Yami Gautam: Shahid Kapoor is very supportive as a co-star – Ever since her debut in Vicky Donor (2012), Yami Gautam has seen a lot of ups and downs in her career. Her films like Sanam Re and Junooniyat (both of which released in 2016) tanked at the box office, but others like Badlapur (2015) with Varun Dhawan won acclaim and Kaabil (2017) with Hrithik Roshan fared well at the box office.
“Success and failure are part and parcel of life,” says the pretty actress.
Now, Yami will be seen as an independent career woman in her two upcoming films — Batti Gul Meter Chalu (BGMC) and Uri. While she portrays a lawyer in the former, which deals with the issue of electricity theft in rural India, she essays the role of an intelligence officer in the latter. Here, Yami tells us why she has no qualms about playing small but significant roles on screen, what prompted her to take up BGMC and more.
BGMC is top-lined by Shahid Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor. Knowing that, what prompted you to do this film?
I think this is a dated concept that if I don’t have two or three songs in the movie, why should I do it? If you think in those terms, you cannot work. Times are changing and what’s important is what you are adding to the film. I play a lawyer in BGMC, which is a first for me. My character is that of a strong girl, who does what she feels is right and gives him (Shahid Kapoor’s character) back at the same level. Also, I had two strong reasons for doing this film.
What are they?
I was born in a small town in Himachal Pradesh and raised in Chandigarh. So, I was aware of this particular problem (theft of electricity). I have heard of some people being billed high. It’s not about it being unfair, it’s about not having the money to pay. The awareness of this grassroot problem was one reason to do the film. The other was Shree sir (director, Shree Narayan Singh). His Toilet: Ek Prem Katha dealt with a social issue, but it wasn’t preachy. He made it funny and engaging. It’s the same with Batti… It’s a social drama but it has humour.
Shree sir has opened a whole new world of Uttarakhand and captured that flavour beautifully because he is from there. Also, as I said, I have never played a lawyer before and in college, I was studying law (laughs). I know BGMC is the story of three friends but it boils down to the courtroom drama and that’s where Gulnaar, my character comes in. I know the impact and prominence my character holds.
What kind of prep did you do for your role?
I didn’t watch many films (courtroom dramas), in fact not even one. For Kaabil (in which she played a visually-impaired girl) I had done that because the prep was different. For Batti… I decided to have a practical approach. I went to the Bombay High Court, sat quietly during a session and spoke to the lawyers later. I asked them is it the way it is usually shown in our films and they laughed. They said movies tend to depict a lot of drama which doesn’t happen in reality, but it’s there to some extent in lower courts. There is also some tongue-in-cheek humour that goes on. That’s why in the trailer you see me giving facts and figures while Shahid replies with cheeky answers. What I learnt from the court session was to have clarity of speech and confidence.
How was it working with Shahid Kapoor?
Shahid is one of the best actors I have seen and he’s given some really good performances. He is very supportive as a co-star. The sync and synergy you need for a one-on-one argument where the director doesn’t want to cut, but wants you to go on can happen only if your co-star is supportive. Also, you don’t want to over rehearse because you need the spontaneity intact. When I saw Shahid on sets, I realised how he gave all those performances in films like Haider, Kaminey and Udta Punjab in which he was so intense. One day, I was reading some lines for a scene which did not feature him. But he asked me what I was doing and said, ‘Come, I will rehearse with you.’ That was really sweet of him. A good co-actor is someone who enhances your performance. And that only happens when the focus is not on yourself, but what is working for the scene. This is something that I learnt from Hrithik (Roshan).
There would be scenes (in Kaabil) where he delivered a perfect shot, but maybe I could have done a little better. He would say, ‘Yami, you want to try that again? What if you did it this way… it will look nicer’ and we would go for another take. Being selfless sounds easy, but one must try and achieve it.
Your next film, Uri, also has you playing a professional..
Yes! The film is about the surgical strike, and it is very special for me not only as an actor, but also as a person because all of us should know what had happened and what it takes to be in their (soldiers’) shoes.
You went in for a makeover for the film.
That was the director’s call. When we were discussing the look, he said I should have shorter hair. I thought he wanted it shorter by one or two inches. However, when he shared the reference, I was shocked. He told me he didn’t see the character taking much time in vanity. She has so many important things to do that her hair cannot be curled, permed or textured. He told me I needed to have a sharp look, so I said let’s do it. But when I sat on the chair, I asked the hairstylist if I could take a second. She said there was no time and cut it!
There was a phase when your movies like Sanam Re and Junooniyat did not do well. How did you cope with it?
Success and failure are both part and parcel of life. We, as actors, are accustomed to it and learn to handle it over a period of time. I have no regrets about what happened. I have always focussed on what comes ahead and I’m glad I have learnt from what has happened. Now, I pick projects that I’m passionate about and look forward to them.