pretty sure it would shake and stir some souls out there.” She looks distant and dreamy as she relives the experience. “I’ll tell you a secret. This isn’t so much a film about Gandhiji as it is about a father-daughter relationship. My father being a politically informed person helped me understand the Gandhian theme. But just my relationship with my father helped me far more in understanding my character.”

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