This shoot marks more than one of the firsts for Yami Gautam. It is not just the actor’s first magazine shoot of 2021, but also her very first cover for Cosmopolitan. As we gear up for an early-morning schedule packed with fresh, bohemian looks, Yami arrives on set at 7am sharp to get started on her hair and make-up. Throughout the shoot, the 32-year-old proves, at various points, just how professional she is. Yami’s attention-to-detail is impossible to ignore, as the actor checks each shot to ensure not a single strand is out of place. And only when the perfectionist in her is pleased, does she proceed for the next shot... As the crew wraps up a hectic day of shooting, Yami, though tired, doesn’t let it show as we sit down for the interview. Her professional journey, which began 11 years ago, features several highs and lows. But Yami has always had her eyes on the prize, and hasn’t allowed minor setbacks to deter her. An introvert by her own admission, Yami believes she might have been able to bag plump projects had she hung out with the ‘right set’ in Bollywood, but she patiently waited for her work to do all the talking. Here’s an excerpt from our heartfelt chat with her.
On the Future of Cinema
“The industry is already evolving in the right direction, but with the OTT platforms gaining momentum, I am hoping good script writers will find an avenue to tell their stories. I think intention is key when it comes to the evolution of cinema. It could be any genre or subject—as long as the intention is true and the film is made with utmost honesty and passion, it will do well. As an audience, I like to watch all kinds of films. But I absolutely love horror movies. I feel that’s an area we haven’t fully explored. I would also like to watch a costume drama with really good effects; or even a light-hearted comedy film. I feel the audiences are in no mood to watch anything mediocre, so the emphasis on good scripts is even more crucial than before.
I feel really good after watching a film with strong female characters. I might not have played that part, but it helps create opportunities for other female actors. It could even be a male actor, for that matter... It is not about attacking anyone, but about finding your own place to do something substantial in the industry. As for me, I am aiming to be as versatile as I can be...and my career is headed in that direction, fortunately. So I would like to focus on good scripts and roles in order to push the envelope, and to also test my ability as an actor. I am also very excited about the films in the pipeline. I have waited a long time for good scripts to come my way, and I’m just hoping that all of this translates well on screen, too. I want to be known for my work...my identity is my work.”
On the Evolution of Beauty
“I have always maintained that everybody is entitled to their opinion. But I see that a tool as powerful as social media is not being used in the most constructive way. People can be so mean to you—10 nice comments won’t affect you as much as one bad comment could. But there is another side to it, too, which involves people initiating conversations and dialogues that allow many to accept themselves. It also urges people to be kind. I would like to see a world where there are no ‘standards’ of body and beauty...where perfect bodies are not idealised. If we really want to call ourselves modern, we should prioritise health and well-being over looks. I would like a sisterhood where women are kind to one another and celebrate and support each other.”
On the Importance of Education
“I feel passionately about education. Many people ask me about the causes I support or believe in, but being a public figure, there is only so much you can do. Yes, we can utilise the power of social media, but that includes a very small percentage of the country’s population. As I mentioned earlier, the pandemic reminded us of the importance of basic hygiene and keeping our surroundings clean. But if we work with children from a young age, we would be able to create responsible adults. Education really matters when it comes to inculcating good habits. If the kids in the family are educated, they will have the power to bring about change. However, it takes time... If you are suddenly asked to alter your ways, you won’t be able to.
But right now is a good time to stress on sanitation and cleanliness. I am sure many schools already do that, but perhaps the curriculum needs to be tweaked so that it has a greater impact. It is also important to educate people in the slum areas. It’ll take time, but we just have to be consistent, and do whatever it takes to have stronger measures in place. When we travel around the world, we admire how clean the cities are, but even India can look like those countries, you know. The kind of diversity we have in India, the natural beauty is unreal. We just have to maintain it, take care of the abundance nature has blessed us with. It will take time, but it isn’t impossible. It’s all about creating awareness and educating whoever you can.
In fact, educating the girl child is another issue I want to stress upon. Educating women is important to empower them...to make them realise that each one of them has the strength to achieve something, be financially independent. I feel equality is nothing but just equal opportunity. It is not a privilege...it is a necessity. And education is the key to creating an equal world.”
On Her Vision of an Ideal World
“I felt a strange thing during the pandemic...I felt like nature was asking us to reset and come back to where we started from. We have progressed so much, and our lives have changed drastically as compared to how our forefathers lived, but it seemed like such a simpler time. They had fewer resources, but they were still happy. So why is it that we have everything, and yet, there are so many things that make us unhappy? The pandemic forced us to find a solution in Ayurveda, start practicing simple codes of hygiene that our grandparents believed in, and there was a lot of stress on one’s emotional and mental well-being. In fact, a lot of people spoke about how the lockdown was a blessing in disguise, as it helped them slow down. So, a perfect world for me would involve going back to where we came from. When things were uncomplicated, and you could trust a fellow human being. I think a simpler world would be a better world.”
On Where She Sees Herself in a Decade from Now
“Realistically, I don’t know, but I have a lot of plans. Whatever I do, whoever I am, or wherever I am, I see myself being happy. I see myself surrounded by my family (I am still with them!). I think achievement, ambition, and success mean different things to different people. For me, being with my loved ones is important...if they’re happy, then it’s all good. Nothing matters more than my family.[instagram]https://www.instagram.com/p/CPsp4oGFnE5/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading[/instagram]
If I had to pick one place to live in, forever, I’d choose Himachal Pradesh. I already have a farm in Gauhar in the Mandi district...and it is just perfect! It is literally in the lap of nature, very quaint, and the air is so fresh. It’s a simple place, with simple people—anyone can walk into your house with no agenda...just to check up on you. That’s my kind of life...where you wake up every morning and look forward to doing simple things in life. I think it would be the perfect place to start my skincare line, a passion project I hope to realise soon. I have a diary full of my grandmother and mother’s skincare recipes, and I would like to utilise the farm land to grow the ingredients to curate a range of products.”
Photographs: Taras Taraporevala;
Styling: Zunaili Malik;
Hair: Flavien Heldt at Faze Management;
Make-Up: Vidhi Salecha Panjabi;
Production: P. Productions;
Fashion Assistants: Humaira Lakdawala and Manveen Guliani;
Fashion Interns: Aarushi Garg and Ananya Banerjee;
Photographers Agency: Inega Model Management