I am here for the long haul: Urmila Matondkar
The Rangeela girl who is contesting from Mumbai North on a Congress ticket tells Khaleej Times it requires nerves of steel to be in politics.
Politics and entertainment share a special connection in India. While Bollywood has often turned to politics to churn out blockbusters, politicians have counted on matinee idols to lend charm and glamour to their otherwise exhaustive election campaigns.
The new Bollywood face to enter the political fray this election is Urmila Matondkar. The Rangeela girl who is contesting from Mumbai North on a Congress ticket tells Khaleej Times it requires nerves of steel to be in politics and that she is here for the long haul. She says the climate of hate and bigotry that India witnessed in the last five years pushed her to take the political plunge.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: When a Bollywood star enters politics, she is not taken seriously by people. But you seem to have changed that perception. How?
A: My whole intention was not to come into politics because I was a star. The intention was because I am a responsible citizen and a good one. And I come from a background where it is ingrained in your mind to do your bit for the society, especially if you are an actor when everything that you are is given because of the people. So you feel there is a need to do something and you can bring about a change.
What is the upside of being a Bollywood star in politics?
As a Bollywood star, you have an instant connect with people. They come out of their houses to see you because they see their favourite star at their doorstep. But beyond that you have to build a bond with people and that is what I have tried to do. Entertainment is a different ball game. This is politics and you are dealing with people and their real problems. So if you are here for the long haul, you have to be connected with people so that they can believe that I will do something to help them.
Why did you chose to join the Congress?
The ideology that Congress stands for is what I have always believed in - be it the democratic values and the secular fabric values that our forefathers have tried to save. Last five years, India has been a different country than how it had been with lack of freedom of speech, religious intolerance growing and the idea of unity in diversity being compromised. We have come too far and too quick in this time. Everybody or whoever could needed to do their bit to change that, and therefore I have decided to do mine.
You are fighting against a stalwart. You could have chosen an easy battle.
I did not choose the constituency. I did not even want to contest. I only wanted to campaign. It was party's decision to field me from this constituency and I went along with that. The fact that Mr (Gopal) Shetty got so many votes last time had a lot to with the Modi wave last time. Right now this election time is to remind people of what he has done in the last five years. You call a person a big leader only if he has delivered so much. That is not the case here.
Has this election campaigning helped you to see parts of Mumbai that you have not seen before?
Yes, I realise there are parts of Mumbai that has been cut off from the rest of Mumbai that has seen progress especially when the basic amenities are concerned. There are pressing needs of people like lack of public toilets in railway stations; there is general sanitation problem everywhere. There is no drinking water in many areas of Mumbai and people are paying for it. No electricity in lot a of areas which is shocking in Mumbai. Then there is the housing problem and huge slums exist without any living standards, and they are expanding.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt in politics?
To be a politician, you need nerves of steel, especially if you are a woman and a star and you are entering politician.
You were subjected to vicious trolls because you are married to a Kashmiri Muslim. How did you tackle it?
The saddest part about all this is that they labelled my husband as Pakistani and a terrorist because he was a Muslim. They said I had changed my religion.
It just shows the sad and dirty level of their thinking that reflects in their politics as well. So I am here exactly to fight that politics of hate and negativity and to fight it with tremendous positivity, integrity and sincerity.
What is more exciting and exhausting? Bollywood or politics?
In Bollywood, you just have to do what you are told and you are off. It is a controlled atmosphere and you feel safe. In politics, there is no limit to the hard work you have to put in. The commitment is endless as you are dealing with people and their aspirations.
How different is waiting for the election result when compared to awaiting the first day first show reaction of your movies?
It is the same feeling. When you know, you have done your best, you feel composed. I know I have given it all and now I am just going wait peacefully.