Yami Gautam has left the audience sitting upright again. As the actor plays a no-nonsense IPS officer in Dasvi, also with Abhishek Bachchan and Nimrat Kaur, she is sitting for an interview with indianexpress.com. Much like her persona on screen, Yami does not believe giving in to the dictates of the system to make its space. The actor, who accepts that she is “finally happy” with where her career is going, talks about the system and how she maintains the sanctity of her being in the Hindi film industry.
Excerpts from the interview:
You have had back-to-back releases, and your characters are appreciated.
It feels good to finally get on that path. No one knows the final destination, but I want to take the path where I can play substantial roles, be part of good stories and good cinema, whether it’s genre either. I started really well, I started with a very unconventional role that got a very conventional success. But there came a point in the middle that it was not so great. I worked, doing movies, but they were not close to what I thought I would like to do as an actor.
I felt like I was stereotypical in certain types of roles, a girl in need. I was there a good time in that loop. Then it was important for me to sit back, think and start over, figuring out what it is that I will do.
With Uri and Bala, things just changed for me, even when I was not the only actor in the film. That, even you sometimes have to switch gears. I changed my thought process, I decided to get what I was looking for. And now I think filmmakers and writers are also improvising and editing the structure to create better roles for women.
While you’ve done a variety of movies, your last few projects have been heavy content.
I am open to all kinds of cinema. There is so much you can do in this content driven section. After Dasvi I do a romantic comedy. I do not know if I should do it as an entertainer or a content film. I want to make a mix of everything. But whatever I do, I have to be essential to those movies. I really like movies that resonate with my sensitivity, but it doesn’t just mean intense roles. In the last year, I have had five performances that have been quite intense, which have really taken a toll on me. Whatever I do, it should engage you as an audience and make them believe that if I’m part of a movie, there could be something else. The idea is to create my own audience, to build trust in people who look after my work.
People expect actors and stars to be glamorous, even from the camera, but you keep yourself away from everything in your personal life. Your wedding photos are an example.
It’s important to be yourself, and to do what you believe in, otherwise this job can be quite suffocating.
It can really put a lot of pressure on you, which one might not realize at the moment, but it comes out. We are all human, we are all built with the same emotions. It was one of the challenges I faced when I was asked about something I did not believe in or did not connect with.
Recently I arrived early for a meeting where I met the manager of someone, someone really senior. I had just happened to meet her. She and I were talking and she asked me how she does not see me in many parties. I did not understand what the big thing is, but she insisted that I should be seen in these places. She said, ‘Until you are not seen, you have not arrived’. I told her I thought I had arrived with a very good movie, but she kept insisting that I should network and get out, I should up my game, and be seen everywhere. She also said: ‘You may have made a great first film, but that’s over, you’ve forgotten’. I told her I would not go, because to participate in these festivities I had to be invited first. Then she said she could get that done for me. But so I do not want, I do not want to be invited, I do not come from that thought process.
If I really want to go somewhere, I would be happy, but if I have to be out of this pressure somewhere that I have not arrived and unless I am part of a certain circle, then it is not good. I’m not the only one who thinks so, there are many like-minded actors who believe in this. So how does an actor like me navigate through the work in this sector? I’m glad an audition for roles, even after Vicky Donor I gave a look test for Kaabil; for Bala I read lines, it was not a test but still. And rightly so, there are certain characters that the director does not know at all. When people talk about success, it should be about getting where you want to be while being the same person in your heart and doing what you believe in.
Talking about your personal life, you chose to drape your mother’s saree at your wedding, not a designer lehenga, which was quite a surprising change for a Bollywood wedding.
My marriage was an extension of my personality, and my core values. I’m lucky to have a partner who thinks like me. Wedding is your day, you have to do everything you want to do, which gives you happiness. No one should dictate that to you.
I have had the privilege of having some really good designers that I can hire. But, even in the fashion industry, there are some high quality designers who will not give you their outfits because you are not so and so. It’s the whole system. I still remember hearing that about myself once. That person said, ‘No, that lehenga is not for you,’ and I was like, ‘What, why ?!’, and they said, ‘No, it just does not work with that designer.’ It was so mean. I do not understand what the criteria are, how can you make someone feel so bad? But it is not true for all designers, some of them are really good with their work and their attitude, but there is always a rotten apple.
That’s when I decided to never allow anyone to make me feel bad about myself. You do great in whatever you do, and never try to fit into someone’s clothes.
I had it in my head that if it’s my special day, it’s going to be my way. It would become my mother’s saree because I feel about it and connect with that emotion. Our rituals were very important to me, absorbing everything we did was of the utmost importance to us, and we did that.