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'There is no awkwardness between Sonakshi and me'

Last updated on: March 05, 2014 19:34 IST

'There is no awkwardness between Sonakshi and me'

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Patcy N in Mumbai

'Everything was new for me. I had to learn everything on my own.'

'After pack up, I would sit on the make-up chair for the make-up to be removed. The make-up person would say ‘It is not my job’. I would argue ‘You put it on so you remove it’. I had no idea about anything.'

Yami Gautam opens up about her journey into Bollywood.

Yami Gautam wanted to become an IAS officer but destiny had other plans, and she became an actress instead.

After finding success with her first Hindi film, Vicky Donor, Yami is ready with her second film, Total Siyapaa, starring Ali Zafar.

She tells Patcy N how she made it to Bollywood, and much more.

You are doing another comedy?

I would not say Vicky Donor was just a comedy film. It had balance of sweetness and many other elements.

It was a little emotional and so is Total Siyapaa.

Please click Next to see more.


Image: Yami Gautam
Photographs: Courtesy Clea PR

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'I wanted to be an IAS officer'

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How did your acting career start?

I was called to Mumbai because I got an opportunity to work in television when I was a student at Punjab University.

I wanted to be an IAS officer. I was doing honours in Law.

My uncle had taken some random pictures of me in the house. He showed them to the director and the production house of the serial Ballika Vadhu, who were coming out with a new serial, Chand Ke Paar Chalo.

They sent me some lines for the audition which we had to record and send back. They really liked it and I got the role.

I took some time to decide. It was a huge decision. I was a good student. It came as a shock for the director of my department in college that I was giving up education for acting. He was not ready to give me my leaving certificate!

I am not an extrovert. I never took part in plays. I just studied well and got good marks.

My parents were very happy, though they were a little apprehensive as I would be living in a new city.

At first I stayed with family friends in Mumbai and then I moved into my apartment.

My family keeps coming here but that’s different from having them live here. I speak to my mother at least once a day.

Everything was new for me. I had to learn everything on my own.

After pack up, I would sit on the make-up chair for the make-up to be removed. The make up person would say ‘It is not my job’. I would argue ‘You put it on so you remove it’. I had no idea about anything.

It’s been quite a journey, but I don’t think as a person I have really changed. My choices are the same. I have always done work that I liked, be it television, ads or films.


Image: Yami Gautam
Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar

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'The first time I saw myself on the big screen, I had tears in my eyes'

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After doing a couple of serials you acted in a Kannada film. How comfortable were you?

Yes, my first film was a Kannada film. Everything was different yet again -- from language to food, to the place, the medium, everything was a problem.

A film is very different from a serial, so I had to re-learn things.

Language was definitely a big barrier. I would somehow learn my lines and deliver them because I did not want it to be dubbed. I would try my best to understand the lines and emote.

It is not easy to act in a language that you don’t know.

The first time I saw myself on the big screen my mother was with me. I was very happy with myself. I had tears in my eyes.

After that I did a Telugu film.


Image: Yami Gautam
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
Tags: Kannada

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'I have decided that I will do good work with good directors even if it means less work'

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Is it true that director Shoojit Sircar did not want to cast you in Vicky Donor because he did not want a Punjabi girl to play a Bengali girl?

Casting director Jogi Malang had taken my audition and Shoojit liked it. But he told me my looks are very Punjabi, how will you look like a Bengali?

Then he took my audition himself, and he was convinced of my acting ability, so the challenge was just to work on my look.

We had to series of look tests. We worked on the eye make-up, we also worked a bit on my skin tone and even the way I talk because I talk very fast. He recommended I see a couple of films just to get the hang of my character.

You already had a role in a serial when you came to Mumbai. You really didn’t have to struggle, right?

No, that’s not true. The television serial Chand Ke Paar Chalo went off in four months and I had no work.

Thankfully the channel liked my work and they offered me another show Raajkumar Aaryyan, which also went off after around four months.

Then I started exploring. I got the offer for the Kannada film. After that I did a few commercials down south. I did one more TV show, Yeh Pyar Na Hoga Kam, for Colors.

I have decided that I will do good work with good directors even if it means less work.


Image: Yami Gautam in Vicky Donor


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'I just know that I am there in Action Jackson for a certain reason'

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Your sister is also into acting?

My sister Surilie did one Punjabi film (Power Cut, starring, Jaspal Bhatti's son Jasraj) last year, because a family friend requested her. Otherwise she is studying.

What are your forthcoming movies?

My next film is Action Jackson, produced by Prabhu Dheva. It’s a family entertainer.

Action Jackson has Sonakshi Sinha too...

(Interrupting) It doesn’t matter. We have shot for a scene and we are very comfortable working together. There is no awkwardness at all.

My question was, with Sonakshi in the film, how much screen time will you get?

I don’t think you should have this mind-set. It is all about how you want to do the role and just be part of the film.

I just know that I am there for a certain reason or else they wouldn’t have me in the film.

Some times you just do the film because you like the role. After you watch the film you will not question my presence in the film.


Image: Yami Gautam
Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar

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'Neeraj is the most sensible filmmaker of his time'

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How did Neeraj Pandey approach you for Total Siyapaa?

I got a call from his office to meet him and hear the narration of a script. I was very excited. I had seen A Wednesday and was looking forward to Special 26, which was yet to release (both directed by Pandey).

Neeraj is the most sensible filmmaker of his time. He is a very cool and calm person. He is extremely intelligent.

I was on a flight when I went through the script. I read it in one go and called and said I want to be part of the film.

He told me he is not directing as he has written the script.

Did it upset you that Neeraj was not directing?

Yes. I asked him why he wasn’t directing the film. He told me not to worry. ‘I will be there, I am part of it,’ he said.


Image: Ali Zaffar, Yami Gautam in Total Siyapaa


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'I am not a trained actor'

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Was Neeraj on the sets when E Niwas was directing?

Off and on, he would come to check what is happening. He respects the space of the director as he is a director himself. He has co-produced the film so he knows his space really well.

He would be there for the workshops and would tell us what has to be done.

What kind of workshop was it?

We had a four-five day workshop with Anupam Kher in his academy Actor Prepares.

I haven’t done theatre; I am not a trained actor, so it was a very different experience for me to work beyond the script. We had reading sessions later when we were in London.

But before that he made us do different activities. He would create hypothetical situations like what kind of person would Asha (the character she plays) be, what would her childhood have been like. It was nothing to do with the script but helped you understand the character.


Image: Yami Gautam
Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar

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'I love having Kirron Kher around even if I am not working with her'

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Two of the best actors from the industry, Anupam Kher and Kirron Kher, are playing your parents in the film. What was it like working with them?

It was fantastic. I love Kirronji. I love having her around even if I am not working with her. She is so lively, she is so jovial, so jolly and a fantastic actor. You must see how she improvises on the sets.

I worked more with Kirronji than Anupamji. He is very cool and chilled out, and he is very sweet and funny.

When your co-actors’ performance is at a high level, as a newcomer your performance gets enhanced. There is lot more that you can add to your performance.

Anupam and Kirron Kher worked together in 1987 in Pestonjee and this is their first film together after that. How was their rapport on the sets?

It was very interesting to see them work together. It was very cold in London and we were shooting at night so it was inhumanely cold. We had warmers but we still felt cold. We were all busy taking care of each other.

Kirronji would take care of Anupamji. She would ask him to have a cup of tea and things like that. They talked to each other but at the same time they were very professional on the sets.


Image: Yami Gautam, Ali Zafar, Kirron Kher in Total Siyapaa


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'E Niwas is not very strict or rigid director'

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How was it working with E Niwas?

He is a very talented director. He won a national award (for his first film Shool in 1999) in the early days of his career which says a lot about him as a director.

He is very easing going and talented. He explains what he wants. He doesn’t make you self-conscious.

He is not very strict or rigid when he explains your shots. If you are convinced you can do it differently and if he thinks you are making more sense, he will agree with you. He is very flexible.

We improvised a lot on the sets. Ali is a fantastic co-actor, his comic timing is effortless.

I was working with actors in this film who were superb in this genre. We had lots of fun. I hope audiences do too.

What was it like off the sets?

Mostly we would look for heaters and warmers, when we were not shooting. We would all have tea, and Kirron would come up with something or the other. Ali would have his music sessions.

In fact, Ali’s family was there. His wife Ayesha is gorgeous. He has a cute son. We got along very well. The characters who play my siblings in the film Sara (Khan) and Anuj (Pandit) we were all like a big family.

The crew was local crew from London. They were the most professional and organised people to work with. There was no fuss, we finished on time.


Image: Yami Gautam
Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar

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'My priority will be Hindi films'

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The film is about an Indian girl and a Pakistani boy falling in love. Will that be controversial?

I don’t see any controversy at all because the story is not about that -- of course it’s the crux of the film -- but what happens in those few hours. It is an interesting story of one day. How we start in the morning on one note and what happens till night falls.

It’s a very light-hearted film. We are not trying to be preachy. There is no drama about India and Pakistan.

Have you stopped acting in south Indian films?

No. I did two bilinguals after Vicky Donor. I will keep doing that but my priority will be Hindi films. If I get a good script and opportunity I will do south films too.


Image: Yami Gautam
Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar

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