While Yami Gautam struck a chord with the audience with her debut Vicky Donor (2012), a sleeper hit, it was in 2019 that her hugely successful Uri: The Surgical Strike, followed by Bala, that won her the accolades. Her portrayal of ditsy and dramatic TikTok star Pari Mishra brought an interesting turn in her career, so much so that the actress has not stopped signing exciting projects since then.
As she looks forward to her latest release, romantic comedy Ginny Weds Sunny, Gautam talks about the opportunities that are coming her way, working with Vikrant Massey, her take on famous surnames and favouritism, and choosing audience love over awards after being 'snubbed' at the popular awards this year.
How exciting it is to enter the digital space with Ginny Weds Sunny?
It is really exciting. It has opened a different avenue and a parallel medium altogether, and I don't think it is going to stop. It is going to grow bigger. I couldn't have asked for a better time for the release, or a better time for my digital debut with a film like Ginny Weds Sunny, which is so opposite of what is happening around in this intense situation. In the middle of a pandemic you have a lighthearted film. It is nice to see people responding that the trailer has lifted their mood, and it is looking so much fun and colourful.
You have worked in this rom-com space earlier, so what's different this time? What attracted you to play Ginny's part?
I have done two such films in the past but it didn't work for me. It failed. And the failure taught me that it is not necessary that formulaic films always work. But the mindset with which I signed my first film, Vicky Donor, I had followed by gut. Nothing was calculated, it felt right, and I did it. Similarly, I enjoyed reading the Ginny Weds Sunny script, and when I got to know that Vikrant had been approached for the part, I was really relieved.
The story is set in the west of Delhi. We have seen rom-coms before, we have seen Delhi girls in films before, so the challenge in front of me was to add something to make it look different, and make it mine. I took it as an opportunity as a performer to draw that line where you don't necessarily have to sound brash, or there have to be any cuss words. Deep down, what I loved about the character besides her being strong and witty, was her vulnerability that nobody has seen. You tend to never expose that side of yours to anyone. You never let anybody in, and that contrast of the character, to explore that vulnerable side, was very interesting.
You raised the bar with Bala, where your performance as a TikTok star was hugely appreciated by both the audience and the critics. But is getting such meaty parts difficult?
It was always my endeavour. If you go back to Vicky Donor, I was a newcomer with dreams, hopes, and aspirations. All I wanted to do was be a part of big and different stories, do substantial roles, and explore my journey. But what followed immediately was that I didn't get the kind of roles that I wanted to do. Of course, I got Kaabil, and in between, Badlapur happened, although that was a cameo, but I really wanted to work with Sriram Raghavan. I was looking for something that I was excited to do as an actor, something that will help me express the fact that I believe in versatility, and I wanted to explore as many genres and roles, and work with talented filmmakers. Even a film like Batti Gul Meter Chalu, I knew that I came in the second half but I wanted to play the lawyer's part. It didn't matter how the film panned out. But luckily, Uri happened and then came Bala. That gave me an opportunity to showcase that depth in my performance. The film opened different kinds of avenues for me. There are some projects yet to be announced. Now when people say that there are expectations from me, and whether there was pressure, it is a good pressure. I enjoy that kind of pressure.
Can you please tell us about your forthcoming films " Bhoot Police and A Thursday?
Bhoot Police is a horror comedy. It is a space which I enjoy watching also as an audience. My character is something I have not explored before. I am looking forward to it but working in these corona times (shoot starts in November), it is going to be very scary, nothing less than a horror story (laughs). The director (Pawan Kripalani) has a very strong hold over this genre, when it comes to suspense and horror. I had really enjoyed his first film Phobia. With A Thursday (shoot starts early next year), without technically being a sequel, it is kind of taking ahead the series of A Wednesday. Behzad Khambata is directing it, and it is one of the best scripts I have come across in recent times. It is about a girl who is a kindergarten school teacher, and who takes kids as hostages. That is a very challenging role for me. There are more announcements to happen.
Considering the scripts that are coming your way now, it looks like you have overcome the fear of getting typecast as merely a pretty face in Bollywood, like the way you felt earlier. Any truth to that?
Absolutely. I feel fearless as an actor, as a person. I came to the city with questions and curiosity, but there was no fear. When things start working for you... My first film was a huge success; somehow that concern or fear also makes its place. There is fear of not living up to the expectations, fear of not getting good opportunities, fear of getting typecast, fear of meeting the media and fielding questions on being compared with your contemporaries. This was the reality, and it was happening with me. When I came out of that space, my perspective had changed. I know I am not signing a project out of any fear or with any kind of doubt in my mind. If I don't have to, I won't. That fearlessness in your choices is really important. But it is not an easy place to be, especially if you are coming from another city, a small town, and coming with certain core values, or without a famous surname, or without any reference. I am not somebody who inherently believes in socialising or has an aggressive PR. I am not good at that. For me, it is just my work, my own belief in my own potential.
We have been having this debate on famous surnames for a long time now. What view do you hold?
It's said that nepotism exists in every field but the difference is, if a father is a doctor and his son also wants to follow that path, he can get all the help in academics and guidance but finally, that child will have to take that exam himself where 2+2 will always be four, it won't be five. But the movie industry is different because 2+2 can also be 10. It is a creative field. There is no definition, it is almost like an amoebic form. I look at this entire issue differently. Yes, it is very natural for a child to follow their father or mother who is into movies. If somebody wants to launch their kid or somebody has a backing from the industry, you can't stop someone from doing that. But what is not correct is favouritism, or taking away somebody's opportunity to elevate someone else.
Nepotism is a part of it but the bigger issue for me has always been favouritism.
I have lost out roles not just to star-kids but also to actors who are not from the industry but have had some sort of a strong referencing, or a strong word of mouth, strong preference over a reason I had no idea. If the ground is equal vis-Ã -vis your potential and your talent then it is an open field and a fair scene for everyone. But partiality towards somebody on the basis of either nepotism or favouritism is just not right.
Lastly, you had expressed your displeasure for not being nominated for your breakthrough performance in Bala at the Filmfare Awards this year. How do you look at it now?
It was not about winning an award. It was just a question of nomination, which is not to see your name up there because we do talk about celebrating actors, cinema. It is a mark of respect associated with that nomination. There was nothing else to it. I was surprised as much as everybody who was rooting for me, fans or cinema lovers, but the very next moment, I felt it was all right. I wrote that it's a long journey, and I am a hustler for life. I am so conditioned to all this that it doesn't matter to me. The fact that I got so much love from my audience, my contemporaries, my fraternity, media, critics. It was genuine love that can make up for 100 such awards.
Ginny Weds Sunny is streaming on Netflix India.
All images from Twitter.