By Muhammad Asad Ullah
Yami Gautam was one of hundreds of young faces, who arrive every year to Mumbai carrying sanguine, but mostly farfetched, dream of making it big. Before Yami found her calling, she was a teenage civil services aspirant. From a relatively moderate celebrity profile as a drama serial actress to making a star turn for the silver screen, Yami has traversed some distance.
There are some people who radiate positivity and energy as they smile from within and Yami is indeed one of them. And she has all the reason to be. Not many actors make a successful cut from television to Bollywood and sustain it if they’re not from a film or star background, but Yami is that phoenix that has always risen from the ashes, not ashes in literal, but even when her few films didn’t do great on box office – she never felt short, rather clapped back with all the strength she could. And see where she is, celebrating her successful opening of 2019 with URI: The Surgical Strike.
But how did a girl born in Himachal Pardesh and raised in Chandigarh land up in Bollywood in the first place? Yami was pursuing a law degree when her uncle sent her pictures to a production house. An audition for a television serial landed her in Mumbai and she never returned. Post wrapping up her debut in Chand Ke Paar Chalo (2009), a drama serial on entertainment channel NDTV, Yami also did a couple of South films before landing up a substantial role in Vicky Donor (2012). The journey from television to the movies was a long and arduous one. But Yami held on and now she has completed seven years in Hindi film industry.
Although her debut Hindi film Vicky Donor was a sleeper hit, vowing both the audience and critics alike and earning her many female debut awards, her few choices post Vicky, except Badlapur(2015) and Kaabil(2017) and now URI, did not work at the box office. With her feet planted firmly on the ground, she neither lets success go to her head nor allow setbacks to drag her down. She’s the ultimate insider now and knows perfectly how to get going.
Yami is a cheeky girl, and time and again it peeps through her not so conventional roles in the films that are not commercial but actually contribute significantly to the story of the film. Be it Kaabil, Sanam Re, URI: The Surgical Strike or Badlapur (2015) — she has gone grounded in the choices she makes.
Yami was recently in Doha, for a magazine shoot with picturesque landmarks of Qatar providing a breathtaking background to her ever-glowing face. Dressed in her casual travel suit, all set to take her flight back to Mumbai, Yami spoke to Community in an exclusive interview and revealed how its doubly hard for girls from non-filmy backgrounds to keep going, her URI success and why it’s okay these days to be a brand ambassador for a fairness cream. She clears her stance and she does it well.
Almost seven years in film industry, what’s changed?
A lot has changed. The learning process is still going and I’m still learning with every project I do. Things have changed in the industry for good, we have more faces coming up, more genres been explored. And everything else is well on its way, just like it was before.
After Vicky Donor and a couple of other films that couldn’t do huge on box office. What kept you going?
That’s how the industry is: you fall down, be strong, get-up, keep moving on and grab the opportunities that come your way. Better scripts and huge projects might not happen instantly when you want, but it all takes time and falls into place eventually. This belief keeps me going.
Coming from a middle-class family, and not a star background. How difficult was it to make it where you are right now? Any lessons learnt the hard way?
I think the only difference, professionally if I say, is if you’re from the star background and your film doesn’t work out, you already have a backup and some sort of people or films to back you up or you can fall back to. And if you’re not from the star or film background then if your film does work great but doesn’t do well on the box office then the further options of the next one project to be chosen could not be perhaps what you immediately want to do or what you wish to do. That’s about it. Rest, there’s nothing else that I would like to trade from where I come from. I’m really happy to have the kind of family I have and I’m glad I have certain perspective which is outside film industry. I’m really happy where I come from, and where I’ve been raised. That perspective is something I always enjoy.
Was acting something you always wanted to do?
No, I wanted to join civil services but acting is something that just happened along the way. If I go back to my school days, my friends and I, all laugh about it that I was always that closet brand, a closet dancer, this closet singer. I used to love imitating and mimicking my teachers, whoever was around. But only my best friends knew about it. So, maybe deep down in my heart, I had a performer side in me. But I didn’t know. And never had I ever thought that from Chandigarh I’ll be leaving everything and shifting to Mumbai. I was very good in studies and was seriously preparing for civil services. But yeah it just happened.
The new cinematic awakening has been a relatively recent development, triggered by periodic bouts of deep professional introspection. What kind of scripts excite you now?
Anything which I’ve not done before. Something which challenges me. Something you would feel ‘Oh we’ve not seen Yami do this before or probably have imagined her doing something like this before. Anything that takes me out of my comfort zone. There’s a thin line between getting out of your comfort zone and something that is awkward for you. Even when you go out of the way to select your roles but that shouldn’t be that you’re trying too hard to prove a point or something. That shouldn’t be there. If there’s something that excites you as an actor, you feel you want to do this and feel you have a director whom you can fall back to and trust him completely and he can trust you – then you go for such roles. Any genre! I haven’t done comedy, action, costume drama. There are so many things which I want to do and will, eventually. I think slowly and steadily I’ll have it.
And how would you draw a parallel between South film industry and Hindi film industry?
I haven’t really been a South film actress. I did do two three films but it was just a part or phase where you’re doing work and Good work keeps coming your way. That’s it. You’re auditioning constantly, you’re trying every possibility to keep working in Mumbai. And in that auditioning spree I had Vicky Donor also. In that phase of my life I also did regional films because I didn’t see language as a barrier. Actually it’s even harder when you’re performing a language you don’t know. I saw it more as an opportunity to be a part of something that is for the big screen. Ofcourse there’s a difference in the culture, language and work atmosphere. But, it’s not that I was a very established actress out there. If I have to chalk out some
difference for you, they’re very particular about their timings! They have some pretty strong technicians out there. Really interesting work is also being done there with so many remakes happening.
There are some drastic beauty standards that have been set-up which are difficult for a common girl to follow? It’s considered a taboo now if an actor is promoting a fairness brand especially with the rise of social media, and you are. Your take on it?
I’d say I’m doing my work. I’m working as a professional. Having said that, the kind of fairness cream ads, or any cream ads for that matter, you see now have been drastically evolved over the years. They’re not the same anymore, thankfully. Just to bring it out factually for you, there are no more four faces used in the TVCs and put out a narrative that if you’re not fair there’s something to be sad about. And I’m so glad. I’ve been associated with the brand long before Vicky Donor even, when I was exploring my work as a model. My contract became an ambassadorship post Vicky Donor. I did have a chat with the brand, did express my concerns exactly on the same line; that to promote a brand is fine as long as you’re following a legal line. But, otherwise to show that to be unhappy about not being fair is not right. And I’m so glad that it has been worked upon and those ads are not there anymore. Maybe, it’s the name Fair & Lovely, which has been there for the decades and I cannot change. Maybe that’s what gives out a different perception. All the ads that running on television right now have similar elements, but if I’m the only one being picked upon. No problem, that’s alright. I understand the concern and I’m with the concern. Now it’s just your choice that you want to buy it, buy it – if you don’t want to buy it, absolutely fine. Please be comfortable with whatever you feel is the best version of beauty is.
You started 2019 with a very high note of URI. Has the feeling sunk in?
Not yet! One is when your film is doing really well and people are congratulating you, you feel happy when your film has done well and the one is when people own and embrace your film. That doesn’t happen with every film. The kind of respect that has been associated with this film, I think that was phenomenal. We knew that it is going be a very good film, but we didn’t see that coming. The way it was shot, we knew it was a very very honest attempt. The way people all across the world embraced it that’s very endearing.
How was your visit to Doha?
This is my first visit to Doha and there is a lot of love I’ve felt here. I went to a mall and the National Museum of Qatar, and lots of people came up to me to show their love. It’s always nice to feel the love and warmth. It’s a beautiful place! And there’s so much more yet to be explored here in Doha. And I’d just love to come again and be back soon. Until next time!
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