I never socialized and I still don’t. I guess each one of us has a core and you can’t change that: Yami Gautam
The Bala actor says she always had her ‘own way of carrying myself’ but she is proud to be ‘still here working with my head high.’ Adds that for her, ‘work is my words’ and that’s the way it will always be.
She never seemed to be in any kind of rush, or race. Instead, Yami Gautam stuck to her set of rules and ideas since she made her big screen debut with Vicky Donor (2012). At this point, even though the Chandigarh girl is riding high on the success bandwagon, thanks to back-to-back hits like Uri: The Surgical Strike, Bala and Ginny Weds Sunny (GWS; it went straight on Netflix), what makes her “really happy” is the fact that she has “reached a point where I am getting the kind of work I want to do.” “I’ve always believed that there’s some supreme power and energy. So, you just have to be patient. And for me, luckily, it paid off. Post Uri, things started channelising in different ways,” says Gautam, who celebrated her 32nd birthday on Saturday. Excerpts from an interview:
You are currently busy shooting for Bhoot Police amid the pandemic. Were you worried, especially at the start of the shoot?
Of course, there was anxiety, and you do feel stressed. But I guess we’ve reached a point where we have to accept the situation for what it is, and condition our minds accordingly. We, too, have also created a safety bubble, and our producers are doing everything possible to keep us safe. As an actor, that’s a big breather. Beyond that, you can’t do much. I’m fully focusing on work now. Also, when you go to a film set, you can’t carry that kind of a stress, otherwise, you can’t shoot. Plus, we’re in Himachal Pradesh, which is comparatively one of the safest places. It’s also a huge breather in terms of a nice weather and being away from the city etc.
Did you miss work, and being on the sets?
Of course, I missed shooting but so much was happening around us that I don’t think it was the first thought on anyone’s mind. The first thought was: ‘am I, and is my family safe?’ More than anything, I feel blessed that my family and I am healthy, and we’re together. Also, we’ve our basics sorted and there’s gratitude for that. It’s much later that the conversation around restarting work started. I don’t think many saw it [shoots] as a possibility, at least not this year. I thought 2020 was going to just pass off. Although we are still not full out of it, but I guess it’s now all about adaptability and being safe. I love to be back on a film set where I love to be the most.
During the pandemic, you had your first OTT film, GWS. Did it feel any different from your other films?
Like all my other films, I was excited about this one too. As an actor, it’s not different at all from my other works, in terms of the process, but the experience and drill, vis-à-vis marketing and promotions, was totally different. The film struck a chord with the right target audience – families – that we had in mind. The unpredictable phase that we have been in, due to the pandemic, no one knew what the response was going to be like. But I am very grateful that people praised the performance part as well. It’s been very well received and music, too, has been applauded. It’s almost like a new set of audience is getting attached to your work. But I am very glad that like our film, so many other projects also got a very legit platform where economically too, it came as a big support to producers. Else, they would have taken a huge hit.
Starting with Uri and then Bala, followed by GWS, you must be kicked with the kind of response people gave to the films as well as your parts?
It’s such a relief and also a good feeling when the film does well and your role stands out as well. I don’t think it has happened many a times [with actors] where the film as well as your character is extremely fulfilling. A lot of times the films do well but your characters don’t stand out and aren’t that fulfilling, that makes you feel that it has exploited your complete potential as an actor. And for me, the new phase that I have entered with films like Uri, Bala and even GWS, where I didn’t have anything path-breaking, I feel I have got to do something substantial in all of them and they have also been successful. And that has given me a lot of confidence, especially in the fact that my success, acceptance and validation shouldn’t or cannot depend on who I am going to work with. It has to come from the characters that I choose and even directors I choose to work with.
But don’t you feel any sort of external pressure from the outside world / the industry?
Even today, if someone calls me out for doing just a cameo in a film, I know I had a very different thought process behind doing it. And if I get an opportunity, I will do it again. I don’t want to get restricted or restrained by any shackles where in, I am like, ‘oh, from now on, I will do only certain kind of parts.’ No. I haven’t changed one bit. I wouldn’t want to take any decision out of any kind of fear or any over-thinking that I will do only certain kind of work now. I am going to continue doing as much substantial work as possible, with good directors and just keep working. That’s of paramount importance. And it’s very important to leave a legacy behind though it’s still very early to say that. But my intent is to be a part of such films that I am thrilled to work in. I don’t want to sign a film because I have to but because I really want to. I think that’s what the success of a film means the most to me that it opens up avenues and opportunities, and also [facilitate] an array of directors, actors and scripts that you want to be a part of. And something that challenges you and pushes you as an actor. Whether a film works or not isn’t in anyone’s hands but the intent is there, so I will continue to do that.
You have been a part of films such as Kaabil and Badlapur too. But do you feel things are at a very exciting stage right now, with some great work seemingly coming your way?
Now, for sure. It’s been such a learning curve when I look at my first film and where I stand now. I have had my share of films wherein I was part of big films that did very well too. And a film’s success is very important but did it get you further opportunities that you feel you deserved to be a part of. No, it didn’t happen with me all the time so, I had to learn things in my own way, which I guess is very important. Unless and until I go through a route where I get to know what doesn’t work for me, how will I know what works for me for sure. And I am very happy now with the kind of roles and films coming my way. I don’t want to stick to any particular genre. For me, versatility is the top priority and that’s why a film like Bala will always be important for me because it added a completely different curve and dimension to the kind of roles that were being offered to me, which were all of one kind.
Did it ever get a bit frustrating, especially since you started off with a bang with Vicky Donor?
In my head, I was sorted at the start itself as I started off with a very performance oriented role in Vicky Donor but such good roles didn’t follow up after that. Now, I would love to do everything-- comedy, social drama, horror comedy or any intense part. I would also love to do a costume drama one day. Comedy is something I really enjoy but not many comic roles are written for female actors. I would love to explore that more, and be as versatile as possible. For me, growing up, I would look up to Sridevi ma’am and that’s a huge learning experience. She is one actor who could take on comedy, and also a Sadma, and then there is also Mr India and Chaalbaaz. I really look up to such actors. Vidya Balan is another actress who has had a great trajectory. I feel as an actor, you can be your biggest support here. Going forward too, my line-up is different and I really hope that it’s like that. That way, there is a long way to go.
It has been over eight years since Vicky Donor. But when you look back, do you feel you could have done anything differently in your career?
There are always certain things that you feel you could have done differently. I was appreciated a lot for my first film and I got a lot of recognition too. I always heard from people, ‘oh, you are a very good actor and we need to see you more.’ But that never materialized or worked out into the kind of opportunities that should have come my way. Maybe, I was stereotyped as a sweet girl, and people were like, ‘let’s have her in damsel-in-distress kind of parts (laughs)’. Also, I never socialized and I still don’t. I have surely evolved as a person but I guess each one of us has a core and you can’t change that. And if you do try to change that, it looks really forced. And I have never believed in going by a certain rule or set pattern. One of the things about the industry is that if you aren’t a people’s person, it’s very difficult for you to survive. But I always had my own way of carrying myself but I am still here working with my head high. I just want to contribute my bit to the fact that you can be yourself and not necessarily be a certain way; or that to get work, you must interact, and socialise and indulge in networking. If it’s a skill, I still don’t have that skill (laughs). Work is my words and that’s the way it will always be.
Do you feel such a ‘unique’ working style affected, in a way, your career trajectory?
Maybe these are the reasons why I couldn’t go on to get some parts that I felt should have come my way. And that led me to question a lot of things. There are times when you feel disheartened and you are like, ‘am I doing things correctly? Am I in the right field? What’s missing?’ There were times when there was no work. So, finally, you take up work that you know your heart doesn’t lie into. But you have to be seen. But then, I crossed that phase with my family’s support. And a voice kept telling me, ‘you have come to Mumbai when you could have become an IAS officer in Chandigarh (smiles).’ So, there must be a reason for that. I always believe there’s some supreme power and energy. You just have to be patient. And luckily, it paid off for me. Post Uri, things started channeliising in different ways. Now, I have reached a point where I am getting the kind of work I want to do.