Actress Urvashi Sharma, best remembered for her role in Akshaye Khanna-starrer 'Naqaab' and a Ponds campaign, is back from a hiatus following marriage and motherhood with a new television soap titled 'Ek Maa Jo Laakhon Ke Liye Bani Amma'.
Urvashi Sharma from her modelling days and (below) on the TV show, which went on air last week
The bikini, which she once sported with spunk is gone, as has the waif-like waist. Here, she is middle-aged, powerful and a single mother to two children, abandoned by her husband. Inspired, say some, by the exceptional story of Mumbai's female don, Jenabai Daruwali, Amma's character is one of a messiah.
In a telephonic chat from Dubai, where she is holidaying with her two-year-old daughter, Samaira, who mid-interview interrupts her to demand a “ride in a chopper”, Urvashi speaks of returning to acting for the love of it (since “I don't need the money”).
Q. That you return to TV, not films — does that bother you?
A. Not at all. I am playing a strong character that every girl dreams of playing.
Q. Why the decision to play a de-glam character, given that you were known for your glamourous image and fab body?
A. I have done de-glam roles before, in Baabarr and Khatta Meetha.
Q. There's buzz that you have been trying to make it to television for long.
A. That's not true. I was modelling and acting when I was dating Sachiin (Joshi; husband). We married after a two-year live-in relationship. I continued to model for big brands. My first film was an Abbas Mastan movie; it was no small launch. I got married, had a baby and am happy with my life. Most people have been approaching me to produce a show, not act in one. I don't have to work for money; my husband has enough of it. I shop, travel, enjoy my time with family — that's all I need. Doing the show also meant staying away from home in Hyderabad. So it wasn't an easy choice to make. I took it up because the character was interesting and Sachiin understood my passion to act. After shooting for a week, I wondered what I have gotten myself into (laughs). Now I wake up every day at seven to ready for a 9 am shift. I will be shooting for 52 episodes.
Q. What preparation did you do for the role?
A. I was told it was the role a single mother to two kids. I didn't read up, or speak to anyone. As for the dialogue, body language, look and wardrobe, the producer has done all the homework. He gave me a director who tells me what to do, and I do it. My work is to reach set on time and be ready with my make-up on.
Q. What's it been like so far?
A. The reactions have been positive. Not just for me, but the director, DOP and co-actor Aman Verma too. And I am happy that people like me after all this time [away from screen].
Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced after deciding to return to act?
A. To stop shopping. I am not used to working so much. My husband has spoilt me. Even when I go to office, I do it at my own time, often at 2 pm.
Q. Which scene would you say was the toughest to do?
A. The one where my husband abandons me and I have to wail. To cry every day is difficult and strenuous. When you are a happy person, it's all the more difficult. I don't use glycerin so the trying to cry gives me a headache.
Zainab alias Jenabai Daruwali was a bootlegger and police informer. She was among the first few women in the early 1970s to be associated with big names in the underworld, including Haji Mastaan, Vardharajan Mudaliar, Karim Lala and the notorious Dawood Ibrahim, who addressed her as maasi.
Born in the early 1920s, Jenabai, who hailed from Dongri, was an ardent supporter of the Gandhian movement when India was fighting for her independence. During Partition, when her first husband, Mohammad Shah Darwesh, moved to Pakistan — leaving her to fend for herself and her five children — she was forced to work as a broker of smuggled food grains in Daana Bazaar of Masjid Bunder. For a long time, she went with the moniker Jenabai Chaavalwali.
When the business met hard times, Jenabai got her hands dirty in the bootlegging trade, not only thriving during prohibition, but also becoming one of the most trusted aides of gangster Mudaliar and his rivals. In theunderworld, she was known as the crafty “matter pattanewali”.
Known for her manipulative skills, she also two-timed as a police informer, and helped the police bust several smuggling rackets, with the hope of winning them to her side.
Jenabai spent her last few years in a home in Chunawala building, Dongri, involving herself in a religious movement called Tabligh-I- Jamaat, and getting young Muslims into the fold, before a sudden stroke led to her death in 1993.
— Jane Borges
Borges is co-author of Mafia Queens of Mumbai (2011), which profiled Jenabai among other female dons of the city