Currently based in Mumbai, Urmila, daughter of Giridhar Mahanta and Ramala Mahanta, spent most of her childhood in Sonapur, a small hamlet near Guwahati, Assam. Her love for acting started at an early age. ‘I used to depict various characters in front of the mirror and my family when I was little, taking inspiration from the TV.’ She reveals one of the highest points of her career was the moment she got accepted into the Film and Television Institute of India. ‘After three rounds of auditions, I was selected and even scored the second rank (national) during the entrance examinations.’
Urmila took her first steps in the industry when she was cast in Assamese television serials like Murder and Tejimola for Doordarshan. Her big break came in 2012 when she was cast as the leading lady in Vazhakku Enn 18/9, a crime thriller directed by the well-known Tamil filmmaker Balaji Sakthivel. The film won the national award for the best Tamil Film in 2012. Urmila was nominated for the Best Female Debutant Award at two major award ceremonies namely the 2nd South Indian International Film Awards and the 7th Vijay Awards.
Since then, she has played the lead role in films like Pareshanpur and Chakelashpur and has been cast in films like Manjhi – The Mountain Man with Nawazuddin Siddique and Akira alongside Sonakshi Sinha and Konkona Sen Sharma. She has also done notable work in the Assamese film industry, and has appeared in Kothanodi, Bokul and Antareen.
More recently, she was cast in iconic Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s latest film Beyond the Clouds, a trilingual film made in Hindi, English and Tamil. ‘Majid Majidi is one of my favourite directors. I have seen his movies like Children of Heaven, Baran, Colour of Paradise and The Song of Sparrows so many times. To work with him is a great honour. He doesn’t speak English very well, so had to mostly communicate with the help of a translator, but that communication gap will not be felt on screen. His attention to detail is terrific and he gives importance to even the smallest of characters.’
As more and more foreign filmmakers are looking to explore Indian stories, Urmila is hoping to get more opportunities to work on international projects. She also yearns to act in masala films. ‘I have this image of a serious actress but I will honestly admit that I will love to act in masala films. It would be great if someone casts me in an action packed role. Our films are all about diversity and I want to experience the best of both worlds.’
She is currently shooting for her first Malayalam film named Udal. In 2018, R Balki’s Padman will be released where she has acted alongside Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte.
Written by- Nabarun Guha