Yami Gautam, best known for her role opposite Hritik Roshan in Kaabil (2017), has been through many ups and downs in her acting career. In conversation with Guardian 20, she talks about the challenges that came her way as she set out to become an
Q. Was becoming an actor always on your list? And how did it happen?
A. I was on my way to be an IAS officer and was pursuing legal studies. Can you believe it?! I was always this sincere, padhaku bachcha who was an introvert and a shy person. However, I can’t deny that deep down I was an absolute filmy child who was a closet dancer and was great at impersonations. I would lock myself and dance my heart out to “Ek Do Teen” and “Choli Ke Peeche”. So, when I got an opportunity to be an actor, I instantly said “yes”. After which I realised that I was extremely comfortable and confident person when the camera was on me. I am glad it happened as I feel that I rediscovered myself when I started facing the camera. As an actor, the work one has to put in their craft and the discipline one has to follow is equally challenging and it was exciting for me.
Q. Being from a non-film background, what werethe challenges that you came across while establishing yourself in the industry?
A. I come from a small town and have always been very guarded. To move to a big city was definitely a journey of hardships. From not knowing anyone to actually working in television for a brief period, then moving on as a campaign model where I used to personally go to production houses to give my pictures, to figuring how to sustain yourself in the city—it all brings a smile on my face today. I have never stopped irrespective of those low moments but the drive to push yourself to not only dream but to believe is something that has kept me going. I think it’s too soon to say that the challenges are over and I am content, because I will always want to reinvent and face newer challenges.
Q. Kaabil was an important film in your career. What was it like collaborating with the best in the film industry?
A. Indeed. It was a dream come true to work with an outstanding and a selfless co-actor like Hrithik. It was an incredible learning experience for me. It’s a film that was a milestone of a kind. Kaabil as a film and the opportunity to work with some of the best in this industry. And the kind of love the audiences showered is something I will always cherish.
Q. What do you look for in a project before signing it?
A. I have made a few mistakes, but I have learned that nothing beats what your gut says. There are strategic factors you look at which are beyond the script. It’s the director, the studio, the cast and so on, but what drives me to a script today is my gut.
Q. Whom do you look up to for inspiration?
A. The common man and woman out there are inspirational in so many ways. I think we as actors are inspired most of all by the various people we meet in every walk of life. Sometimes it’s their personality and sometimes it’s their story. People around me inspire me. You just have to look beyond hero figures and you will find a hero and an inspiration in everyone.
Q. In any profession, appreciation and criticism go hand in hand. How do you handle criticism and failure?
A. Criticisms and failures hurt. I am not going to lie. It hurts because no one wants to work towards something that will fail. However, with every passing day you learn. Even if you fall, you get your chin up, introspect and move on. Nothing can beat the combination of hard work and consistency. As to criticism, I feel that a person has put so much thought and energy to point out what was wrong. If it’s something that is important to me, I will definitely imbibe it.
Q. Do you fear the constant attention that comes with being a successful actor?
A. The attention is overwhelming. I don’t fear it, it’s a choice one has to make when you put yourself out in the public eye. However, I know which parts of my life I like to keep private and you will never hear or see me speak about them, no matter what. That’s the choice I have made.
Q. Many mainstream actors are moving towards the digital space. Are you open to experimenting with this medium as well?
We are in 2018, where content is undergoing a renaissance I think, especially in India. It’s a slow process but what’s exciting is that finally we, as audiences, are open to diverse content, and as actors, we are excited that there are so many mediums to be a part of. But for me, the joy of having a packed theatre enjoying my movie is irreplaceable. However, I am also a person who loves bingeing, and the web is the best platform for stories with no inhibitions as far as cost and time are considered. I must say, it’s an exciting time for actors today and it’s only going to get bigger and better… The number of successful films running in theatres and the number of successful original web shows are a proof that there is something for everyone.
Q. You have been a part of several commercials and television shows. How did this exposure prepare you for Bollywood?
A. Television is a great massy medium, which helped me win hearts. I think it is a great force that drove me to realise that I wanted to be a part of a bigger platform.
Q. You have been a style icon for many. How does it feel?
A. I am flattered. I think it has taken me some time. I love to experiment with my style. I am fearless of a bad look because I am styling myself or wearing things I like, and which I know work for my body and which I am comfortable with. I would tell everyone out there, experiment and explore what your true love in clothes is.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming film Uri, starring Vicky Kaushal.
A. Uri is a story that is dying to be told on screen. It’s always exhilarating to work with a team who has a fresh take on things and wants to experiment with a compelling story. Under Ronnie Screwvala’s able production house and Aditya Dhar’s [writer of Uri] vision, I knew it’s a story I had to be a part of.
Q. Is there any specific kind of role that you would like to do in the future?
A. I want to be a diverse actor and I have my eyes, ears and mind open to anything, irrespective of the genre and platform, that will get me jumping like a kid who wants the candy.