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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

Yami Gautam Dhar speaks about simplicity during her recent Kolkata visit

During a candid conversation she opens up about Lost and life 10 years in Hindi films and wanting to keep life simple

Priyanka Roy , Pramita Ghosh, Zeba Akhtar Ali Published 09.02.23, 02:37 PM
Yami Gautam Dhar at JW Marriott Kolkata

Yami Gautam Dhar at JW Marriott Kolkata Pictures: B Halder

Warm. Fun. Sensitive. Happy-go-lucky. Responsible. Yami Gautam Dhar has always given the impression of being all this, and more. The actor — who turned a decade old in Bollywood last year — has carved a niche for herself, especially through her last few films which showcased her diverse range as an actor. Yami will next be seen as a fearless journalist determined to hunt out the truth in Lost, directed by Pink man Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury. The film, shot in Calcutta, will stream on Zee5 from February 16.

If shooting for Lost parked Yami in Calcutta for a long time in 2021, on Wednesday, the stunner was back in the city, this time to promote the film. Team t2 met the actor, simple yet gorgeous, in a bottle green Maku by Santanu Das number at the executive lounge of JW Marriott Kolkata, which offers a panoramic view of the EM Bypass.

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As soon as a smiling Yami walked in, she was floored by the Lost-themed cake from Team t2, courtesy Flurys. With a figure of Yami as her character Vidhi on it, the good ol’ Calcutta yellow taxi and pen-notepad-camera, the essentials of the journalist that Yami plays in the film, the cake was an instant hit with Yami.

Over the next 30 minutes, we chatted, laughed, joked and spoke from the heart. The verdict from Yami at the end of it: ‘This is one of the best interviews I have ever done’. The feeling is mutual, Yami.

Priyanka Roy: Yami, welcome back to Calcutta. You had told me last time that spending so much time shooting Lost in Calcutta had made you forge an emotional bond with the city. When you went back, at least for the first few days, what did you miss the most about Calcutta? Is there anything that you miss even now?

Yami Gautam Dhar: There were so many memories! Dada (director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury aka Tony) and his wife Indrani di didn’t let me go without this huge bagful of sweets, nolen gur, sondesh, mishti doi, rosogolla... oh my god! It was full! It was almost like when you are married — or when you aren’t married!— and when you are leaving home and your mummies will pack tons of stuff and then say, ‘Yeh bhi lo, woh bhi lo’. So I actually took that huge bag and nicely flaunted it in front of my in-laws! (Laughs out loud)

Technically, I had very little time to absorb and keep holding on to Lost... I had to quickly move on to the next films. Last year, I committed to six films, Lost being one of them, and I didn’t have any time between my films. But it’s the warmth, the joy, the experience of the city, of the people here that I took back. It isn’t easy to shoot in real locations, especially in the time of Covid, and as an actress, one is always concerned.... We shot at Park Street and at places where there would be huge crowds and the camera would be behind some tree (smiles). But I must tell you that it didn’t feel awkward at all for some reason.

This city has given me a lot of love, right from my first film (Vicky Donor). A lot of people think we shot that film here, but we actually didn’t.

Pramita Ghosh: If you had the chance to come back to Calcutta and spend a few days here, what would you definitely like to visit/ experience again?

Yami: Everything! All the food then, visit the Kali Bari that I used to visit every Tuesday morning... I was here shooting for such a long time for Lost that I actually managed to go on four Tuesday mornings. I also went to Dakshineswar Temple. I felt like a child on Park Street. Park Street felt like a movie set to me where everything had suddenly acquired a retro vibe. I remember looking out of the window pane like a child so excitedly. It’s such an iconic place... there is something about Park Street.

Even between shots, I wouldn’t go back to my van. Wherever there would be a cafeteria, we would sit there and wait for the shot... have a cup of coffee and then get ready for the next shot.

It was a tough time... there was Covid, it was hot and humid as actors, we had to take our masks off in front of the camera. We shot in small rooms crammed with almost 100 people. To maintain that energy, to be in that character... one can only do all of that only when one knows that the end result will be absolutely worth it. And Tonyda is worth everything! He is the kind of person who deserves all that effort, all that respect that every member of the team gives him.

Priyanka: You didn’t mention the bhnarer cha !

Yami: I was just going to! We were shooting somewhere close to Victoria Memorial in a very crowded place. There was no place to even sit between shots and the shopkeepers around were very sweet... they all told me, ‘Ma’am, please come to our shop’. Then one of them came to me with a cup of tea in a kulhad and Dada (Tony) told me, ‘Yami, try karo. Aapko bahut achha lagega’. And it was soooooo good! (Closes her eyes and smiles). After having it, I called my mother, my sister, Aditya (Dhar, husband) and told them, ‘I have found the perfect chai!’ (Laughs)

I am a chai person and for me, it just has to be the correct chai. My mother makes outstanding tea! And I actually called and told her, ‘Mumma, this tea is unbelievable!’ Would you believe it that after that one sip, I didn’t drink that tea for a good 10 minutes?! I just didn’t want it to get over! And Dada was like, ‘Ek aur chai aa jayega’ (laughs).

These small things make such a huge difference... it’s not just about food and chai. It’s that feeling, that thought, that personal touch that my director brought in.... And then it hit me ki agle set pe toh yeh chai nahin milegi! (Laughs )

Yami with director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury at the shoot of Lost

Yami with director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury at the shoot of Lost

Priyanka: You play one of us, a journalist, in Lost. What were your first impressions of Vidhi when you were offered the part and did the part, as fearless and feisty and always wanting to do what is right, strike a chord with you in any way?

Yami: : When you watch the film you will realise that every woman, in some way or the other, especially in the last couple of roles that I have done, will find some relatability, some vulnerability. While I wasn’t trying to draw any parallels between me and other journalists — the closest we, as actors, know journalists are the ones who do entertainment journalism — Dada had interacted a lot with journalists. And when I heard the part of Vidhi, I felt that her courage is something else... that fearlessness makes her different. She knows she has no security, no safety blanket....

She is the kind of journalist who people may feel is blurring the lines... she will hear things like, ‘Don’t try and become an activist. Just do your job’. But Vidhi is the kind of person who will turn around and say, ‘If you were doing your job right, then I wouldn’t have to do this’.

Vidhi is all about righteousness. She feels that there is a certain responsibility that comes with her job and she will go to any length to fulfil it, no matter how small it may seem today. If we are asking questions through this film and through Vidhi, then that means that humaneness, that integrity has somehow been lost.

Lost is not only an investigative thriller, it is a human drama, an emotional thriller. It’s more than just a thriller. As an actor, it was interesting for me to see that Dada didn’t want any projection, he didn’t want my character to shout in order to make a point... the power is in your mind, the power is in your thoughts is what this film believes in. A favourite film of mine which has journalism as its core is Spotlight... and that is so natural... they just kept a camera in their office and kept talking. So organic....

Zeba Akhtar Ali: Is there one thing about Vidhi you wish you had and one thing about her you wouldn’t like to have?

Yami:She’s very strong! I haven’t been put into those testing waters so I can’t really say if I can be as strong as her when the situation arises. You discover your courage only when you are exposed to a certain situation.

And what I don’t like is that she... (pauses) doesn’t like chai much! She is a coffee person (laughs). And her naanu constantly keeps telling her to have chai, he loves making chai. And then one day she does say, ‘Chalo aapki waali chai pi lete hain’. Also, she is not a big foodie (makes a mock cringe face and laughs).

Priyanka: Journalists are a cliched lot in our cinema, from what they wear to how they behave. How is Vidhi different?

Yami: : I think a lot of credit for that goes to, of course apart from Dada, my team. Manisha Melwani is my stylist in the film, Vidhi who has done the make-up and hair... the reason why I am mentioning the names is because I think it’s very important. You are so right, vanity is just not about the hair and makeup, it’s about the character. And it’s really important that once I get the emotional gist of the character, the physicality is a very important part.

And you are right when you say that we have often seen journalists dressed in a certain way on our screen, or they wear make-up in a certain way.... I think Vidhi is smart, she dresses up well and she might not have the time to do hair and make-up all the time but I am sure she is someone who can do her own make-up and hair, but not to an extent that it becomes a point of conversation or a way of standing out. I don’t think that was the idea. So everything is very natural, comfortable and there is nothing like, ‘Oh you have to make her wear just a kurta and jeans, put her in Kolhapuri chappals.... Even though there might be some journalists who dress like that... I have dressed like that in college myself. But ek cheez baar baar hoti hain toh wohi cheez stereotypical ho jaati hain. In terms of what Vidhi wears, the fabrics are very local, you will see the scarves or the scrunchies....

I think the whole idea of vanity is that it needs to blend in and not stand out. It should blend in and become a part of the character and shouldn’t be like, ‘Only styling achhi hain’.

With Vidhi, even her hair wasn’t supposed to look like I had used a tong after every shot. Anyway, Calcutta weather doesn’t allow you to (laughs). We have to keep the hair intact to maintain continuity, but I would come in with nice textured hair and it would go flat in two minutes! So, that’s a very valid question and we really took care of it and whoever has watched the film till now has complimented the look.

Pramita: Did you pick up any Bangla on set? Do you remember any?

Yami: You know I can understand now when two people talk. I find it too sweet as a language. We were shooting one day on the street and I got out of the car to speak to someone on set and someone close by picked up a fight and said, ‘Ei, jimmedaari kothai?’ I actually found it so nice to an extent it didn’t distract or disturb me. I did my shot, did my job and I was like, ‘Dada did you hear that?’ The other day, someone was littering the place and I went, ‘Ei, jimmedaari kothai?! (Laughs out loud)

Yami with the Lost-themed cake, courtesy Flurys

Yami with the Lost-themed cake, courtesy Flurys

Priyanka: Year 2022 marked 10 years for you in Hindi films. How does a film like Lost mark an evolution in your filmography?

Yami: It’s a very, very important film in my career! Uri, Bala, A Thursday, Dasvi... they all have been perceived in a way that any actor would want, the kind of admiration and acknowledgement I got.... Lost, I feel, kind of takes it ahead.

There shouldn’t be a time where you feel as an audience or I should feel creative fatigue has set in. Something like, ‘Arre, yeh toh maine kiya hua hain’. The challenging part is to sustain what you have got and to break it and take it to another level. I think that is another challenge that I am very happy to take.

More than the number of films, it’s important to ask myself if I am growing with every film. And that’s only possible with the script, my role and the director. The same character can be performed in many ways, but overall the sur, the tone of the film has to be very natural. With Lost, the idea of less is more was very refreshing. That was just very new for me and for the audience also and rightly so. There is a certain language cinema has, certain scenes have.... I may have done a great job as an actor in my head but it may not translate the same way on screen. But Lost is that film... when it comes to performance and substance, Lost will be one of the most important films...

Yami and Aditya Dhar on their wedding day

Yami and Aditya Dhar on their wedding day

Priyanka: The trailer talks about what’s more important: the truth or doing the right thing? In life and career, if and when you have to make that choice, will you go with what is right or aligning with the truth?

Yami: That’s a very tough one and it is very difficult to have a generic answer but it looks like I will go with what’s right. Sometimes you may come across a situation where it’s just not about the truth, but that decision of yours will also have a repercussion that can be much more grave than what it looks like in that moment. So if I can weigh that and foresee it and see that it is going to be much more than right now the satisfaction of giving out the truth, I think I will choose the latter.

Zeba: If we take that idea and spin it into a ‘truth or dare’ thing, then are you a truth or a dare person when you play the game?

Yami: It depends on who is playing the game with me! (Laughs) If it is my sister (Surilie), I am going to go with ‘dare’ because she knows all the truths about me! (Laughs)

Pramita: It’s been a year-and-ahalf since you got married. What’s the best thing about being married to Aditya? Are there any habits that each of you have that the other doesn’t like but has made peace with?

Yami: The only and the main difference between both of us is the question of the AC! I feel really, really cold and he feels hot! (Laughs). But Aditya is sweet enough to adjust.... Not that I don’t want to, but we find out ways. But touchwood, it’s never happened that there’s been any kind of thing... that this is something we need to work on. And that’s one thing we decided, that if ever there is something like that in life, let’s not make a big deal about it and be like, ‘There is something we need to talk about’, we can casually slip it into the conversation. ‘We need to talk’ is very scary! (Laughs)

Plus with the nature of our jobs, we got to make the most of our respective lives. I was telling him yesterday that we haven’t seen each other properly for a few days. He is working and with the endless number of promotions (for Lost), talking non-stop for 20 hours, you want to stay quiet..., I am looking forward to that moment when I get home and he is there waiting for me, to talk or to share a meal..

Zeba: Speaking of marriage, in a world of carefully curated celebrity weddings, yours stood out for its simplicity. How important was it for you to keep it grounded, and fussfree?

Yami: I think the idea is that there are some moments in your life which should be a reflection of who you are and what makes you happy. Both Aditya and I aren’t people who believe in doing what’s expected of us, rather it’s all about it’s our day and we should do what makes us happy. Even if there was no Covid, the wedding would have happened the same way. Just a couple of more family members, like my naani, and I’m sure a few more of Aditya’s relatives would have also been a part of the wedding. Apart from that, nothing more. I didn’t expect myself to be doing my wedding make-up and my sister to be doing my hair! So maybe that would have been different. Otherwise, everything would have been the same.

I really wanted to do it just the way my parents got married. There was nothing dramatic, there was simplicity, customs, rituals and songs. Not the DJ songs! (Laughs) There is nothing wrong in that, it’s just that since there were not more than 20 of us, we had old Kashmiri songs from his side, and old pahadi songs from our end and Surinder Kaur ji’s songs playing....

Both Aditya and I are not okay with the idea of wastage, and all the things that come along with having a big ceremony. After my marriage, I have met so many people who said that it was because of our wedding that they were able to convince their families into having an intimate affair. I’ve seen how some girls and their families really struggle with the thought that they’re expected to spend a certain amount of money. Aapki shaadi kitni tikegi, woh kharche pe depend nahin karta hain. Ab modern time hain, toh aisi bhi shaadi ho sakti hain aur waisi bhi....

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