Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

Yami Gautam’s simplicity and endearing smile that reaches till her eyes, has continued to be, ever since I spoke to her before her debut Hindi film. While some things just don’t change, a few have! Her latest film ‘Uri’ has just released and we catch up with the ‘Vicky Donor’ star to speak about the film and more. Excerpts:

What did you think of ‘Uri’ when it came to you?
When I got to know of ‘Uri’, I thought it was one of the most, well-written scripts I had ever read. When I met Aditya for the first time, and when he narrated what the film was about, I loved the concept. I thought that as a film, for it to be made on surgical strike. Anyway, we don’t have many army based or patriotism infusing films in the industry. Secondly, when I read the role, I thought it’s an amazing opportunity to play something I’ve not done before. She is a new-age, strong girl who plays a pivotal role in the entire operation. I thought it was a great opportunity to be a part of a film which has a great subject and a very good role. I didn’t want to miss this as an opportunity. I’m extremely proud of ‘Uri’, it’s one of the most special films I’ve worked on.

How was the prep in terms of your look and performance?
The look everyone has already seen. Aditya felt that I should go short with my hair. I instantly agreed because I understood what he was saying. The kind of role I was playing, I needed to look sharp, it shouldn’t look like you’ve done hair and make-up and styled it that way – but it should look real. He said, we’ve never seen you in short hair, and because of that, a huge difference comes about in your personality. And we went drastically short. That’s how he envisioned my character as a director and I totally agreed with him. People talk about how far they can go to get into a role and be authentic, so I was like, this is the first opportunity of sorts for me, and I’m ready to take the plunge. I didn’t have any references here, except a few Hollywood films like ‘Zero Dark Thirty’. There weren’t any direct references that I could lean on. When I asked Aditya what else do I do to prepare and he said, we can see more references but the character won’t come from external, it will come from within. You have to explore and feel the character and I thought that was a very interesting thing for me to take ahead in my other films as well. And again, for the role, I had to make sure that I understand the layering of the character. That I understand that even if I’m saying one line, but from inside, it comes from emotions. As an intelligence officer, I don’t have to try hard to do it. Like if you are a journalist, you don’t have to try hard to be one – you are! So, it had to come that naturally. You don’t have to do something pretentious. That was exciting! To learn, unlearn and make it a part of you.

Interestingly, there’s been variety in all your work so far, while, you’ve also not done back-to-back films. Are you happy about the variety or you still feel the need to do more films tapping into your skills?
Definitely! I feel that the journey has just begun and that’s how it should be. There’s so much more that I feel is yet to get explored, and the enthusiasm can’t go. I’m excited for this phase and I’m excited to see what’s going to happen in the future because I’m ready! I’m ready to take challenges, to tap into the performer in me which makes my performance irreplaceable. I want to do roles, work with directors who channelise a very different version of you. I’m glad that I got that opportunity in the last 3-4 films and there’s still so much to do where I want to experiment with different genres, stories which again break a certain mould, make a new one and break that also.

“I do feel evolved as a person, in the sense of being more comfortable with oneself and accepting that this is how I am”

Have you gotten more uninhibited with time and experience? I remember you telling me earlier that you’ve always been so shy!
I’m still the same I think. But, yes, one of the most important aspects of acting is to not have any inhibitions. To be fearless – to not have the fear of making mistakes. This especially happened to me after ‘Kaabil’ – not because I was working with some of the biggest names in the industry or the fact that the film was successful. But, because of the experience I had. I realised that it’s very important to be comfortable with yourself and comfortable with the fact that we all make mistakes. Nobody comes perfect and if you think you know it all, then there’s a problem with your attitude. We all come here as learners, to explore something on the set. Yes, the person me, I’m still quite an introvert. There are still some things about me which will never change till infinity. Having said that, I do feel evolved as a person, in the sense of being more comfortable with oneself and accepting that this is how I am. Yet, you make an effort also to grow as a professional. So, my thought process kind of changed a lot ever since ‘Kaabil’.

‘Vicky Donor’ was one of the initial films which set the ball rolling – when it comes to unique, never-seen-before content. With that as a benchmark, do you feel more compelled to find films that are so novel and content-driven!
It raised expectation from my own self, not external. If people expect me to do good work, it’s not a small thing, it’s great. But it’s not going to be possible every time to do a film that good. So, you can’t be harsh on yourself. I have that streak in me. I have done few films in between where people must have been like, why did she do that film? But I must have had some thought process behind that. Because I’m an audience who loves watching every kind of film – from your 90s song-and-dance films to now ‘Uri’. But because the debut was with such a content-driven, path-breaking film, the attempt is something to do something which hasn’t been done before. For example, even ‘Uri’. Nobody has done something like that before. And there’s one thing I’ve learnt, especially from a director’s perspective also. The honesty in that intention has to be there. One of the most striking things about my director which I felt here, was that, he said, ‘I want to make a film which even the army is proud of. Not just the audience.’ I admired that thought process and I want to work with people with whom I enjoy working with. Overall, I’ve been quite fortunate that I’ve worked with people with whom I’ve learnt only.

At this point, do you now have a sense of belonging here, having made a certain niche for yourself? How do you see yourself?
I think the process of carving a niche for myself and the effort is there. I’m going to be quite consistent in my effort. Some things will take time but I know when you have a certain vision for yourself, things will fall that way, sooner or later. So, I’m still in the process. Secondly, with people around me, I’ve learnt to give respect to the audience for their love. As I said, I’m an introvert, so even the first time when I signed an autograph, I was so shy. I didn’t want to do that, I just wanted to run away. My parents said, it’s a blessing for any actor – so respect your fans and audiences. So, I’ve developed gratitude for them. That’s when you feel, you are doing something right, which has made them take the effort to come up to you and tell you that. We all want to be admired, whether we say it or not. As actors, we are the blessed ones, who have the privilege to get that kind of love.

Is it this feeling of gratitude that has kept you real and grounded all through so far?
I think I would give it to my parents. I was born in Himachal, raised in Chandigarh and I’m still the simple, ‘pahaadi’ girl whose world begins at home and ends at home. The connect that I feel with my family, the love that I feel about where I come from, that’s what has kept me grounded- the simplicity. I think, in today’s times, the most complicated thing is to stay simple. I value simplicity, I value people who are simple because there’s a life beyond films also.

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