Yami Gautham Femina India May 2018 Issue
LIVING A DREAM
She exudes radiance and charm, but there’s more to her than meets the eye. Yami Gautam talks to Simran Ahuja about her life philosophy, how she’s evolved as a person,
and the causes close to her heart.
Photographs: Taras Taraporvala
“MY PARENTS TOLD ME TO NEVER BE DESPERATE FOR ANYTHING IN LIFE.
IF YOU ARE WORTHY OF SOMETHING AND WORK HARD, YOU WILL GET IT.”
She is all of eight ﬁlms old in Bollywood, but Yami Gautam is wise beyond her years. With her feet planted ﬁrmly on the ground, she neither lets success go to her head nor allows setbacks to drag her down. She may be an outsider in the industry, but when the going gets tough, the actor sure knows how to get going.
Yami Gautam started her career as the charming Ashima Roy in Vicky Donor, and more recently impressed everyone with her performance as the visually challenged Supriya Sharma in Kaabil. But just as the audience began to typecast her as the sweet girl-next-door, she surprised everyone with her portrayal of Annu Karkare in Sarkar 3, proving her versatility and mettle yet again as an actor. Hailing from Himachal Pradesh, she is free-spirited and her energy is as uncontained as the mountain breeze.
By her own admission, she is a ‘closet actor’ and one conversation with her is enough to tell you that she rarely beats around the bush. In this interview, she looks back upon her childhood days and gives us a glimpse of what the future may have in store for her. Edited excerpts:
When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I always wanted to get into ﬁlms. I was one of those closet actors or dancers. But I also was quite studious and a bookworm. I used to watch Farooq Shaikh’s show Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai and my friends used to joke that one day. I would call them on my show. Once some family friends had come over and they insisted that I try out in the industry. They took some pictures from my mom and sent it to a production house. I started my career in 2008 with a daily soap on television, a brief stint that lasted nine or ten months. I was asked to record a few scenes for the show; they liked it and called me. My ﬁrst ticket ever to Mumbai was a paid ticket—not having to shell anything from my pocket meant a lot. It was probably destiny. We don’t understand what destiny is until it strikes you, which only happens when you take up an opportunity.
Having no support within this industry can be tough. What has your journey been like?
I have parents who are godly to me (laughs). That is what matters the most. I’m not being philosophical. I’m proud of the parenting my siblings and I have had. My parents told me to never be desperate for anything in life. If you are worthy of something and work hard, you will get it—that is something I swear by. It has been challenging and will be so in the future too. Challenges may change forms, but they will always be there. But then, this is true for everyone in the industry. If you have famous parents, you face the pressure of comparison. If you don’t have a godfather, then the biggest challenge is that if something you do doesn’t work, your opportunities may be limited.
It’s been six years since you made your debut with Vicky Donor. How have you changed as a person and as an actor?
I might get too critical if I comment on how I’ve changed as an actor, so let’s not get into that. But considering the kind of choices I have made, or I am going to make, I have evolved a lot. If you don’t grow as a person, it will not reﬂect in your work. When I look back, I think I’ve become more comfortable with a lot more aspects of being an actor. I’m happy it took its own time to happen though. I don’t think anything will work if it is imposed on me. I’m in a phase where I’m happy and I’m enjoying it. I love experimenting with roles, shoots or even with what I wear.
Is there anyone in Bollywood who leaves you star-struck?
I was quite intimidated by Hrithik (Roshan) when I started working with him in Kaabil. I had heard he was quite the perfectionist. So, call it what you want, but I was nervous and star-struck. But the best thing I did was walk up to him and say, “Hello, I’m Yami and I’m nervous.” He later told me that he liked my honesty. I wasn’t trying to be cool—I’m a straightforward person and that’s how I like it.
What do you look for in a script?
Since it is a creative ﬁeld, it’s an instinct—you can’t stem in on technicality. What’s unique about this profession is that two plus two doesn’t equal four here. It could be ﬁve, ten or zero. There is no shape, form or deﬁned boundaries. I don’t know what I look for in a script, but I do know that your ﬁrst instinct about a script is seldom wrong.
Bollywood seems to be big on biographies right now. If you were to play someone on screen, who would you pick?
Madhubala or Kalpana Chawla. I don’t think I need to state any reason since they’ve made an impact beyond time in their respective ﬁelds.
How do you deal with professional setbacks?
It’s a journey, and setbacks are meant to happen. I would have dealt with them differently four years ago than how I do now. You have to move on, see what you have lined up next and spring back with more force. Consistency in your work, attitude and efforts should never be compromised.
“IT’S EASIER TO REACH OUT TO PEOPLE AND MAKE THEM AWARE ABOUT AN ISSUE THROUGH A FILM THAT IS RELEVANT AND ENTERTAINING AT THE SAME TIME.”
Tell us about your upcoming projects.
My next ﬁlm is Batti Gul Meter Chalu with Shahid Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor. It’s a satirical drama on the electricity issues small towns in our country face. It’s easier to reach out to people and make them aware about an issue through a ﬁlm that is relevant and entertaining at the same time.
I am also part of a project on the Uri attacks, which will be directed by Aditya Dhar. It will be my ﬁrst ﬁlm opposite Vicky Kaushal.
Tell us about your roles in the two ﬁlms.
I play a lawyer in Batti Gul Meter Chalu. It’s a strong role and a special one too, since I was a law student in real life too. In the other ﬁlm, I play a nurse who was quite instrumental in the entire operation. We all know what happened during the Uri attacks, but bringing this on celluloid will be an entirely different experience.
“IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE AMAZING PEOPLE AROUND YOU, WHO KEEP YOU PEPPED UP, POSITIVE AND HAPPY. IF YOU’RE HAPPY, YOU’LL GLOW. ”
Batti Gul Meter Chalu is a ﬁlm that focuses on a social cause. What are some things that you do to give back to society?
I feel strongly about education, especially for women, but I want to do something more concrete than just associate myself with a campaign or event that is short-lived. I hail from Himachal Pradesh and I know they are challenges it faces due to its geography. There’s a lot I would love to do to encourage education for the girl child there. But since I want to do it in a more prominent way, it would need planning and some time. There’s emotion attached to this cause because in Chandigarh, my grandfather used to run a school, which underprivileged kids could attend for a nominal fee. I used to play ‘teacher’ there. I would check their notebooks and feel proud and liberated.
Hectic schedules can take toll on one’s skin. What’s your beauty routine like?
It’s important to have amazing people around you, who keep you pepped up, positive and happy. If you’re happy, you’ll glow. Apart from this, it’s the usual—drinking lots of water, taking off makeup before I sleep, eating a lot of fruits, and moisturising.
You’ve been known to use natural beauty products. What’s your take on home remedies?
When I read my interviews, I realise I’ve become too generous and given out many recipes of my nani ma;my mom’s told me to stop doing that (laughs). But yes, I rely a lot on home remedies for skincare.
Also, when I’m not working, I don’t use any makeup. Besides using natural products, what are the other things you do to be more eco-conscious?
I think it starts at home. For example, in Chandigarh, one is not allowed to use plastic. That’s something I’ve picked up from there, so I try and minimise its use. We all are witness to what happens due to plastic during the Mumbai monsoons. To not use plastic bags is an important step we all must take.
Bollywood is a big and inﬂuential industry. Is there anything it can do to come together and preserve nature?
I think we are in dire need of some good campaigns. Instead of just cribbing, we need to make people more aware. Social media has become an important platform, but some causes need more groundwork.
Many of your Instagram pictures show you surrounded by nature. What do you love most about being outdoors?
There’s a big connect between my summer holidays and Himachal, especially when it comes to mountains, nature and greenery. Anything that reminds you of your childhood remains special to you forever, even if you’ve seen the entire world. Being able to breathe in fresh air is what attracts me the most to greenery and nature.
What is that one moment you look back upon with happiness from your early days in Himachal?
Sometimes, the simplest memories are the best ones. We had this big ﬁve-storey house where we would hang out on the balcony, throw water at the people walking down, and then hide. It sounds simple, but memories of dancing in the rain or making paper boats are precious to me. Also, the food! Wedding food was really popular and I loved it so much that I would get it packed (laughs) to eat at home again. Of course, I used to tell those who couldn’t attend the wedding that
“ANYTHING THAT REMINDS YOU OF YOUR CHILDHOOD REMAINS SPECIAL TO YOU FOREVER, EVEN IF YOU’VE SEEN THE ENTIRE WORLD.”
I got it for them. The sweetest thing about the place though was that nobody judged you for all these things. So, I was the ﬁrst one to carry a dabba to a wedding.
What is that one moment when you feel at peace the most?
One is on a ﬂight, where I’m on my own and I read or watch something. Another is when my family comes down. Peace doesn’t necessarily mean silence. It’s when you feel happy even when you have a hundred worries. I love the hustle and bustle that happens when we all are together. In fact, some people have even complained about how noisy my house gets during that time.
One hashtag you would use to describe yourself?
#KeepItReal. Do you have a secret talent? I love dancing, but I think there’s a lot more to explore and tap into. When word gets out, people ask me if I’m prepping for a movie or a song, but the truth is, not everything you do has to be for something. You can do things just for the love of it. I’m just doing it to explore my abilities more and push myself further.
“PEACE DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN SILENCE. IT’S WHEN YOU FEEL HAPPY EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE A HUNDRED WORRIES.”
Who is your source of strength in vulnerable moments?
I have two—my mother and my sister.
Is there a message you’d like to give to the scores of young Indian women who look up to you?
Be aware of yourself and your ability to do something in life. Make use of it since you deserve it.
What makes you unstoppable?
Life, my work, my ambitions and goals.