Known for playing supporting and character roles in more than hundred films, Urmila Bhatt was a stage actress who went on to feature in feature films, as well as in television serials. Acting in Hindi as well as Gujarati and Rajasthani cinema, among the many films she featured in are Hamraaz (1967), Gauri (1968), Phir Bhi (1971), Koshish (1972), Zorro (1975), Hera Pheri (1976), Thief of Baghdad (1977), Dillagi (1978), Thodisi Bewafaii (1980), Meri Awaaz Suno (1981), Hero (1983), Aaj Ki Awaz (1984), Insaniyat Ke Dushman (1987), Abhimanyu (1989), Amiri Garibi (1990), Izzat Ki Roti (1993), and Paapi Devataa (1995).
Born in 1934 in Dehradun, she started her career in theatre. She joined the Sangeet Kala Academy in Rajkot in 1960, as a folk dancer and singer. The popular Gujarati play Jesal Toral which she acted in was hugely successful and was staged numerous times.
After her success in theatre, she ventured into cinema. Making her debut in Hindi cinema with B R Chopra’s film Hamraaz (1967), the film was a super hit. The following year, she featured in the Dilip Kumar-Vyjayanthimala starrer Sunghursh (1968). She won attention for her performance in the Nutan-Sunil Dutt starrer Gauri (1968), a musical hit. The film revolved around an orphaned lad Sanjeev who lives with his comically parsimonious paternal uncle, Maniram, who offers to look after him on the condition that a contested last will and testament will benefit him.
While she acted in blockbuster films like Dharam Karam (1975), Chori Mera Kaam (1975), and Uljhan (1975), it was her performance as a mother in Do Anjaane (1976), which changed her screen image. She essayed the role of Mrs. Sumesh Dutt, who, along with her husband, adopts the character played by Amitabh Bachchan, as their son.
She went on to essay maternal roles successfully onscreen, becoming one of the most popular and recognisable screen mothers after Nirupa Roy. Khoon Pasina (1977) saw her play mother to Amitabh Bachchan, while she essayed Moushami Chatterjee’s mother in Manzil (1979).
Her career in films saw her act in more than 75 Gujarati films and also in approximately 15 to 20 Rajasthani films. She essayed character roles in Hindi films for more than two decades. Some of the characters she played include Prabha Devi in Jheel Ke Us Paar (1973), Ganga in Dharam Karam (1975), Janki in Udhar Ka Sindur (1976), Kesar Bai in Sajjo Rani (1976), Rosy in Besharam (1978), the Zamindar’s wife in Aakhri Kasam (1979), the pujari’s wife in Jaandaar (1979), Shakuntaladevi in Meharbaani (1982), Mrs. Ahmed in Nikaah (1982), Sandhya Mathur in Hero (1983), Durga Singh in Raaj Tilak (1984), Rajeshwaribai in Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985), and Shanti in Jai Maa Karva Chauth (1994).
Later, she also forayed into television, acting in serials such as Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan (1987) in which she played Maharani Sunaina, the mother of Sita; and Rajshri Productions' Paying Guest (1985) in which she played Sharda Sharma. Besides these, she also made episodic appearances in Shyam Benegal's Bharat Ek Khoj (1989) and in Zee TV's Zee Horror Show (1996).
She had also been honoured with numerous awards by the government of Gujarat. She was awarded the BFJA Award Best Supporting Actress for the film Phir Bhi (1971). Directed by Shivendra Sinha, the cast of the film included Pratap Sharma and Meenal Mehta.
On 22 February, 1997, Urmila Bhatt was found murdered at her residence in Juhu, Mumbai. Robbery was suspected to be the reason behind her murder. The 63-year-old actress was survived by her theatre actor-director husband Markand Bhatt, a son and a daughter.