Yami Gautam has again made the audience sit up and notice. As the actor plays a no-nonsense IPS officer in Dasvi, also starring Abhishek Bachchan and Nimrat Kaur, she sits down for an interview with indianexpress.com. A lot like her persona on the screen, Yami doesn’t believe in giving in to the diktats of the system to make her space. The actor, who accepts she is “finally happy” with where her career is going, speaks about the system and how she maintains the sanctity of her being in the Hindi film industry.
Excerpts from the interview:
You’ve had back-to-back releases, and your characters are being appreciated.
It feels good to be finally getting on that path. No one knows the final destination, but I want to take the path where I get to do substantial roles, be a part of good stories and good cinema, be it any genre. I started off really well, I began with a very unconventional role that got a very conventional success. But there came a point in the middle where things were not that great. I was working, doing films, but they were nowhere near what I’d thought I’d like to do as an actor.
I felt I was stereotyped in certain types of roles, a damsel in distress. I was there in that loop for a good amount of time. Then it was important for me to sit back, think and reboot myself, figure what is it that I’m going to do.
With Uri and Bala, things just changed for me, even when I was not the only actor in the film. So, even you have to shift gears some times. I changed my thought process, I decided to get what I seek. And, now I think filmmakers and writers are also improvising and reworking the structure to create better roles for women.
While you have done a variety of films, your last few projects have been content heavy.
I am open to all kind of cinema. In this content driven section, there is so much that you can do. After Dasvi, I am doing a romantic comedy. I don’t know whether to bracket it as an entertainer or a a content film. I’d like to do a mix of everything. But whatever I do, I need to be pivotal to that films. I really like to do films which resonate with my sensibility, but it doesn’t mean only intense roles. In the last year, I’ve had five performances which were pretty intense, which really took a toll on me. Whatever I do, it needs to engage you as an audience and make them believe that if I am a part of a film, there might be something different. The idea is to create my own audience, to create trust in people who watch my work.
People expect actors and stars to be glamorous even off camera, but you kept yourself away from all that in you personal life. Your wedding pictures are a case in point.
It is important to be yourself, and do what you believe in, otherwise this job can be quite suffocating.
It may really put a lot of pressure on you, which one may not realise at this point in time, but it comes out. We’re all humans, we are all built with the same emotions. It was one of the challenges I faced, when I am asked to something that I don’t believe in or I don’t connect with.
Recently I reached early for a meeting, where I met somebody’s manager, somebody really senior. I had just happened to meet her. She and I were conversing and she asked me how she doesn’t see me in many parties. I didn’t understand what’s the big deal, but she insisted that I need to be seen in these places. She said, ‘Until you’re not seen, you’ve not arrived’. I told her that I thought I had arrived with a very good film, but she kept on insisting that I need to network and get out, I need to up my game, and be seen everywhere. She also said, ‘you might have done a great first film, but that’s over, you’re forgotten’. I told her that I will not go, because to be a part of these parties, I first have to be invited. To which she said she can get that done for me. But that’s not how I want to go, I don’t want to get myself invited, I don’t come from that thought process.
If I really want to go somewhere, I’d be happy, but if I have to be somewhere out of this pressure that I have not arrived until and unless I am a part of a certain circle, then it is not right. I am not the only one who thinks like that, there are many like-minded actors who believe in this. So how does an actor like me navigate through work in this industry? I am happy to audition for roles, even after Vicky Donor I gave a look test for Kaabil; for Bala I read lines, it wasn’t a test but still. And rightly so, there are certain characters where the director doesn’t know you at all. When people talk about success, it should be about getting where you want to be, while being the same person at your heart and doing what you believe in.
Talking about your personal life, you chose to drape your mum’s saree at your wedding, not a designer lehenga, that was quite a refreshing change for a Bollywood wedding.
My wedding was an extension of my personality, and my core values. I am lucky to have a partner who thinks like me. Wedding is your day, you should do everything you feel like doing, which give you happiness. No one should dictate that for you.
I’ve had the privilege to have some really good designers I can lean on. But, even in the fashion industry, there are some high-end designers who don’t give you their outfits because you are not so and so. It is the entire system. I remember I heard that about myself once. That person said, ‘No, that lehenga is not for you’, and I was like ‘What, why?!’, and they said, ‘No, just doesn’t work with that designer’. It was so mean. I don’t understand what the criteria is, how can you make someone feel so bad? But its not true for all designers, some of them are really good with their work and their attitude.
That’s when I decided that never allow anyone to make me feel bad about myself. You are doing great in whatever you’re doing, and never try to fit in someone’s ‘attire’.
I had it in my head that when it is my special day, it is going to be my way. It was going to be my mother’s saree, because the way I feel about it and connect with that emotion. Our rituals were very important to me, absorbing everything that we were doing was of utmost importance to us, and we did that.