"I Get Excited When I'm Offered a Role That Demands a Lot of Homework"

#DigitalExclusive Meet the coverstar of Brides Today’s brand new digital series: #BTBeautySeries. Yami Gautam, who was last seen in Ginny Weds Sunny, a Netflix India rom-com about matchmaking and an unlikely romance, talks about her beauty routine, how she has carefully curated her career path, and what went into making this special, digital cover.

Brides Today: What was it like, shooting for the cover of #BridesTodayBeauty during the part lockdown?

Yami Gautam: “It was a mix of everything! I may sound immodest, but the pictures look amazing. Brides Today has always had very aesthetic covers. For this shoot, Daniel [Bauer] created some great make-up looks... And it’s not just about the make-up, it’s almost a marriage between experimenting what’s trending and doing what suits your face. But, shooting during the pandemic was a very different experience.”

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BT: Have you picked up a new hobby or skill during the lockdown?

YG: “The pandemic gave me a chance to reconnect with yoga. Because I have an injury, I could never practice it properly, even though I wanted to earlier. But the lockdown gave me a chance to experience the true essence of yoga with my fantastic instructor. I figured out what works for me and choreographed an hour-and-a-half long routine for myself that I practice daily. It has helped me a lot and also improved my posture. Even though I have a long way to go, it has given me a lot of confidence.”

BT: Your last two films—Uri: The Surgical Strike and Bala—seem like very careful choices. Are you more careful about the kind of scripts you’re saying yes to now?

YG: “I have always been careful [about the roles I’ve picked]... It might not have translated very well in the past, as the opportunities I had were not in my control. But today, the position that I find myself in is very different from what it was even after having a successful debut—where I felt that I had left a mark as a performer! It’s not that I wasn’t appreciated, but what followed wasn’t exactly what I was looking forward to. In this industry, you have to socialise and be ‘seen’ and that doesn’t come naturally to me!

This is a creative field, and while I’m more than happy to meet people, my sense of worth comes from my work, which is most important. I didn’t understand why I had to be a part of a mould. It took a lot of patience, self-belief and struggle to be comfortable with the fact that I’m going to look for scripts and directors who’ll help me explore my versatility. And Uri: The Surgical Strike and Bala are the result of this patience and perseverance.”

BT: Have things changed for you since then?

YG: “Things have changed for the better. I want to do whatever excites me as an actor and audience! I think, after my first film, this phase—post Uri and Bala—is the most exciting one in my career as I’m getting to be a part of such diverse films! I think Vicky Donor paved the way for such path-breaking scripts that are a perfect blend of content-meets-commercial.

I’m so glad that such scripts are coming my way. People were shocked to see me in Bala, because they didn’t expect me to be able to pull off such a role! [Yami’s character was a TikTok influencer] How many actresses do you see being offered comedy roles? We need more such roles being written and performed. I’m glad that with the success of such films more avenues are opening up!”

BT: And do you enjoy playing such characters?

YT: “I get excited when a role that requires a lot of homework! Of course, every character requires spontaneity, but you can only pull that off with some sort of preparation. You have to give it a thought, do your homework, and invest time in understanding the character. When such scripts, irrespective of their genre, come your way, you are on the right track! Like Bhoot Police is a horror-comedy and is as commercial as it can get, yet I know I have a substantial role in it.”

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BT: How do you get into the skin of a character?

YG: “One thing that I do, which is common for every film, is being so thorough with the script, that I even know my co-actor’s lines. Then, whatever my character demands... I remember, for Pari (my character in Bala), it took me a month-and-a-half to prepare for the role. I watched so many YouTube videos to understand how beauty bloggers do their make-up routine. You just need to internalise the character—let it be you, and be open to ideas. Then, for Uri: The Surgical Strike, I chopped off my hair. I got a bob, and even the director believed that it would add something to my character. I love working on the look and the body language of the character.”

BT: What does beauty mean to you?

YG: “Even though it has been said a bazillion times, beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder. I truly believe that my idea of beautiful may differ from yours. For me, beauty is about being natural...staying as close to who you are in every way possible. Of course, one’s idea of beauty also evolves with time. When I look back at my old pictures, there are some things that I wish stayed the way they were, and there are certain things that are better now. But it’s really about being comfortable with who you are.”

BT: What is your stance on the beauty standards set by society?

YG: “I think we are living in a very complex age. There are too many things happening at once around us...especially with the advent of social media. The level of aspiration that one develops looking at pictures of someone considered ‘beautiful’ on the other side of the globe is very concerning. Both ideas of accepting who you are and the idea of being more ‘conventionally desirable’ exist today. Because of the many options we have, it’s not easy to condition young minds to stay the way they are. But at the end of the day, it’s your body, your face...you have the right to do whatever makes you happy, but that should not overpower your life choices and affect your mental peace! I remember, at the beginning of my career, a make-up artist told me that I’d look better if I changed my nose. It’s very difficult to let go of such voices—but thankfully, I was able to!”

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BT: What about self-acceptance?

YG: “I’m very happy that the conversation about the importance of self acceptance has begun. It’s important to condition young minds to not obsess over their looks. My neighbour in Chandigarh read an interview by a celebrity and went on a crash diet—she only ate an orange a day—and ended up in the hospital. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and I have come to realise and accept this. I am healthy, I enjoy home-cooked meals and I would like to keep it that way!

If my character demands me to be in a certain shape or look a particular way—I’m all for it! I’m paid to do that, but otherwise, I would want to keep my body and face as natural as possible. I have never been under the knife and I don’t endorse it either.”

BT: What is your skincare routine like?

YG: “I have super-sensitive skin, so I’m very careful about the products I use. There are some products that really work for me, but I mostly use facial oils instead of creams. In fact, I also made a cream at home that has done wonders for my skin. I got dengue last year around the time I had to start shooting for Ginny Weds Sunny, and I had severe rashes. I basically looked like a dead person! But I made this cream with raw shea butter and some essential oils, and it really helped my skin recover. One day, maybe, I’ll share the product with everyone to see what people think of it.”

BT: Are there any skincare hacks that your mum or grandmother passed on to you?

YG: “Yes! I have an entire notebook full of my mum and grandmother’s skincare tips, and one day, I would like to publish it. The lockdown turned into a period of self-care for me. I made so many homemade scrubs, and even created a kajal at home! I learnt how to make it from my grandmother, and while the texture wasn’t right the first time around, I know I’ll nail it the next time.”

BT: Would you ever consider becoming a beauty entrepreneur?

YG: “I am already an entrepreneur, actually—we own some land where we grow organic fruits and vegetables. But launching a beauty brand is something I’d like to explore because, throughout my life, I have struggled with sensitive skin. And I would like to develop and share something which girls can rely on... But that’s all in the future!”

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BT: Are there any make-up products that you love?

YG: “I have always believed that ‘less is more’. Even if there is a little bit of extra foundation on my face, it just looks different. Minimal, dewy skin really works for me. I love Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer—it lends a very natural finish to skin. Apart from that, I like to keep my look simple. I’m not big on thick brows and heavy eye make-up either. When I’m not working, I just like to tight-line my waterline and swipe on a nude or muted lipstick. For me, it’s all about accentuating my natural features.”

BT: What’s in your make-up bag currently?

YG: “I don’t have an enormous make-up kit. Even if you are carrying three products, you can finish your entire look with just that! The same thing can be used as a highlighter, eyeshadow, lipstick, and cheek tint.”

BT: What is your favourite fragrance?

YG: “I love Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel and Miss Dior by Christian Dior. They are evergreen scents, and I really connect with them!”

BT: Any beauty trends that you are loving are the moment?

YG: “There isn’t a specific beauty trend that I love. I see people experimenting a lot and I love it when people don’t play by the book! I don’t like to do something just because it’s trending.”

BT: Is there something about you that very few people know about you?

YG: “I have been told that I mimic very well.” (Laughs)

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BT: And who do you like to imitate the most?

YG: “You know, I have a knack of picking up accents, and I can imitate anyone I’ve observed! If I speak to you a couple more times, I’ll pick something up. It’s not about actors and actresses always, but it can be anyone I find interesting (or peculiar!). But not everyone takes it as a compliment...some people do get offended.”

BT: You’ve been in the industry for over a decade. What are the key differences between Yami then and now?

YG: “The key differences lie in my perspective—taking pride in who I am and acknowledging and remembering the Yami I was in the beginning, because my fabric is still the same. I have evolved as a person, of course, but I remain both consistent and constantly changing. My core values and ethics are something I will never compromise on. I say this with humility, but I do take pride in the fact that wherever I am today, I don’t owe it to anyone. Whatever achievements or mistakes I have made professionally, they’re all mine.

I believe the bond I share with my family and my core values are what have made me. It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t! Sometimes, you are expected to fit a mould rather than people accepting your uniqueness. Thankfully, I have never been disrespected or treated ‘less than’, but this wasn’t always followed by what I wanted to do professionally. I took time to accept myself and take pride in who I am, without being apologetic.

Fortunately, my last three films have done really well, and even as a performer, I got critical recognition. But even if something doesn’t do as well, I will hold the same balanced perspective and objective mindset. I am attached to my work but when I watch the film, I’m mentally prepared to be okay if the movie doesn’t do well.”

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