'You can be fat, you can be thin, you can be fair, or not, you are whatever you are.'
'It is about being happy about yourself.'
We loved Ayushmann Khurrana's fresh pairing with Yami Gautam in 2012's Vicky Donor.
Seven years later, Yami and Ayushmann reunite in Bala.
How much has changed between them?
"We used to eat a lot during Vicky Donor. The only change, I think, is that we eat less now," Yami tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh.
You are working with Ayushmann after a long time. Any changes you have noticed in each other?
It is more or less the same.
What changed perhaps is the fact that we eat less now!
We used to eat a lot during Vicky Donor.
We used to think about food all the time and have heaps of rice.
So the only change, I think, is that we eat less now.
In terms of work, it is the same.
It's the same energy, the same comfort, the same passion.
Over the years, did the equation between the two of you change?
We had more to talk about because we had Vicky Donor as a reference point.
We would keep saying that Bala was the best script for us to come back together.
There were opportunities when people wanted to cast us together.
But whatever happens is always for the best.
Bala was the correct script for us to get back together.
Vicky Donor started conversation around sex education in films.
I am glad.
It is always, always great to be a part of something that is path-breaking, something that starts a new trend.
And you're right. I am sure -- I am not modest when I say this -- that Vicky Donor started that trend.
When I first got the script and my parents asked me what the film was about, I paused and told them it was a really nice film.
I asked them to read the script themselves because I could not tell them what it was about.
So yes, there was a certain notion, and I am glad that it was broken so beautifully with that film.
If it was not made the way it was, it could have gone wrong in so many ways.
I am glad it started that trend where you can talk about sex, even sex education.
You can talk about these things, as they are not taboo (anymore).
In Bala, your character is a social media sensation. Do you think social media plays a role in beauty standards today, especially looking at skin colour?
Social media has only highlighted what has been there since ages.
You know, this notion of beauty and perception was always there.
If I specifically talk about the brand Fair & Lovely, it's one of the oldest brands (in India) and the kind of ads which were made at that time were like, 'If you don't look like this, you will not prosper'.
I am glad that times have changed and a dialogue is starting.
The moment Vicky Donor became what it became, it turned into an endorsement.
I was with Fair & Lovely as a model before Vicky Donor but we had a conversation with the brand that it was the time to change what we have been doing to sell the cream.
There is nothing wrong, you have tanning creams abroad as well.
So it's an individual choice. If you want to look tanned, it is your wish.
If you want to look fair, it's your wish.
If you just want to be happy with yourself, that's the best thing.
That should be your choice, and should not be forced upon you.
So it's not a problem to sell.
But to show that if you are not fair, that's something to be unhappy about, that is not right.
If you see now, they don't talk about fairness anymore.
How important is it for any artist or film to take a stand on topics that create insecurity among youngsters?
Films are the most important medium.
Vicky Donor became a pioneer because people related with that. Maybe they went through the same problems, but were not able to voice it because it was looked down upon.
The same with Bala. It is not just about fairness or balding, it's about everything.
You can be fat, you can be thin, you can be fair, or not, you are whatever you are.
It is about being happy about yourself.
Self-love is the most important thing; being the best version of you and not seeing yourself through somebody else's eyes.
It is your choice, your life.
Did you have any insecurities when you started off in the film industry?
I started off at a time when I had no idea what insecurity was -- the true meaning of it.
I think it's when you start working that you actually start living in the real world, and you start to see.
Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
Living here is when you start hearing 20,000 opinions, 20,000 judgments...
Everybody is writing about you, everybody is commenting on you, everybody is making an opinion on whatever you do and say, the kind of films you do, the way you look...
And then, you realise with time and experience, this will never end.
You have to believe in yourself always.
After Vicky Donor, did you have only a particular kind of roles coming your way?
(My character) Ashima Roy in Vicky Donor was well received, it was very performance-oriented and people noticed that.
There were stereotypes like 'Oh, because it was not a very conventional role from an actress's point-of-view, she cannot play any other commercial role.'
So only certain types of roles were coming my way.
It's very important to keep working on yourself and reinventing yourself to get diverse roles.
I am glad that Kaabil gave me a chance to show a sensitive performance.
Uri: The Surgical Strike gave me an opportunity to show a completely different side.
But again, they were not conventional roles.
I feel very weird when you have to project that you aren't playing a strong girl.
It does not happen with actors. They don't have to stop playing a strong guy because of perceptions.
So you really have to work harder.
I think people like me have to put a lot of effort to keep proving themselves.
It can be tiring, but that's okay. That's my job.
I know I don't come with a certain surname or with a godfather. Nor do I have a social network here.
There is nothing wrong in it, by the way, I'm just saying.
I'm very happy about where I come from.
There is a certain price to it, but I am fine.
So it can take a little longer but I believe it will happen and I am in no hurry.
When it comes to Bala, it seems you chose to sign up based on subject matter rather than how strong your character is.
Of course, the subject matter is very important.
As I said, I have to be really careful with what I do.
Not everything will pay off, not everything that I have done in the past, professionally, has been amazing.
There have been films which I will never discuss but internally, I know that maybe I should not have done them -- something which I knew even at the time while signing them, 'Oh, I know that my heart is not in the film but I'm probably doing it because I have to do a film'.
You have to be visible.
You have to be there in the industry.
You can't take a sabbatical.
But I also feel that no, I don't want to do just anything.
Yes, there can be films which might not do well, but I want to associate myself with subjects that have a story to talk about. Something that is not flimsy or run-of-the-mill.
I want to work with good film-makers.
I want to do strong roles.
In Bala, I feel my role holds water.